What is prayer
Sometimes when we pick up a hobby there are often words associated with that hobby. For example basket weaving and there maybe words that are used that we come to use but we may not really understand what those words mean. The same is true in Christianity we hear all kinds of words and we may not fully understand what that word means. For example Propitiation, or predestination, sanctification, and others. The same is true with prayer, most people when you say the word prayer think of asking God for something. But is that what the word means? This morning I would like us to look at pray, what is prayer? How is a Christian to pray? And Why should a Christian pray, is it important?
What is prayer?
- What is prayer?
- Communion or fellowship
i. Prayer is an encounter with God (Meeting)
It’s a time when a person sets aside daily life and seeks God, focuses on God.
It is a time were we encounter God, that is to say we stop and commune with God, seek Him.
1Ch 16:9-12 Sing to him; sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered,
2Ch 7:14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
i. We may praying to God as an act of confession (Ezra 10:1, Nehemiah 1:4, Daniel 9:4)
Ezr 9:10 "And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken your commandments,
Ezr 10:1 While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly.
Dan 9:4-5 I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, "O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules.
ii. Prayer is an entreat or petition (Philippians 4:6)
Prayer is a time for inquiry or asking. This is usually what we think of when we here the word prayer.
Phi 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
iii. Prayer is a way to intercede for others (Ephesians 6:18-19, Colossians 4:12)
In Ephesians 6:18-19 Pauls takes about praying for other and asks for them to pray for him.
Col 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.
- Expression of faith and worship i. Prayer is an act of worship (Matthew 21:13, Mark 11:17)
In Mathew 21:13 Jesus rebukes those in the Temple who were turning the Temple into a place of robbery but it was supposed to be a place of prayer and worship.
In Revelation 5:8 the prayers of the saints are compared to incense which was used in worship.
Psa 141:2 Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!
Many of the Psalms were used in worship to God and we read in some of the inscriptions that there were prayers. For example Psalm 17:1 A Prayer of David.
How to pray?
Is there a set pattern that I should follow? Am I given the specifics? Sit, kneel, or stand, eyes opened or closed?
- How do I pray?
- General warnings i. Jesus says that we should not pray
1. like the hypocrites (Matthew 6:5)
Jesus says don’t pray like the hypocrites because they are not praying to God but to men. They want others to hear their prayers and to say “isn’t he spiritual and holy.” When we pray it must be to God alone.
2. like the pagans (Matthew 6:7)
Pagans or the gentiles, depending on your translation, is talking about those who are religious but don’t know God. He says don’t babble or repeat your words over and over again like they do. They think that by saying things many times their prayers will be answered.
The example that comes to mind is from Buddhism were a person has a prayer that is already written down, usually by someone else and they say it over and over again and the words themselves are repeated not just the theme of the prayer. For example a Buddhist mantra or prayer would be:
I pray for peace in my mind
I pray for peace in my heart
I pray for peace in my home
I pray for peace in my town
All the way till they get to peace in the universe and then they start over again and this is repeated many time. We as Christians are not to be like that.
Apart for the general warnings we can pray:
- Alone = Jesus went away alone and encouraged his disciples to go off by themselves to pray (Matthew 14:23 and again Matthew 6:6).
Mat 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Mat 14:23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,
- Corporately = Paul talks about praying, singing, and spiritual gifts all in the context of worship service. In the old testament prayer was part of the gathered worship to God.
- Spontaneous and from the heart i. The only other general guideline for prayer is that it be from the heart and spontaneous that is that it is not a ritual prayer that is written down. When we as Christians pray it should be from the heart and not some heartless written prayer that we say just to appease God. We break forth in prayer from our hearts. Read through Paul’s letters and see a man of prayer, he is always breaking into prayer in his letters.
2. Out load
4. Prayers of praise for God being God
6. For the lost
7. The kingdom
9. Asking for things
One other thing regarding how to pray, and this is probably a no brainier but our prayer is to God the Father in the name of Christ and with the help of the Holy Spirit. (Jude 20, Ephesians 5:20, Romans 8:26)
Matt 6:9 Jesus teaches the disciples to pray to the Father.
Joh 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
Joh 14:13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
Joh 14:14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
Rom 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
There is not rigid patter or form that directs how we should pray, only general guidelines.
We are free to pray as we feel. If you want to pray standing up that’s fine, if you rather kneel or even lay with your stomach on the ground that fine. In the assembly that would be inappropriate because it would cause disruption but in your home in your room you can speak out loud or pray silent. We are free to pray in whatever way we feel.
Why should we pray?
The first thing to note is that we are encouraged to pray (Mark 13:18, Ephesians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Jude 20)
In Mark 13:18 Jesus is tell about what will happen at the destruction of Jerusalem and he encourages them to pray.
1Th 5:17 pray without ceasing,
We are encouraged to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:28)
So the first thing is that we are encouraged to pray, told to pray.
- Why should I pray?
- Prayer connects and strengthens us i. Building relationships
1. If we sever our relationship with God how strong will we be when life happens?
2. Paul talks about the armor of God and says in Ephesians 6:18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
- Prayer is like breathing
i. without prayer we could faint Spiritually
That may not sound that bad but what happens when temptation comes and we are not prepared.
- Prayer is an expression of faith and is a way to worship God i. If we want to worship the creator of the universe we should pray.
- Christians want to become like Christ; he prayed and we should pray i. Our great example is Jesus: in times of joy, or sorrow, everyday life even when tired. We should always look to him as our example and imitate him as much as we can, constantly growing in his image.
But you know a question might arise after hearing these things and that is are we saved by prayer? Can a person be saved and not pray? YES! Salvation is based on Grace through faith in Christ and not by how often I pray. But what will your relationship be like with your savior if you don’t commune with him?
If a Christian wants a strong faith, strength in good times and bad, and wants to be like Christ then that Christian will pray and pray out of Love!!!! Not out of obligation.
Let me say that you are not obligated to pray; you have the privilege to pray. You have the privilege of pray. The children of the King have open access to speak, worship, glorify, ask of him, and just be with him anytime they want in prayer.
I believe there are many people who are saved who are weak in the area of prayer, who are struggling spiritually because they have not been encountering God daily in prayer.
And taken hold of that fact that prayer time is worship time and we can worship God anytime.
Remember we are not obligated to pray we have a great privilege with prayer and the only reason we have this access is because of Jesus Christ who loved us and died on the cross for us that we could have a special relationship with God.