As Christians we have the powerful privilege of prayer. We know that prayer is important, and that it should be part of our daily lives. And yet; praying is not always easy. Sometimes we echo the question of Jesus’...
Prayer is talking with God. It is private communication with the God we serve and love and worship. That makes it an essential part of Christian living. We can pray personally, everywhere and every time. But we can also pray together with fellow believers in church services or other meetings.
Read your Bible, pray every day
It is a good habit to pray regularly. A well known children’s song advises us: “Read your Bible, pray every day”. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we are even urged: “pray without ceasing”. That does not mean that we should literally pray every moment of our lives, but that there should be a continual pattern of prayer in our daily lives. It is our life breath, so to speak. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul uses different words for the same concept: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2). And we could add many more Bible texts that urge us to pray regularly. Apparently, this is a major element of Christian life.
A good example of such a life of prayer is the Lord Jesus. His life was fully packed with preaching, healing and traveling. And yet, He took time for prayer. Multiple times we read in the Gospels that Jesus went to a quiet place to pray – sometimes for a whole night.
Examples of prayer
Prayer is something you learn by doing, but also by example. Throughout the Bible and throughout church history, believers have used prayer to praise God for His greatness, to thank Him for His love, to ask for forgiveness, and to ask for His help in difficult circumstances. Many of these prayers are recorded in the Bible. Moreover, Jesus Himself taught his disciples how to pray: He taught them The Lord’s Prayer.
We can recite this prayer literally. This has been done for centuries, by countless Christians worldwide. But we can also take it as a guideline and use our own words. We may even just pour out our souls before the Lord and tell him whatever is important to us.
What is the purpose of prayer?
Prayer has various aims. First of all, it is meant for the glory of God. We praise Him for who He is, and for what He has done for us. This can be very general, for example “Hallowed be your name”. It can also be very specific and personal: “Lord, I thank you so much for your grace, I praise You for your endless love for me.”
Secondly, prayer is a means to bring our needs before God. We may tell Him about our troubles and fears, about our physical and spiritual needs. We can also pray for other people around us. In Luke 11:9, Jesus promises: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” This does not mean that we always get what we want – be it a new car, a fruitful career, or whatever. Fortunately not, for we would probably ask for a lot of things that are not at all profitable for us. Since we know God as our loving Father, we can trust that He knows best what is good for us – and is very willing to give us exactly that.
A third purpose of prayer is cultivating our intimacy with God and changing us according to His will. By pouring our hearts out before Him, by keeping in touch with the Source of Life, we will grow spiritually. Even if God does not always change our circumstances as we ask Him, He can carry us through our difficulties and make us holy.