How To Pray

Frank Jamerson
Dothan, Alabama

And it came to pan, as he was praying In a certain place, that when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, even as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Father, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give no day by day our daffy bread. And forgive us our sins; for we ourselves also forgive every one that Is Indebted to us. And bring as not Into temptation (Lk. 11:14).

Perhaps the model given in Matthew 6:9-15 is the best known prayer in the Bible. Its brevity and yet comprehensiveness is impressive. Basically, Jesus told them that prayer is to be reverently addressed to God, and petitions are made concerning physical and spiritual blessings and needs. Though time could be well spent in studying each of the petitions in the model prayer, we will discuss some basic principles of how to pray acceptably.

Pray In Faith

The first condition of acceptable prayer is that we must "ask in faith" (Jas. 1:6-9). We must believe that God is and that He is in control. He is the:

God that made the world and all things therein, he, being Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is he served by men's hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he himself giveth to all life, and breath, and all things (Acts 17:24, 25).

He is "able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Eph. 3:20).

Not only does He possess the power to answer prayer, He is also concerned about our needs and has promised to hear us. Jesus said, "Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on" (Matt. 6:25). Paul said, "In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God" (Phil. 4:6).

But let him ask in faith, nothing doubting: for he that doubteth is like the surge of the sea driven by the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord; a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (Jas. 1:6,7).

According To His Will

Not only must we believe in God, and His ability to answer prayer, but we must acknowledge His wisdom in doing so. "And this is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us" (1 Jn. 5:14). Asking "in faith" and "according to God's will" presents a problem to some. How can we believe that He will give it to us and at the same time say "if it be thy will"? This difficulty is easily removed if we consider the relationship of parents and children. Did you ever ask "in faith" for something from your parents, or have your children asked "in faith" from you, and the request not be granted? (I remember asking my father to let me go to town and live with my grandmother. He said, "No, I need you to help on the farm." Why do you think I wanted to-live with Grandmother?!)

Our Father knows what we need, even before we ask Him (Matt. 6:8). "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" (Matt. 7:11). If we received everything we asked for, we would probably be ruined! We should be thankful that God knows more about what we need than we do, and yet He has taught us to ask "in faith" for the things we desire.

The apostle Paul, at least once, asked "in faith" for something that God did not grant. He prayed three times for the "thorn in the flesh" to be removed (2 Cor. 12:7). God refused to remove it and said "my grace is sufficient for you." With good "hind-sight" Paul realized that the "thorn" was being used of God to keep him humble and dependent upon Him. God had rather have Paul with the thorn than to remove it and possibly lose him. Looking back, Paul had rather have the thorn and rely on God than to have it removed and possibly become "exalted overmuch" and lose his soul. Have you ever looked back and thanked God that He did not grant your request? We can trust God's wisdom to give us what we need rather than what we want!

The Right Motive

"Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31). We must remember that in our prayers, our purpose is to glorify God. James said that those who ask selfishly will not be heard. "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may spend it in your pleasures" (Jas. 4:3).

There is nothing wrong with petitioning God for material necessities and physical health (3 Jn. 2; Matt. 6:11), but even those things should be used to glorify God. It is possible for us to forget our true mission in life, even while asking for the things we want.

Prayer should not be used as a badge of piety. Jesus said:

And when ye pray, ye shall not be as the hypocrites: for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the comers of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward . . . And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking (Matt. 6:5,7).

There is nothing wrong with being seen or heard (1 Cor. 14:16), but there is something wrong with praying "to be seen, or heard." There is nothing wrong with repetition in prayer (Matt. 26:44; Lk. 18:1-8), but there is something wrong with "vain" (empty, meaningless) repetition.

Many of the expressions heard in prayer would probably cease if we looked upon prayer as talking with God. When a child asks for something he wants or thanks his parents for something he has received, he does not use some artificial, memorized, trite speech that has no meaning. He speaks from the heart. That's what prayer is! We are not preaching to God or to men, when we pray. We are not trying to impress God or man. We are talking to our spiritual Father from a heart filled with gratitude for His blessings or need for His provisions.

In Jesus' Name

Jesus said, "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, that will I do" (Jn. 14:14,15). Praying "in the name of Jesus" involves more than just saying those words. It means that we understand that He died for us and sits at the right hand of the Father as our Mediator. "For there is one God, one mediator also between God and man, himself man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all. . . " (1 Tim. 2:5,6). Thayer defines "name" as: "relying or resting on the name of Christ, rooted (so to speak) in his name, i.e., mindful of Christ and in reliance on the word which invites us to him. W.E. Vine says, "For all that a name implies, of authority, character, rank, majesty, power, excellence, etc., of everything that the name covers . . . in recognition of authority."

When we pray "in the name of Christ," we are recognizing His authority, position, and His claims. The "model prayer" was not offered in the name of Christ because He had not yet been perfected as our High Priest and exalted to the right hand of the Father. Those today who approach God without recognizing the name of Jesus are denying His authority, position and claims.

Public And Private

The Lord often engaged in private prayer (see Matt. 14:23; 26:38-44; Mk. 1:35; 6:46; Lk. 5:16; 6:12; 22:41-46), as well as public prayer (see Matt. 27:46; Jn. 11:41; 12:27-29).

There is a need for us to engage in private as well as public prayers. Jesus said, "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee" (Matt. 6:6). There are things we can talk about "in secret" that we would not want to express publicly. We can pour out our hearts and desires and thanksgivings to our Father without concern for how it may sound or how long it will take.

One problem we may have in private prayer is wandering attention. My suggestion for overcoming this is to pray, over and over, for God's help to concentrate and to feel His nearness.

Public prayers are led so that all can participate. Paul taught the Corinthians to "pray with the understanding," so those who heard could say "Amen" (1 Cor. 14:14-16). The context here is dealing with spiritual gifts, but the principle of being understood could be applied to other things. How can men say "Amen" to mumbling or to a prayer that cannot be heard? If a person cannot be heard or understood, he is praying privately in public!

Conclusion

The mechanics of acceptable prayer are not difficult to learn. An effective prayer life however, takes time, commitment and concentration. James gave the example of Elijah who "prayed fervently that it not rain" and said that "the supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working" (Jas. 5:16,17).

It has been said that the intensity of the desire determines the fervency of the prayer. It is true that we pray more fervently at times, but most of us could probably be more fervent all the time. It is our privilege to pray anywhere, in any position, about anything. We need to "Take time to be holy, Speak oft with thy Lord. . . . " It is our responsibility to be "righteous," and to pray fervently, in faith, and it is up to God to answer "according to His will."

Guardian of Truth XXIX: 15, pp. 459-461
August 1, 1985