Vol. 4, No. 6
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God communicates with man by means of the Bible. This is the only way that God presently speaks to his children. Prayer is the only way we have to speak to God. Combining God's Word, the Bible, with our words, prayer, allows two-way communication between God and man.
When a disciple asked Jesus to teach them to pray, the Lord answered with an example prayer (Luke 11:1-4). That prayer, beginning in verse two, starts with, "Our Father which art in heaven." The only father in heaven is the Lord God. Therefore, we are to pray to God who is our one and only heavenly Father.
The Bible contains examples of people praying in a variety of physical positions. When Elijah prayed to God on Mt. Caramel, he first threw himself to the ground and placed his head to the ground (1 Kings 18:42). The Book of Exodus records Moses and the Israelites bowing their heads to pray on more than one occasion (4:31; 12:27; 34:8). Solomon, Ezra, Daniel, Peter, Stephen and Paul all knelt before God in prayer. We even have the example of Christ kneeling in Gathsemane to pray to the Father (Luke 2:41-42). Standing in prayer is referred to in Mark 11:25, "And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses." Examples of physical posture during prayer range from placing our faces to the ground to standing upright.
The Bible contains no commandments to pray in a particular physical position. All examples of prayer, however, do show respect toward God. Jesus spoke a parable in Luke 18:9-14 showing a Pharisee and a Publican praying to God. The Pharisee used the opportunity to openly praise himself, while the Publican showed great humility and praise to God. Verse 14 of that text reads, "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." Our physical posture during prayer does not matter. Our mental posture is what counts. We are to show honor and respect to God as well as show our humility in his presence. Praying while sitting, standing, kneeling or with our faces to the floor is a personal decision for each of us to make.
The Bible contains examples pertaining to the frequency of our prayers as well. Daniel prayed three times a day, knowing that doing so broke the laws of the land (Daniel 6:10). Cornelius was called a devout man partially due to the fact that he "prayed to God alway" (Acts 10:2). In addition to these examples, the Bible also contains commandments concerning the frequency of our prayers. "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Without ceasing is without stopping, or continuing in. Continuing in indicates a pattern. So, we are commanded and shown by example to continue in prayer.
Paul frequently prayed for the church. "Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy" (Philippians 1:4). Colossians 1:3 and 1 Thessalonians 1:2 are only two of the frequent occasions where Paul is also recorded praying for the brethren. In his example prayer, Jesus used the words, "Thy kingdom come" (Luke 11:2). Today, we cannot use those words because the kingdom, being the church, has already come. Instead, we take the example in John 17:20-22 where Christ prayed that the apostles and all believers be united as God the Father and God the Son are united. We should pray for the church as shown by example.
We are also to pray for our enemies. Stephen, in Acts 7:60, prayed his killers would be forgiven. Jesus commands us to be kind, pray for, and even love our enemies. "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44). Jesus gave us an example of that commandment by forgiving the same people that crucified him (Luke 23:34). This concept relates to what is known as the Golden Rule, treating others as we would like to be treated (Matthew 7:12). By praying for our enemies, we show them kindness. That kindness may be what will bring them to God.
Our prayers should be of thanksgiving. "Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18). Everything we have came from God. Therefore, we should thank him for what we have. Daniel thanked God for blessing him with wisdom and might (Daniel 12:23). Jesus thanked God for the food that was provided for the multitudes in Matthew 15:36. The Bible contains both commands and examples to offer thanks in our prayers. Thank God for the blessings in your life, especially the ones taken for granted.
Prayer is a way to ask God for blessings. Matthew 7:7-8 tells that if we ask, we will receive. "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive" (Matthew 21:22). We, however, must have faith. Another condition is that we pray for blessings in accordance with God's will. "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him" (1 John 5:14-15). God knows what we need and what we can handle far better than we know. God is all-knowing and, therefore, knows what is best for each one of us (1 John 3:20). Pray to God for blessings, both physical and spiritual, remembering that his will is what matters.
If our prayers make requests that are in accordance with God's will, then our prayers will be heard (1 John 5:14). Every prayer heard by God is answered. The answer, however, may not be the one we desire. When children ask their parents for new toys, they want to hear yes and receive the toy immediately. Yet, the response given could be no or even maybe later. All of these responses are answers. Any of these answers could be the answers to our requests to God.
God does make promises concerning our prayers. "And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened (Luke 11:9-10). There are, however, conditions to the promise. As mentioned before, our requests must be made in accordance to God's will in order to be heard. That is the first condition of the promise. Wholeheartedness, as shown in Jeremiah 29:13-14, is another condition. Wholeheartedness toward God is to seek him first, giving him all of our heart. Faith that God has the ability to answer our prayers is necessary as well. "Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them" (Mark 11:24). Sin can keep us from receiving the promise. "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight" (1 John 3:22). If we receive because we keep his commandments, then we will not receive if we do not keep his commandments.
God does answer the prayers of faithful Christians. If we faithfully pray with all our hearts, believing that God has the power to answer, then God will answer our prayers. The answer just might not be the one that we want.
"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16). An effectual prayer is one that is able to produce. A fervent prayer is one that is offered with much devotion. We have already discussed that our sins can interfere with our prayers, as indicated here by righteous. A prayer that availeth is one that produces benefits due to great power. Much indicates a large quantity. From this single verse, we learn that prayers offered with devotion are able to produce a large quantity of benefit due to great power.
Prayer is our only avenue of communication with God. We should use this blessing often, showing respect, honor and humility while doing so. Our powerful prayers should include the church, our enemies, requests for blessings and thanksgiving for the blessings we have already received. All prayers should be prayed in accordance with the will of God. Mold your prayers with these thoughts in mind.