Why should we pray? Prayer is our method of communication with God. When we pray we demonstrate our belief in God and our faith that, like a loving father, he listens and cares for us. Spending time in prayer reminds us of what God has done and continues to do and what God wants us to do. Prayer can also keep us from growing weary or losing heart.
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.— Luke 18:1
The parable Jesus told his disciples was about a widow pestering a judge for justice. After some time, the judge finally relents and grants her request, more out of annoyance with her persistence than any more noble reason. God is not like the judge: he is ready and willing to answer our prayers. We just need to ask him and seek him.
Our prayers also help motivate us and can have a powerful affect on the way we live. If we ask God to help us understand his word, we indicate that we will read it. If we ask God to comfort those in need, we indicate that we reach out to those we know need comfort. If we ask God to show us the right way to deal with a situation or problem that has arisen in our lives, we indicate that we will follow his guidance.
When should we pray? We should pray continually (1 Thess. 5:17). We should always be in communication with God throughout the day. Quick words of thanksgiving or petitions to God can be made throughout the day. In addition, a quiet time set aside every day for longer prayers helps make prayer into a habit. Keeping a prayer journal can also be helpful to remember things that we want to bring before God in prayer.
Where should we pray? We can pray anywhere. In the Bible people prayed in places of worship, outside, in houses, on battlefields, and even from inside a large fish!
How should we pray? Jesus’ disciples wanted to know the answer to this question as well (Luke 1:11). Jesus frequently prayed to his father and, through his example, his disciples recognized the importance of prayer. Jesus prefaces his answer to the question by saying that prayers should not be for show in front of others or be unnecessarily lengthy. (Matthew 6:5-8). These qualifications indicate that our prayers should be sincere, private communications with God.
Pray then like this:
‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’— Matthew 6:9-13
Jesus’s answer to his disciples gives us a pattern for prayer. It includes an acknowledgement of God, his purpose and his plan, a petition of God that he provide us with our material needs, a confession of sins and a plea for forgiveness and guidance for our lives. Prayers based on this model contain elements of praise, thanksgiving, confession and petition. Including these elements in our prayer helps us to remember how great God is, the things God has done, and the things that we need to do to follow God.
Further reading: There are over 200 recorded prayers in the Bible! Sometimes looking at examples of prayers in the Bible is a helpful exercise when we go to pray. Here are a few examples of prayers in the Old Testament.
- Hannah for a son (1 Samuel 1:1-11)
- Hannah in thanks for a son (1 Samuel 2:1-10)
- Solomon for wisdom (1 Kings 3:4-9)
- Solomon in dedication of the temple (1 Kings 8:22-53)
- Hezekiah for deliverance (1 Kings 19:14-19)
- Hezekiah for deliverance from illness (2 Kings 20:1-6)
- David for multiple things (Psalm 3-7; 9; 12:1-13:6; 16:1-17:15; 19:1-20:9; 22; 25:1-31:24; 35:1-36:12; 38:1-41:13; 51; 54:1-61:8; 64; 69:1-70:5; 86; 108:1-109:31; 119; 124; 132; 139:1-144:15)
- Jonah for deliverance (Jonah 2)