Do you pray? And if so, what do you pray about and how do you do it? Furthermore, what, actually, is prayer? Many people imagine prayer to be something monks in monasteries–those who have no other occupation–engage in, not something the rest of us who actually have other responsibilities can possibly spend our entire day doing! Yet thinking like this reveals a misunderstanding of what prayer actually is.
“Pray without ceasing.” (I Thessalonians 5:17)
True prayer, which is only possible when we are right with the One who made, forgave, and sustains us, is a fellowship between Christ’s Spirit in us and our own spirit. In the excellent primer of the Christian faith, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald S. Whitney explains it like this:
“You might think of praying without ceasing as communicating with God on one line while also taking calls on another. Even when you are talking on the other line, you never lose your awareness of the need to return your attention to the Lord. So praying without ceasing means you never really stop conversing with God; you simply have frequent interruptions.”
Looked at like that, it becomes easier to see how we can, indeed, pray all the time. Praying without ceasing doesn’t mean we repeat meaningless prayers all day long to the exclusion of everything else; it simply means that because we are right with God, the lines of our communication are always open, whether or not we are speaking to Him at the moment. And throughout the day–as we stay right with Him and the lines of our communication remain open–there will be times when our spirits will swell up in worship of Him and we will praise Him, or thank Him for something in particular–or for everything in general. There will be other times when we call on His wisdom to handle a developing situation, or petition for His care or blessing upon someone else. Yet, it is also good to set aside regular times of our day to spend uninterrupted time in God’s presence, focusing specifically on Him and our needs in particular. How then, should we pray at these times?
Jesus, the One best qualified to answer this question, gave this answer:
“After this manner therefore pray ye:
‘Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.'”
(Matthew 6:9-13 KJV)
Some churches routinely pray this prayer; others believe it is only a model and do not specifically use it. In our family, I have chosen to lead our children in this prayer each morning because it covers the bases, and once you take the time to understand what it is you’re saying (and this is very important; babbled words mean nothing), you come to see that Jesus really did get everything. But beyond The Lord’s Prayer, is there some other prayer we should use? Are there any good recommendations?
One of the best suggestions I have ever been given is to pray back Scripture. The Bible teaches us, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” (I John 5:14, 15) We may not know if a particular job or other life decision is God’s will for us, but we can be certain that what He Himself instructs us to seek after is. So, choose several verses and just pray them back to Him. For example, we might pray, “Dear Lord, because of the confidence we have in You–that if we ask anything according to Your will You hear us (and whatever You hear we have)–help us to ask according to Your will.” But what else? Should we ever pray other specific prayers?
I believe that there are times when it is certainly appropriate to pray other prayers. About a year ago someone posted a prayer on Facebook that I have been faithfully using every night since, initially for our there children but more recently for my husband and myself too, as appropriate. I have not credited the author because I do not know who he or she is (but would appreciate that information if a reader knows):
What to Pray for Your Children
1. Grant them a heart of repentance from sin.
2. Give them faith in Christ from an early age.
3. Fill them with your Holy Spirit, and may they bear thr fruit of the Spirit.
4. Lead them to be baptized into your church.
5. Make them members of a strong church with godly elders.
6. Give them spiritual gifts for use in the church, and help them faithfully use them.
7. Lead them always to increase in holiness.
8. Keep them within the orthodox faith of Christ and the apostles.
9. Protect them from false teachers and false teaching.
10. Make them fruitful proclaimers of the gospel, filled with love for all.
11. Make them humbly committed to daily prayer.
12. Give them hunger for daily Bible reading.
13. Fill them with love and forbearance toward others.
14. Help them endure trials with faith and joy.
15. Help them guard their conscience.
16. May their lives be like the sun that rises stronger and stronger until the full of day.
1. Give them hearts that constantly overflow with thankfulness.
2. Make them peacemakers.
3. Give them a vocation/skill/work that provides for their family and is useful to society.
4. Give them a sense of purpose and joy in their life work.
5. Rescue them from the fear of man.
6. Provide for them a good education.
7. Help them apply themselves diligently to their studies and other work.
8. Rescue them from laziness and dishonesty.
Influences and Relationships
1. May they be quick to forgive.
2. Give them godly friends all their lives who will influence them to love God.
3. Give them godly influences from “uncles and aunts” and “substitute parents,” especially as our influence wanes.
4. Don’t let them go through a time a teenage rebellion.
5. Help them remain pure and enter marriage as virgins.
6. May they marry only strong believers.
7. Save, sanctify, and bless their future spouse.
8. Keep divorce away from their lives and their children’s lives for many generations.
9. Give them the gift of children and the grace to raise them up in the faith of Christ.
10. If they are to remain single, make them unusually fruitful for God’s kingdom.
11. Protect them from predators.
12. Protect them from deviant sexual desires.
1. Heal and protect them from sicknesses and diseases.
2. Protect them from accidents.
3. Give their country peace in their lifetime.
Ultimately, prayer is fellowship with God. Genesis tells us, “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:8) This is a very sad verse, because it tells us that 1) even though God walked in the Garden and fellowshipped with man prior to the introduction of sin into this world, 2) sin obscured man’s desire for this fellowship with God.
Yet God has restored that fellowship through Christ: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—that which we have seen and heard [Jesus, and everything about Him] we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full…if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (I John 1:1, 3, 4, 7) As we long for that fellowship with the Father and Jesus Christ His Son more and more, walking in the light, we will find that our prayers are not something artificially forced–something we must do, even though we really don’t want to. Rather, we will discover, as many of God’s people who have gone before us had, the pleasure of constant fellowship with and prayer to the Lord of Lords and King of Kings–our precious God and Savior!
Help us walk in the light as You are in the light, that we may have fellowship with You and one another, and that Your blood would cleanse us from all sin! Amen.