Are you praying for your unchurched friends and family? Have you had an opportunity to share your testimony with them? We have been learning about developing habits for spiritual growth. Last week we learned about Bible Intake and in this lesson we will focus on prayer. In Luke 11:1 Jesus “was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.” It must have delighted Jesus to hear His follower ask Him to teach them to pray. Examining Luke 11:1, we learn: Why should we pray? Who teaches us to pray? What is prayer? How do we pray?
Why should we pray?
E. M. Bounds spoke of the goal of prayer:
The goal of prayer is the ear of God, a goal that can only be reached by patient and continued and continuous waiting upon Him, pouring out our heart to Him and permitting Him to speak to us. Only by so doing can we expect to know Him, and as we come to know Him better we shall spend more time in His presence and find that presence a constant and ever-increasing delight.
Who Teaches Us?
Jewish religious teachers, including John the Baptist, were expected to teach their disciples how to pray. The disciple in verse 1 asks the perfect person to instruct in prayer. Because prayer is an act of worship of God, it must be learned from God. It is fitting that Jesus’ disciple asked Him to teach them because Jesus makes prayer possible. They asked Jesus to teach them to pray because they observed Him praying.
What is Prayer?
What is prayer? Simply put, prayer is communication with God. It is the intentional act of speaking to and listening to the Creator of the Universe (God). This communication is possible because Jesus Christ has established the connection between you and God. Consider that when Jesus said “My Father will give you whatever you ask in my Name” (John 16:33), He is doing more than just telling us to close our prayers by saying, “In Jesus’ name”. Rather, He is declaring that He has opened the door for us so that we can draw near to God (Heb 4:16). When we come to the Father “in Jesus’ name” we are saying, “It is Jesus only; not my goodness that brings me before you and call upon You.” Prayer is an act of worship in which a person communicates with God the Father, through the access provided by God the Son, and by the prompting of God the Spirit.
Communication with God
Prayer is communication with God. It is the intentional act of speaking to and listening to the Creator of the Universe (God). Because prayer is an act of worship, prayer can only be directed to God. You cannot and must not pray to anyone or anything other than God. A Christian may ask a fellow believer to pray for them, but a Christian never prays to a fellow believer (living or dead). Prayer is with God alone.
Access Provided by God
Prayer is possible because Jesus Christ has reconciled you with God (2 Cor 5:18). Jesus has provided the satisfactory sacrifice (1 John 4:10) for our sins. Jesus is the One who provides peace between us and God and access to God (Rom 5:1-2). Hebrews 4:16 tells us that through Jesus Christ, “let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.” Through Jesus Christ, we have complete access to the Father in prayer.
Prompted by God
Christians’ prayers are “in the Spirit” (Eph 6:18). In other words, our prayers must be led by the Spirit who “helps us in our weakness [and who] intercedes for us with unspoken groanings” (Rom 8:26). Praying in the Spirit (1 Cor 14:15, Eph 6:18, & Jude 1:20) has less to do with what words you say than the attitude of your prayers. Praying in the Spirit is a humble declaration of your dependence on Him each day. It is also a recognition that the Spirit of God is preserving us. Don’t despair if you don’t know what to pray or how to pray. Confess to God your need and He will help you through the Spirit.
How Do We Pray?
In prayer we ask God for what we need (Matt 7:11), but it is far more than just asking God for things. Remember, prayer is an act of worship and is an important means by which God makes us more like Jesus Christ. There is no spiritual growth apart from prayer. Prayer is a time for aligning ourselves to God and His will. Since prayer is an act of worship, the content of our prayer should be on the worship of God and what we need to appropriately worship Him.
The focus of our prayers should be God and not ourselves. We give God praise and thank Him. We ask for what we need in order to carry out our good works. We should “pray constantly” (1 Thess 5:17). This involves both private and public prayer. We need to pray in our “private room” (Matt 7:6) without distraction. We need to pray in “every place” (1 Tim 2:8) with and for one another. We should pray shamelessly (Luke 11:8), persistently (Luke 11:9), and expectantly (Luke 11:10).
Five Main Types of Prayer
Greg Frizzell has summarized the five main types of prayer found in Scripture:
- Prayers of Thanksgiving and Praise. This type of prayer focuses on giving thanks to God and praising Him. It is vital that we come to God in prayer and offer Him thanksgiving and praise. It doesn’t matter if you feel like praising and thanking Him, do it because He is worthy! Consider His characteristics, His names, His work, His salvation. Praise His Holy name! See Psalm 113 for a perfect example.
- Prayers of Confession. This type of prayer focuses on the confession of sins. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Every Christian has been freed from bondage to sin and is now able to “put to death what is earthly [sinful] in you” (Col 3:5). Confess sins of thoughts and attitudes, sins of speech, relationship sins, sins of wrongdoing, and sins of failing to do what is right. Remember “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
- Prayers of Petition. This type of prayer focuses on asking Jesus to meet your needs. Take note that it is important to know the difference between your needs and your wants. Jesus never promised to give us all that we want; but did promise to meet our needs. Jesus tells us to “ask, seek, and knock” (Matt 7) and He will give. Come to God and ask Him for what you need that will help you carry out His will for your life. Pray for the physical, mental, and spiritual needs you have. Come boldly to Him asking Him to supply all that you need.
- Prayers of Intercession. This type of prayer focuses on making petitions on behalf of others. Pray about what they need and ask God to give it to them. This is a very important type of prayer because you are thinking less about yourself and more about others. Ask for God’s help for physical, mental, and spiritual needs others have. This prayer is an indicator of your love for others so don’t neglect it. See Ephesians 3:14-21.
- Prayers of Meditation. This type of prayer focuses on listening to God. As we said earlier, good communication is both talking and listening. Every type of prayer thus far has involved us talking to God. Meditation is important because it is prayerful listening (1 Sam 3:10). Take time out of your busy, hectic life to be alone with God. The emails, text messages, and Facebook notifications can wait. Listen to God and allow the Holy Spirit to search you and guide you.