Maturing in Christ, I have begun to realize that prayer is not an optional activity for believers. It is a direct means of obeying and worshiping God. Subsequently, prayer provides us with many spiritual blessings. The primary blessing is the building of our reliance on the Lord. There is no doubt that in a dead and foreign world, prayer is the Christ follower’s oxygen tank. It expands our faith. Coupled with the reading of Scripture, it provides us with necessary life support. I am often reminded of a quote from Charles Spurgeon. He stated, “When asked, ‘What is more important: prayer or reading the Bible?’” Spurgeon continued with a rhetorical question, “I ask, ‘What is more important: breathing in or breathing out?’”
Jesus is the Model
A striking feature of the Gospel is that Jesus Himself displayed the necessity of prayer. As our Lord walked the earth, He went to the Father in prayer continually. Think about that for a moment, the Son of God relied on prayer during His ministry and during spiritual warfare. Luke 15:16 tells us that Jesus would often slip away to pray. In 2020, what does this suggest about the Christ follower’s praying habits?
Jesus modeled prayer for his disciples. In the Lord’s Prayer, He provides a simple and straightforward template. The prayer acknowledges God’s sovereignty, it petitions for physical and spiritual sustenance, it requests forgiveness of sins, it deals with our forgiveness of others’ transgressions against us, and it implores protection from temptation that leads to evil.
During His ministry and discipleship, Christ provided His followers with continuous examples of supplications. His prayers are characterized by humility and obedience. They also present confidence in seeking to know God’s will.
Praying for the Pursuit of God’s Glory
In John 14:13-14, Jesus states, “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” These verses are usually misapplied by many Christians because they are not placed in proper context. However, Jesus’ words indicate that the believer should pray as to pursue God’s will and glory. Prayer is driven by Kingdom purposes. When Jesus states that “He will do it,” He is referring to acting on petitions that meet and support the will of God. It is all about God’s glory. To be prayerful can be likened to that of an obedient soldier for the Lord!
Praying for Others (Including Enemies)
Today, hate is in fashion. In contrast, our Lord commands us to love our enemies.
When we pray for our enemies, it has the ability to change our hearts. Our sincere supplications on behalf of others have the power to impact them as well. In Matthew 5:44-45 Jesus states, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may prove yourselves to be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
For me personally, Jesus’ most touching prayer is for believers of every era. He prayed for His disciples and for all future believers. In John 17:20-23, He states, “I am not asking on behalf of these alone, but also for those who believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one; just as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
Oh, how we should pray for fellow believers and for the lost. It is what our precious Savior expects of us! In the end, faith and love generated by the Holy Spirit should enable us to earnestly pray for others.
Praying for Forgiveness of Sins
Repentance of sins is an ongoing activity for believers in this life. We are of good cheer because our Lord always forgives when we confess wholeheartedly and continue our renewal in Him. In the Lord’s Prayer, the Messiah gives the example, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
In 1 John 1:9, the Apostle John acknowledges the importance of confessing sins. He writes, ”If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” With the right heart, prayer becomes a daily purification process, and it is an essential underpinning of our sanctification process.
Praying to Counter Spiritual Warfare
On this earth, believers encounter ongoing spiritual warfare. This was no different for our Savior. Although He never sinned, our Savior and High Priest understands human weakness. He is familiar with temptation. At Gethsemane, Jesus prayed as He was tested by His own humanity. The very next day, God’s cup of divine wrath was to be poured out on Him for sinners. After seeing that His disciples could not stay awake and keep watch while he was praying, Jesus said to Peter, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” As Jesus was being tested Himself, He made this remark to Peter with compassion.
The Apostle Paul identifies our ongoing battle against dark spiritual forces in Ephesians 6:11-12. If we are to engage God’s will in a victorious fashion, we must acknowledge our need for the Lord’s power and strength. Only through His might are we able to stand.
Praising God in Prayer
God is worthy, and seeking His will is paramount in the Christ-follower’s life. As such, our Father is pleased with prayer. Psalm 141:2 states, “May my prayer be counted as incense before You; The raising of my hands as the evening offering.“
As we grow in Christ, we understand that trials are necessary for our spiritual growth. They are gifts from God that pull us closer to Him. It is important to pray and offer thanksgiving in all circumstances. Praising Him during prayer will flow from thankful hearts. He has saved us! In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, the Apostle Paul writes, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
May we praise God for His sovereignty and His perfect will as we pray.
I love the LORD, because He hears My voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.
The Lord is near to all who call on Him,
To all who call on Him in truth.
"When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 'Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 'Give us this day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 'And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.' For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”
Matthew 26:36-46 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and told His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with Him, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and He said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying, so that you do not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold,the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let’s go; behold, the one who is betraying Me is near!”
Mark 1:35 And in the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and prayed there for a time.
But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.
“If you remain in Me, and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
1 Thessalonians 5:17
...pray without ceasing...
1 Timothy 2:1-4
First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made in behalf of all people, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. A prayer of a righteous person, when it is brought about, can accomplish much.
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 3:22 ....and whatever we ask, we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.