What is prayer?
Quite simply, prayer is talking to God. Prayer is a natural expression of our relationship with God. We depend on God for everything, even life itself. Prayer expresses this dependence as we ask God for what we need. Jesus says that people who trust him know God as their loving Father. God is not like our human fathers, who are flawed and sometimes mistreat their children. God as our perfect Father loves and cares for his children perfectly.
Jesus teaches his followers to pray to God as our Father, simply and directly, trusting God to answer our prayers in the way that is best for us. We do not need anyone to stand between us and God - we have direct access to God as we pray. Jesus warns against hypocrisy in prayer - that is, when we try to impress others with our prayers. Also, we don't pray with the aim of pressuring God to give us what we want.
The more we read the Bible, the more we understand God’s values, plans and purposes. As a result, our prayers will be more shaped and informed by the will of God. All our prayer comes under the simple request, "Your will be done", taken from the “Lord’s Prayer".
The Lord’s Prayer
Jesus teaches us to pray by giving us the prayer we call, “The Lord’s Prayer”, which can be found in Matthew 6:9-13:
This, then, is how you should pray:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one
Note some of the features of the prayer:
- We talk directly to God our Father
- The prayer has 6 requests
- The requests range from the big picture issues, like the coming of God’s kingdom, to small day-to-day issues, like food to eat
- We ask for forgiveness - Jesus goes on to say that if we pray this prayer for forgiveness from God, we must be willing to forgive others (see Matthew 6:14-15)
This prayer can be used as a model for our own prayers by taking its individual requests, expanding these in our own words and making them relevant to our own lives. We can also use the actual prayer itself.
How should I pray?
God promises that he will hear and answer the prayers of everyone who trusts Jesus. There are no “rules” for prayer. Here are some guidelines taken from Jesus' teaching:
- Pray confidently to God as your loving Father
- Pray naturally, expressing your dependence on God
- Pray simply, trusting Jesus. Remember, God will answer our prayers in the ways that are best for us
- Read the Bible and pray in line with God's will
- Remember, no issue is too big or too small to pray about
- Pray with good motives
- If you are confused and don’t know how to pray, just tell God that you don’t know how to pray. God’s Holy Spirit will understand your situation and help you
Article written by Rev. Greg Burke, Senior Minister, St Anne's Ryde Anglican Church