I doubt there is anyone who goes through life without making a prayer – even those who do not believe in the existence of a god or a supreme being. For sure, they won’t admit it, but prayer is a natural response in keeping with our makeup, since were are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). God is Spirit (John 4:24), and we are both physical and spiritual. We therefore pray with the spirit and with our intellect (1 Corinthians 14:15).
We are most likely to pray when we are in dire need, perhaps in a life-threatening situation (Psalm 7:1). Such prayers could be described a ‘arrow’ prayers. They are spontaneous and to the point, and from the heart. I remember one such prayer I prayed to God when I capsized my canoe in the Bristol Channel. I truly thought I was going to die, but within five minutes of my prayer a small aeroplane flew overhead and banked its wings (Jonah 2:7). From that moment I had hope I would be rescued. Sure enough the Barry lifeboat found me and plucked me out of the water (Jonah 2:10)!
When we examine the Scriptures, both the Old and the New Testaments, we find hundreds of references to prayers, and there are examples of prayer, the elements of which are worthy of analysis; for example, the so-called ‘Lord’s Prayer’ in Mathew 6:9-13:
“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.”
The first and prime element of the prayer focusses on ‘Our Father’ whom we address. Next, we consider the nature of His being, i.e., His holiness, His separateness and the fact that He dwells in heaven.
The fourth element concerns our desire for His will to be done on earth, just as it is in heaven.
The fifth element is our request for God to supply us with our basic needs, and we ask for His forgiveness.
Our final pleas are for His sovereign intervention to keep us from situations were there may be temptation and evil.
This is an excellent prayer which has foundational elements that could be used as a basis for other prayers.
Typical prayers in the Bible come under the headings of supplication, adoration, thanksgiving and confession. There may be more categories; King David, for example, made imprecatory prayers such as those expressed in Psalms 55:15; 69:28 and 109:8.
Prayers of supplication may contain requests for forgiveness and mercy (Exodus 32:30-32). In prayers of thanksgiving there could be expressions of praise, adoration and wonder (Psalm 145:1-3). An individual may agree on behalf of others to present a prayer to God in the form of a petition (Jeremiah 42:1-6).
Prayer is not just a one way expression of our hopes, fears, requests or praises etc.. If we pray in faith (Matthew 21:21, 22) we can be assured He hears us (Proverbs 15:29) and He will respond (John 16:23, 24). If we wait on Him we may see His response in the working out of our lives and the lives of others around us. My brother prayed over a period of forty years for me to be saved, and he never gave up hope (Luke 18:1). God heard his prayer and responded in His own time.
Sometimes we never get an answer to a prayer, but that doesn’t mean God has ignored it. He is attentive to all of our prayers, and if they are in accord with His will He will use them positively (1 Kings 9:1-5).
Prayer is essential in the life of a Christian because our prayers are intricately woven into the tapestry of God’s eternal plan. He uses our prayers in the workings out of history which He has foreordained (1 Peter 1:20). How remarkable is that! We can pray for individuals, for governments, for kings, and for overcoming spiritual principalities and powers (Ephesians 6:12). No hurricane, earthquake, flood, drought, famine or epidemic is accidental, but God uses our prayers in connection with them.
He is truly wonderful and gracious to include our prayers in the workings of His redemption plan.
Never underestimate the power of prayer. ‘Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit (James 5:17, 18).’
Finally, God has ordained His church, which is His temple (1 Corinthians 3:17; 2 Corinthians 6:16), to be a powerhouse of prayer (Mark 11;17; Luke 19:46).