John Calvin once said, “Unless we fix certain hours in the day for prayer, it easily slips from our memory.” If you have a copy of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion read the section on Prayer. Calvin makes it very clear that true faith is always accompanied by fervent and effectual prayer. A pray-less Christian is a lifeless Christian. We cannot live the Christian life without prayer. It is what gives our soul life and direction. Without breathing our body will die, without prayer, our spiritual life will decay and fade.
Baptist Pastor, Charles H. Spurgeon said, “True prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance. It is far deeper than that – it is spiritual transaction with the Creator of Heaven and Earth.” In prayer we are directly communicating with the Creator of the universe. The Creator of you and me. The living and Almighty God who made the tallest mountain and the smallest ant. This fact ought to impress on our minds very strongly. God has allowed sinful men and women to come before Him and make their request known to Him. Mankind who was created for God’s glory, who transgress His law time and time again are graciously permitted to be members of His family. What a great a glorious God we have. The Church will do well to remember that God is under no obligation to bless us, forgive us or grant us grace. He does so due to His amazing attributes and His own glory.
Prayer is not a mental checklist, nor a wish list of selfish desires. No, prayer is worship to God and essential selfless and God honouring. It is not wrong or sinful to pray for ourselves, but the central focus of our prayers ought to be to the glory of God.
Many people honour God with their lips (in prayer) but in the heart are far removed from true worship and fellowship with God. Jesus strongly condemned the prayers and hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23. They liked to stand and make a public spectacle of their prayers. They were only concerned with what others thought of their prayers and pretence, to be seen of men was their main aim. Jesus said they had their reward, which was the glory and praise of man and not God. The prayers of the religious leaders of Jesus’s day was nothing more than a vocal performance to show their religious piety and to boast about how spiritual they were. God forbid that any Christian should follow in the way of those Jesus condemned in Matthew 23.
Bible reading and study should always accompany our prayers. We sometimes think that reading our Bible is more essential than
praying. However, that is not the case prayer is just as important as reading the Scriptures, if not more so. The Apostle Paul tells us to “Pray without ceasing.” The Christian is one who is in ever communion with his Lord. He daily comes before His throne of grace. God is always ready to hear what is on the mind and heart of his child. God is a tentative and loving Father, who protects His loved one. All things work together for good as we are in the hands of Christ and Christ in the Father’s hand, not even the Devil can snatch the Christian out of the firm and steadfast hold of God.
So, what shall we pray for and how do we pray. It is a good idea to write a prayer list that you can keep inside your Bible. Some Bibles come with notepaper at the back. If your Bible does not have this feature take a sheet a paper that will fit inside your Bible, this way you will always have your prayer list with you.
The list below is in no particular order, so feel free to change the order of the ideas for prayer. Below are some key points to pray about and consider before and during prayer.
Confession When we come before God in prayer we should confess our sins and our need for Him. Sin is a stumbling block. This is why we ought to seek repentance and personal holiness. To live a godly life that is pleasing to the Lord can only be possible through daily prayer. Where does prayer, holiness, righteousness and sanctification feature on your list of priorities? Are these four even on your priority list? If we are going to be a blessing and used by God then we need to have a right relationship to God. Philippians 4: 6 encourages us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Praise We ought to boldly declare in our prayers how worthy God is of our praise. An expression of our appreciation for what he has done for us is a good way to show our love for Him. You may want to praise God for a particular blessing. You may wish to focus on God’s creation and praise Him for the beauty and splendour of his handiwork. Scripture is full of examples of praises to God and the reasons why we ought to praise God. Isaiah 63:7, “I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love.”
Thanksgiving We have so much to be grateful for. God has blessed his people greatly. He has taken men and women who were once living in rebellion to Him and made them His treasure. Thank God for physical blessings, provisional needs, and spiritual joys in Him. Most importantly we ought to daily give thanks for our salvation. The list of items to thank God for is an ever-growing one. Write down the things you want to thank God for. They could be your family, your church, your friends or your daily necessities.
Local and International Praying for the local community should feature in our prayers. We should pray for our local church fellowship and our Pastor and Elders. We should also bring other sound Gospel churches and ministers before the Lord. Praying for Government leaders and all those in positions of authority is instructed in Scripture. The Apostle Paul wrote, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”(2 Timothy 2:1-4). Our attention should also extend beyond the land in which we live. Praying for others overseas is part of how we serve those who we may never meet this side of Heaven. Christ told us to pray for those that persecute us. We should pray for the persecuted church and the nations in which there is great hostility towards the Gospel. Pray that there will be a spiritual awaken and a love for the truth. Pray for the missions that your church supports and evangelism opportunities.
Personal needs Whatever is on your heart is a matter of prayer. For example, if you are being tempted to sin, pray. If you are facing a difficult decision, pray. Pray for the will of God to be done. Pray for what God would have you to do. Ask God to give you a greater desire to know Him and follow Him. Pray fervently and diligently. Discipline yourself in prayer. Commit a set time each day for prayer and personal examination. Don’t rush through your prayer and don’t try to cram as much in as possible. Approach God humbly and reverently. Some of the most simplistic prayers are the best as such the one recorded in Luke 18: 13, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Let us heed to the wisdom found in Acts 6:4, “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” May it be our joy and desire to come before the throne of God and speak with our Lord and Master.