Prayer isn’t a magical formula for getting what we want, and it isn’t reserved for ‘holy’ people, or for special times or places. The most basic definition of prayer is “talking to God.” Prayer is not meditation or passive reflection; it is direct address to God. It is the communication of the human soul with the Lord who created the soul. Prayer is the primary way for the believer in Jesus Christ to communicate his emotions and desires with God and to fellowship with God.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” – Philippians 4:6–7
What Should We Pray?
Prayer is described in the Bible as seeking God’s favor (Exodus 32:11), pouring out one’s soul to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:15), crying out to heaven (2 Chronicles 32:20), drawing near to God (Psalm 73:28, KJV), and kneeling before the Father (Ephesians 3:14).
Pray about everything.
Everything? Yes, God wants us to talk with Him about everything. How often should we pray? The biblical answer is “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We should keep a running conversation going with God all day long. Some find the ACTS formula of prayer helpful, but there is really no special formula for how to pray in the Bible. We should just do it. We can pray under any and all circumstances. Prayer develops our relationship with God and demonstrates our trust and utter dependence upon Him.
Why Should We Pray?
Prayer is the Christian’s way of communicating with God. We pray to praise God and thank Him and tell Him how much we love Him. We pray to enjoy His presence and tell Him what is going on in our lives. We pray to make requests and seek guidance and ask for wisdom. God loves this exchange with His children, just as we love the exchange we have with our children. Fellowship with God is the heart of prayer. Too often we lose sight of how simple prayer is really supposed to be.
When we make petitions to God, we let God know exactly where we stand and what we would like to see happen. In our prayers, we must admit that God is greater than we are and ultimately knows what is best in any given situation (Romans 11:33–36). God is good and asks us to trust Him. In prayer, we say, essentially, “Not my will, but your will be done.” The key to answered prayer is praying according to the will of God and in accordance with His Word. Prayer is not seeking our own will but seeking to align ourselves with the will of God more fully (1 John 5:14–15; James 4:3).
God Hasn’t Answered My Prayer
When we pray, we are engaging in the most precious and God-given act of communication with the One to whom we are accountable in all our affairs. We have been truly bought at a steep price—the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ—and therefore we belong to God. Yet, when we pray or speak to the One in heaven, there are times when He seems not to answer. In one sense, God answers every prayer with a “yes,” a “no,” or a “wait.” In every case, though, Scripture suggests that our prayers are being dealt with. The Lord Jesus is tender and loving; He loves our communing with God the Father, for He, Himself, is our representative (Hebrews 4:15).
Prayer is often an exercise of submitting our requests to God and trusting Him fully with whatever happens. God is not a genie who answers every prayer how we want Him too. Rather, His ways are far above ours and we must trust that He hears our prayers and knows what He’s doing.
God may often seem silent to us, but He never sends us away empty-handed. Even if prayer has not been answered, we must rely upon God to do so in His own time. Even the exercise of prayer is a blessing to us; it is because of our faith that we are stirred to persist in prayer. It is faith that pleases God (Hebrews 11:6), and if our prayer life is wanting, does that not reflect our spiritual standing also? God hears our impoverished cries for mercy, and His silence inflames us with a sense of persistence in prayer. He loves us to reason with Him. Let us hunger for the things that are after God’s heart and let us walk in His ways and not our own. If we are faithful to pray without ceasing, then we are living in the will of God, and that can never be wrong (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18).
Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them to pray. So he taught them this prayer as an example – The Lord’s Prayer – which is said by Christians around the world in their own languages and versions:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
This famous prayer shows us that prayer is relational – in it we’re talking to God, our Father. We pray not that we get what we want, but that God’s will is done and that we get what we need. It also addresses the problem of our sin, asking in confidence that God will forgive our sins, but reminding ourselves that we too need to have an attitude of forgiveness towards others. And it is a prayer of praise – restating who God is. As a lover may write to a loved one telling them all the good things about them, so we are not telling God anything new, but rather establishing our relationship with him.
Prayers often end with ‘amen’. It means ‘so be it’ or ‘I agree’ and can be said by anyone who approves of what has been prayed.