A Brief Overview of Prayer Concepts

Introduction

Prayer is supposed to be one of the most important activities in a Christian?s life. However, do we really know how to pray? What should we pray when we do pray? When should we pray for that matter? There are a few guidelines that the Bible gives us in regards to prayer and we can start with these as we pursue a life of prayer.

We are going to go over the fundamental concepts in prayer? I think it is important that we remind ourselves of the importance of prayer because prayer seems so irrelevant in a world of action and results. We know that if we do this then that will happen. We know that a certain activity will result in a certain outcome. However, how do you know that prayer is in the same category of this cause and effect principle? Does praying really provide the results that we desire? Does it really make a difference if we pray? Should we simply just take what God throws at us and if we must pray then shouldn?t our prayers simply be for strength?

How many times have you prayed for something and nothing seemed to happen? Have you ever prayed for someone and things didn?t improve? How do we know that the good things in life are a result of our prayers or the prayers of someone else? There are many questions regarding prayer and I think that we should take the time to address them else prayer would become a religious activity instead of a personal one.

A baby learns that if he pulls this then a bell will ring. A person learns that if they hit this then the alarm will sound and help will come. However, do we have the same learning experience regarding prayer? Can we truthfully say that if I pray this then that will occur and all would be well? Prayer and the corresponding results are very illusive sometimes, but we have to remain true to God because regardless of whether our prayers are answered in the way that we would like that God is truly guiding us according to His will and not ours. Our effective following Him, if you will, mandates that we pray.

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Scripture Lesson

Consider the following scripture regarding prayer.

(Matthew 6:5-15) — {5}?And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. {6}But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. {7}And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. {8}?Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. {9}In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. {10}Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. {11}Give us this day our daily bread. {12}And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. {13}And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. {14}?For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. {15}But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Let?s analyze this scripture to understand the instruction that Jesus gives us about prayer. First, let me say that this instruction was prompted by a question that the disciples asked Jesus when they saw Him pray.

(Luke 11:1) Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ?Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.

It is evident that this disciple was impressed either with the way Jesus was praying or he recognized that Jesus prayed a lot and therefore had a life of prayer.

First Jesus said that we should not pray like the hypocrites.

(Matthew 6:5) — {5}?And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.

Their motive was to be seen of men. Prayer should, therefore, be something from the heart towards God and not something from the flesh towards self. Praying to be seen of people is just another expression of pride and such a prayer is not prayer indeed.

So #1 is that prayer should not be motivated to be seen, which is for prideful reasons.

(Matthew 6:6) — {6}But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

Jesus then goes on to say that we should pray in secret, which is a secret chamber. This is a contrast of the previous statements about praying to be seen. Our prayers should be between us and God and not between us and others as the Pharisees did with their prayers.

(Matthew 6:7-8) — {7}And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. {8}?Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

Hear Jesus said not to use vain or meaningless repetitions. The pagans (including the Greeks and their gods) often prayed to their gods in terms of a business partnership. They would sometimes pray with the intent of securing favors or good fortunes from their gods. The pagans would sometimes call out as many gods as possible hoping to get a response from at least one of them. This presupposes that their gods really didn?t want to bless them and had to be convinced to do so.

The Jews believed that God would bless His people and that He is looking to do so. Prayer, therefore, was an intimate act and not a functional or business-type act.

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The Model Prayer

(Matthew 6:9) — {9}In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.

There are three points here that we should consider.

  1. God is our Father
  2. God is in heaven
  3. God is sacred

The word ?hallowed? means to make holy, sanctify, to venerate. This is a recognition of who God is, namely our heavenly and holy Father.

(Matthew 6:10) — {10}Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.

The kingdom of God is the realm over which He rules. This part of the prayer acknowledges our yielding to God?s will both in heaven and on earth. In order for God?s will to be done means that our will has to yield. This also means that Jesus must be Lord of our life so that we would indeed yield to him and therefore the will of God. Jesus said, ?Not my will, but you will be done? when he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane.

(Matthew 6:11) — {11}Give us this day our daily bread.

Here we pray or acknowledge God?s daily provisions for our lives. Here we truly live day by day. This doesn?t mean that we shouldn?t make plans for the future because Jesus at one point told us that we must count the cost before doing something. This does mean that we should trust God for the needs of the day and trust him that we will have what we need tomorrow when tomorrow comes. This reminds me of something that Jesus said, which comes later in the sixth chapter of Matthew.

(Matthew 6:34) — {34}Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Next, Jesus goes on to teach us about forgiveness. God forgives us when we forgive others.

(Matthew 6:12) — {12}And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.

Forgiveness is a big part of the Christian lifestyle. Forgiveness means to release the resentment that accompanies an offense. Therefore, we won?t hold the offense from someone else against them. We are willing to restore the relationship (after an offense was experienced) by the act of forgiveness. In doing so we have confidence that God is not holding our sins against him against us.

(Matthew 6:13) — {13}And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

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Fundamentals

The following are some fundamental concepts of prayer that we could glean from the Bible.

  1. Pray according to God?s will ? See 1 John 5:14-15
  2. Pray according to scripture ? This is how we can know the will of God. There are situations that are not specifically dealt with in the Bible. These are personal situations that we all face each day. Here prayer will move us towards God so that we would walk according to His will and be led on the path that God has for us. It is important to realize that you may not hear a voice from heaven telling you what to do next. God?s guidance is like a pull in your soul that compels you to do a certain thing or go a certain way. We should also analyze opportunities that arise because these too may be the doorway to the path that God has for us.
  3. Pray with a sincere heart ? We said earlier that true prayer requires proper motives. Also when we pray we should have a sincere heart. We should be sincere about those things that we pray about and not just an act of going through the motions.
  4. Pray to the Father ? Jesus always prayed to the Father and that is what He taught us to do. We can ask the Father things in Jesus name, but the fact is that the Bible teaches us to pray to the Father.
  5. Pray with confidence and faith ? See 1 John 5:14-15

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The Fundamental concepts of prayer
By Pastor William R. Cunningham
? 2005 All rights reserved

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