Prayer 101 :: By Nathele Graham 

Prayer is an important part of a Christian’s life, or it should be. It’s our way to communicate with God, but too often we don’t talk with Him enough. Throughout Scripture we are given examples of people who pray.

Hannah prayed at the altar asking God to allow her to have a child. “Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken” (1 Samuel 1:13). She wasn’t drunk, but was earnestly praying to God from her heart. God gave her a son, and her prayer of thanksgiving is recorded in chapter 2. Of course, we know that King David prayed, “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up” (Psalm 5:3). This is just one of many Psalms that are prayers of praise. Solomon, Isaiah, and Jeremiah were men of prayer, as was Daniel. “And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes” (Daniel 9:3).

The many prayers recorded in the Old Testament should teach us that talking to God is important in the life of a person who loves Him.

The New Testament gives us insight about the prayer life of the early Christians who knew they needed daily guidance from the Lord. The Apostles tried to care for all the needs of all the Christians, but were overwhelmed. It was decided that godly men would be chosen to minister to the needs of the Christians. “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). Because they sought God’s guidance in prayer and listened to His answers, Christianity reached the far corners of the world.

Because a group of people earnestly prayed, Peter was miraculously released from prison. “Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him” (Acts 12:5). The people who prayed for Peter didn’t really expect an answer, but God did answer by sending an angel to release Peter from the prison. After his release, Peter went to the house where the people prayed for him. “And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda. And when she knew Peter’s voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate. And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel” (Acts 12:13-15). They had prayed, but when their prayer was answered they didn’t believe God had answered perfectly.

Too often we pray out of habit or because it’s just something else to try when everything else has failed.

There are many examples of prayer in the New Testament, and it would be wise to study these prayers. James tells us a thing or two about praying. “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:15-16).

Brothers and sisters, prayer should be a big part of every Christian’s life, and we need to take it seriously. Jesus prayed, and His example is the one we should follow first.

The question is, how do we pray? Is God a buddy whom we joke around with? Is He to be feared to the point that we’re afraid to speak? Do we even pray to Him directly? After all, the pope says to pray to a person he deems as a saint or to Mary. Let’s start with that one first. No. No, no, no. The pope has no power over anything in Heaven; he can’t deem anybody a saint. Mary, was a very special woman who was obedient to God’s will, but she was no more than human. Nowhere in Scripture are we directed to pray to anyone but God.

Jesus simplified all the questions by giving us a model prayer, which is an example of how we should pray. We call it The Lord’s Prayer, and most of us memorized it very early in life. In a few short words, Jesus gave us a way to shape our prayers to honor God. He led up to this example by first giving bad examples. “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward” (Matthew 6:5).

A person’s motive for praying matters. A hypocrite is someone who pretends; an actor who plays a part. If you pray in order to impress people, then you’re a hypocrite. On the other hand, if your prayers are prayed with the purpose of drawing attention to God, and sincerely seek Him, then your motive is correct. There are many reasons to pray, and they all boil down to honoring God. Petition God to help your husband as he goes to his job every day to support his family. Pray for sons and daughters that the temptations of life won’t dazzle them and draw them away from the Lord. Pray a prayer of praise for all that God has done. God loves you and is worthy of praise.

“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9). In giving this example of prayer, Jesus said to start by recognizing who you’re speaking to. You are addressing Almighty God who is all knowing, all seeing, and all powerful. Christians are able to know Him on a personal level because of Jesus, who is God the Son. Because of our faith in Jesus, we are also God’s children. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12).

In this life we have an earthly father, and if he is a God-fearing man, he has been an example of love to you. Jesus says we can call God our Father, because He loves you and cares for you more than anyone on earth. Even if your earthly father wasn’t a loving man, you can still look to God to be the loving father you can trust. God deserves our respect, and we need to understand that He is holy.

“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). In heaven, God’s will is done without question. There’s no taking His words out of context and twisting their meaning to fit your ideas. When God dispatches an angel on an errand, that errand is accomplished without question. When Lucifer rebelled, evil entered creation, and we can see the results of disobedience to God. If God’s will was done on earth today, what a glorious life we would have.

Jesus says we should pray for His kingdom to come, and one day it will come. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of evil to be faced before that day. As Christians, we shouldn’t let the evil around us stop us from doing God’s will. If you think about it, if you don’t want to do His will now, what makes you think you’ll want to spend eternity doing the perfect will of God? If you pray these words, then you need to mean them and strive to live according to God’s will today.

“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). Pray for the needs of today. We need food daily, and this prayer shows us not to pray for bread next week or a year from now, but bread for today. Later in this same chapter, Jesus said, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:31-33). God knows you need food and clothing and will provide, but Jesus said to seek the kingdom of God. That means to live to honor Him now, and do His will “…in earth, as it is in heaven.”

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). A debt is something owed. If you buy a car, you owe the bank for lending you money. If someone does a favor for you, you owe a debt of gratitude. There is a greater debt we owe. One that encumbers our life and drags us down. It’s the debt of sin that Satan has encumbered us with. If you’re a Christian, then your sin-debt was paid in full at the cross and you’re forgiven. We all sin, but that sin can be forgiven. Jesus said that even thinking a lustful thought is the same as committing the sin. It’s easy to sin without intending to, but if we’ve accepted Jesus for salvation, then our sins are forgiven.

If you’ve been forgiven, then you need to forgive others. It’s not easy to forgive someone who has done evil to you, but if God forgave your sin, then you need to forgive other people. Notice, this prayer says “as we forgive our debtors.” Think about it and you’ll come up with people you need to forgive.

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” (Matthew 6:13). Most modern translations say “…but deliver us from the evil one.” Evil doesn’t come from God, but comes from Satan who is pure evil. He puts temptation in our way. Temptation can stumble even the strongest Christian, and most temptations come from us putting ourselves in its way. God will never deliberately lead us into a situation where we are tempted to succumb to sin, but will be our strength to rescue us from the temptation. “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished” (2 Peter 2:9).

It would be easier for us if we were never tempted to sin once we give our life to Christ, but God will lead us away from it. In the prayer that Christ prayed not long before His arrest, He prayed for you. Did you know that? He prayed for the men who had been His disciples, then turned His prayer to future followers. “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth… Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:15-17 & 20-21). Jesus prayed that you and I would be kept from evil, that we wouldn’t stumble. Again, modern translations say “evil one.”

If God is first in our thoughts, then it’s harder for Satan to tempt us. It’s God who is to be followed, honored, and praised.

This prayer can be said quickly and without thought, but that’s not how it’s meant to be prayed. Each word has a deep meaning; and if this is the only prayer you pray, then mean what you say. It’s a basic prayer and a format for prayers from your heart… prayer 101. God is your Father, but He is still God. Submit to His will and glorify Him in all you do.

God bless you all,

Nathele Graham

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All original scripture is “theopneustos” – God breathed.

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