By Stephen Myers
Prayer changes us. It influences who we are and shapes who we are becoming. An action of love and devotion connects us with God. If you are a follower of Christ, you are admonished to pray at all times. When things are good, pray. When things are bad, pray. When you are not quite sure how or what to pray, pray anyway. There are few instructions that are simpler than that. Prayer should be a major practice of the disciplined life of a follower of Christ.
There are approximately 650 prayers listed in the Old and New Testaments, and over 400 answers to prayer recorded. There are additionally nine different types of prayer listed in scripture: Prayer of thankfulness, supplications, prayer of faith, corporate prayer, praying in the Spirit, prayer of dedication, prayer of worship, intercession, and confession. Paul’s instruction for us to pray without ceasing is because prayer can be for anytime and occasion as an outpouring of our heart to God.
Jesus’s devotion to prayer is an example for us to follow
The disciples of Jesus, most notably the 12, spent the most time with Jesus, observing his interactions with people, and most notably his unremitting interaction with God. In the first chapter of The Gospel According to Mark, Jesus rises early the morning, “while it was still dark,” and goes away to a place of solitude to pray.
In the previous verse, Mark details the late hour that people came to Jesus, keeping Jesus busy late into the night. In the busyness of his ministry, Jesus made it a discipline to be devoted to prayer. His devotion to God through the discipline of prayer is recounted often throughout the Gospels.
Lord, teach us to pray
In Luke 11, the disciples make a request of Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” This request was brought on by two observations: first, they had observed the teachings of another popular rabbi of the day in John the Baptist who taught his disciples how to pray. Second, they had observed the dedication to prayer that Jesus was demonstrating. The Gospels record Jesus’ act of prayer 25 different times.
Jesus replies with what is now commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer, which gives us a guide or structure for prayer. This same prayer is given in Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:5-15), but comes with warnings about the manner in which we pray. Like all things, Jesus’s concern is what is in our heart more than the strict observance of traditions or religious practices.
The Lord’s Prayer gives us five focal points as a guide to prayer:
- Glory and honor of God’s name – (“Father, Hallowed be your name”)
- Subjection to God’s eternal will and establishing his Kingdom on earth (“thy kingdom come, and will be done”)
- Request for God’s provision (“Give us each day our daily bread”)
- Forgiveness given and received (“Forgive us our sins, as we forgive everyone who sins against us”)
- Deliverance against the spiritual and physical evil (“deliver us from evil”)
“Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Luke later recounts the parable of the persistent widow, whose story Jesus told as a reminder that the disciples should pray, and not lose heart. What an interesting passage to begin with purpose of Jesus’ teaching on prayer, and end with a question of futility: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
The injustice that the widow faced led her to a persistent supplication to the judge. The object of this passage is not only the righteousness (justice) of God, but also the reliance upon God of his people and the faith to cry out to him day and night.
It can be easy to become distracted, discouraged, or disillusioned with relying on God in the face of our current situations, but it is only provision from God that truly satisfies our needs. The question then is, do we have the faith and the discipline to rely on him and cry out day and night?
In what ways has prayer influenced your life? Comment below.
Here is a full list of All The Prayers Of The Bible.
For further resources on Prayer, please check out:
Andrew Murray’s Lord Teach us to Pray
Tim Keller’s Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God
Winfield Bevins’ Our Common Prayer: A Field Guide to the Book of Common Prayer