Why does God require of us to pray? He wants us to realize our sin and how it separates us from Him. God wants us to understand that He is our source for all things. Prayer is the most efficient and effective way to bring God's will to pass on this earth. We may ask God for anything, but the more we mature in our walk with Him, the more we will focus on spiritual needs for others and not ourselves.
Prayer is the most powerful of all God's graces for the believer. It is also probably the least understood and practiced. God wants us to pray without feeling restricted by rigid or legalistic protocol. But He also wants us to be educated in more effective prayer. I will cover this topic in a fair amount of detail based primarily on scriptural instruction.
Let us first examine the basic types of prayer. These need not be in any particular order:
1) supplication (personal needs), 2) intercession (prayer for others), 3) thanksgiving for what God has done, 4) praise for who God is, and 5) and personal devotion (a time set aside over and above regular prayer, as we are moved by the Spirit). Of course, within these types we find more specific prayers. For example, we can pray for salvation for others, protection against evil, Christ helping us in our weaknesses, spiritual restoration, miracles, healing, God's justice, the growth of the church, effectiveness of evangelism, spiritual knowledge, and prayer for our enemies.
We always pray to the heavenly Father, and in the name (power and authority) of Jesus Christ. But notice that the Lord's prayer does not have the closing words "in the name of Jesus". This is because at the time Jesus gave the Lord's Prayer as an example, He had not yet been glorified and given all power and authority in Heaven and on earth by His Father.
The Bible is clear that the assurance of our prayers being answered depends upon our willingness to walk along side and obey His Spirit, and whether or not our requests are God's desire to grant. "If we are of clear conscience concerning our sins, we receive from Him whatever we ask, because we obey His commandments and practice what is pleasing to Him." And what He expects of us is to rely upon and trust in Jesus as our Savior and love one another. If we do this we will naturally ask for those things the Holy Spirit wants for us. This may sound as if God will not obligate Himself to answer our prayers if we do not show Him enough courtesy to obey Him. However, the real reason is simpler. When we disobey God's Word, we are disabling His Spirit from moving in our lives. It is not that God will not honor our prayers. It is that He cannot do so. It would violate His purpose to give us free will. Does this mean we have the ability to affect God's determined will? No. He has already seen our thoughts and actions beforehand and made provision for them in His sovereign plan.
If our faith and obedience play such a great part in God receiving the believer's prayer, it makes sense that we begin our prayers by confessing our sins. This is the way many of David's psalms begin. Let us keep in mind, our forgiveness is contingent upon forgiving others. Confessing our sins should put us in a state of humility before our majestic Creator. When we are in this frame of mind, we are much more open to the surrender of our hearts and minds. This allows the Holy Spirit within us to initiate the prayers that God wants us to pray. During this time, it is very beneficial to engage in pre-prayer meditation, or "waiting
on the Spirit". This is because the Spirit knows when we are not ready for prayer. Maybe we are distracted with worldly affairs, have an unsettled conflict with someone, or maybe the motivation behind what we ask for is not pure. We may find ourselves getting into a rut, setting rigid daily prayer times that eventually grow into a chore we resent. While we are still students in prayer, we may make inappropriate requests and tend to be verbose and redundant. If we find ourselves doing this, we need not be discouraged. The Holy Spirit will perfect our earnest and innocent efforts while He teaches us. He automatically interprets, refines and conveys our requests to the Father.
Next month I will write more about prayer, for there is in the Bible much written about it. Again, if we have an earnest and honest heart when we pray, we need not be so concerned about exactly how we pray. Everyone prays differently. I just feel we might benefit from what the Bible says about applying it's principles to our lives.