A. A TOPIC FOR A BOOK
To do justice to the topic of prayer, a sizeable book needs to be written. What follows below, is a very brief discussion of this heavenly exercise.
Prayer can be defined as a believer speaking to God in faith.
C. KINDS OF PRAYER
Prayer can basically be divided into three types: Prayers of petition, prayers of thanksgiving and prayers of praise and worship.
D. REGARDING ALL PRAYER
- The Lord’s Prayer
Prayer is, in its simplest definition, just a child speaking to his Heavenly Father and we can learn by listening to a small child praying from his heart, but a child of God has much to learn to become a prayer warrior that can conquer nations for Jesus and can worship God like the angels do. When Jesus’ disciples heard him praying, they became aware of their need to be taught by him. He did this by giving them the following prayer framework:
:9 Therefore pray in this way: Our Father, who is 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 also forgive our debtors.
:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil. For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
From this model we learn the following:
- V9,13: Begin and close your prayer by exalting God for He is more important than man. The mature Christian spends more time in exalting God, than in praying for the needs of mankind.
- V9: Think of him and address him as Father: you are a child speaking to his father. Be at ease, use ordinary language. Do not try to impress him.
- V12: Make sure that you come to him with a clean heart, not harbouring grudges against others. Such a dark cloud in your heart will rob you of your confidence, your faith; you will look at your feet instead of looking into your Father’s eyes.
- V11: Pray for your material needs. He already knows them but wants you to admit your dependency and exercise your faith.
- V12,13: Pray for your spiritual needs, for instance forgiveness of sins and name them as they come to mind. In Christ all of them are already forgiven because Christ paid for them but by asking for forgiveness, you are confirming that you earnestly want to get rid of them; that these are a stone in your shoe, a thorn in your finger. You are bringing them into the open before him so that the Holy Spirit may eradicate them from your heart. Admit your total dependence on him to deliver you both from the evil without and within.
- V9: Note also that you are to pray to “Our Father,” and not to “My Father.” Do not be selfish, praying just for yourself, but pray also for your brothers and sisters in the Lord.
- V13: Close by saying “Amen” which means “This that I have prayed, are not just thoughts blowing through my mind, I meant what I said and I am convinced that You have been listening and will answer my prayer.”
- Be Led by the Spirit
When we go before the Lord, ask and trust the Holy Spirit to lead you in what to pray for; then you will have faith that your prayer will be answered and will have the joy of answered prayers.
Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, … (Rom 8:26).
- Pray without ceasing
Wow, is that possible? Well, that is what Scripture commands.
Pray without ceasing. (1Th 5:17).
Prayer is, in its essence, firstly, connecting with God, so, keep connected to God from your heart in all humility and dependence, whatever you are busy doing. That is the nearest I can get to understanding and giving effect to this commandment. Even the advocate arguing a complicated case in court, must keep his heart consciously in contact with God while his mind is formulating the arguments he is putting to court. (What a challenge.) Then the Holy Spirit may pop one sentence prayers into your mind which you can pray in the midst of the other work you are doing.
- Pray in Tongues
When you just do not know how to pray for a certain matter, allow the Holy Spirit to pray his own prayer by letting him pray through your spirit in tongues. He will bypass your mind and pray exactly what the Father needs to be prayed for his will to be accomplished.
(I recently had a most remarkable answer when I privately prayed in tongues. The Lord was speaking to me about my habit of reading fiction action stories involving violence. I complained saying “Lord what will I do for recreation after long hours at the computer, writing study guides?” My prayer was about filling my leisure time – I was stuck in a rut.
Having prayed in tongues, I suddenly discovered that I had miraculously been delivered from my desire for such stories. The Holy Spirit had bypassed my mind to target my real problem which was the desire for such stories which was displeasing him and hampering my spiritual growth. So, my real problem was solved.
The Lord then pointed me to a whole stack of non-fiction literature containing useful articles on a large range of topics which someone gave me some time ago and would keep me busy for a long time. He also arranged for my son to give me several electrical woodworking tools and I am now spending some leisure time in using my hands to make useful pieces of furniture for our home. Hallelujah, we serve a wise, loving, prayer answering God.)
E. PRAYER OF PETITION
The heavenly communication network carries a heavy load of prayers requesting the Lord to give or do something and yet there is ample provision for more for the apostle James says the following:
… you have not because you ask not. Jas 4:2.
As simple as that. So often, even Christians will exert themselves endlessly to attain something or to be delivered from a problem, until they at last think of asking the Lord to assist them. How much easier life would be if we would only turn to the Lord right from the start.
But James gives another answer as to why we have not.
You ask and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it upon your lusts. (Jas 4:3).
The Lord is always ready to supply in our needs but will not gratify our greed. The contrary is also true: the Lord often wants to give us more than what we expect. He has a gracious heart and will withhold no good thing from us. So, we say again, be led by the Spirit in your petition prayers.
F. PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING
Luk 17:12-19 contains a very touching story about ten leprous men that approached Jesus, stood afar off and shouted, imploring him to cleanse them. They had probably been living together as a community outside a town in appalling circumstances for no-one would come near them for fear of being infected. Such outcasts often faced hunger, died of other diseases and were buried by their comrades. They were much worse off than domestic animals. Leprosy was a death sentence slowly being executed.
To be cleansed in an instant, was beyond their wildest dreams, yet this is exactly what Jesus did for them when He sent them to present themselves to the priests to have them officially declared healed.
All ten of them had faith in Jesus, walking towards the priests while still covered by leprosy and, as they believed, suddenly they became spotlessly clean from the disease.
Then was the group divided:
And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back and glorified God with a loud voice. And he fell down on his face at His feet, thanking Him. And he was a Samaritan. And answering, Jesus said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were none found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner? And He said to him, Rise and go; your faith has cured you. (V15-19).
This one man amongst the ten was overwhelmed with gratitude for what God had done for him. His focus point was not the miracle and the new life that opened before him, but God that did the miracle. Not only was his body healed but, greater still, was that his heart was captured by Jesus. His spirit also got healed. He was a brand-new man – body, soul and spirit.
Unsaved people touched by God speak about their healing; saved people speak about their Healer. Unsaved people rush forward to lay hold of their new life; saved people put their future on hold and turn back to give glory to their Saviour, to worship at his feet with a loud voice.
By their prayers can we often distinguish between the people of the world and the children of God. Worldly people that do at least pray, pray only prayers of petition: “Lord give me, give me, give me … ” Born-again people often pray “Thank you Lord, thank you, thank you, thank you … ”. Heaven’s prayer of petition network is overloaded but its network of thanksgiving is bare threaded.
G. PRAYER OF PRAISE AND WORSHIP
- The difference between prayers of petition, praise and worship
Someone said: In prayer (petition) we are occupied with our needs, in thanksgiving we are occupied with our blessings, in worship we are occupied with HIMSELF.”
In worship we focus on his attributes (see chapter 3).
- Examples of prayers of praise and worship.
Thanksgiving, praise and worship often go hand in hand. Please read the following Scriptures:
- The song of Moses: Ex 15:1-18.
- Hannah’s song: 1 Sam 2:1-10.
- David’s song (one of many) Ps 103.
- Mary’s song: Luk 1:46-55.
- Zacharia’s song: Luk 1:67-79.
- Paul’s exclamation of worship: 1 Tim 1:17.
- Paul’s song: Rom 11:33-36.
- If possible, add music to your words.
If you are so talented, please do not only write your song of praise and worship in prose but compose music to go with it. Then take your guitar with you to your next fellowship meeting with other Christians; then bless them and glorify the Lord!