Unpacking the basics: Why and how do we pray?
Alpha // May 24, 2019, 3:10 pm
All relationships thrive on communication. The more we communicate, the more we grow in love, the more our love flourishes. And it’s the same in our relationship with God.
Christian prayer is the most important activity of our lives. It’s the very purpose for which we were actually made: to have a love relationship with God.
The power of prayer depends on our grasp of who it is to whom we’re praying. We pray to the Father through the Son because we have access to God through Jesus.
Once we’ve open the door of our lives to Jesus, he comes in by the Holy Spirit – and it’s the Spirit of God living within us that can help us to pray.
Jesus said this: “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5-6)
So what are the rewards of prayer?
WHY DO WE PRAY?
1. Prayer brings God’s presence
Prayer brings the presence of God that satisfies the spiritual hunger we all have. It quenches our spiritual thirst. It refreshes our soul. Prayer is like the soul breathing.
2. Our hearts can be filled with peace
It might not seem obvious on the outside but everyone has their own struggle with fear, anxieties and worries. Prayer brings us the peace of God.
Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom said: “Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its troubles, but it empties today of its strength.”
The peace of God is not about being in a place where there’s no trouble, problems or hard work.
And the Apostle Paul says this in Philippians 4:6-7: Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition – that’s asking for things – with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God that transcends all understanding, will keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.
The peace of God is not about being in a place where there’s no trouble, problems or hard work – it’s about being in the middle of those things and still having peace in your heart.
It’s like the deep ocean current when there are the winds and the waves on the surface, but there’s stillness underneath.
3. It puts things in perspective
This is one of the things that happens when you begin to thank God, when you start to say: “Oh, Lord, thank you that…”, “Thank you that I’m alive! Thank you that I’ve got two feet – I can walk. Thank you for the sunshine. Thank you for the blessings. Thank you for family. Thank you.”
You start giving thanks and you suddenly realise: “Wow, there’s so much to thank God for!”
It puts your problems and your worries in perspective.
4. There’s power to change lives
And then the power of prayer. Of course, you can’t prove the existence of God by answers to prayer. But prayer not only changes us; it also changes situations.
5. He hears all our prayers
Does God always answer prayer? In a sense, yes, he always hears our prayers. But like a good parent, he doesn’t always just say “yes” because a loving parent won’t say “yes” to all the child’s requests.
Sometimes, though, we may not know in this lifetime why God has not answered our prayers.
Corrie ten Boom said this: “When the train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the driver.”
So there’s “yes”, “no” and then there’s “wait”, which is the amber.
If a child asks to drive the car, you’d probably say “no”. But it doesn’t mean “no” forever: There will come a time when that request will be answered.
Just because something isn’t happening for you right now doesn’t mean it won’t happen. God’s timing is perfect.
HOW DO WE PRAY?
1. There are many different ways to pray
Like all relationships, there are no rules.
Some people use the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) as a structure for prayer, while others pray a different way.
But what’s common to all these ways of praying is three things: “Thank you. Sorry. Please.”
2. Start with “thank you”
It’s really important to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
There’s so much to thank God for. You know, “count your blessings, not your problems”.
3. Say “sorry”
Why do we need to confess our sins? Jesus died on the Cross for us and He took all our sin.
When we prayed to ask Jesus into our lives, we received total forgiveness. But as we go through life we pick up dirt on the way, and daily we need to receive forgiveness.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
4. Ask with “please”
Jesus said: “Pray, ask for your daily bread.”
In other words, ask for anything you need. Anything that matters to you matters to God. Pray for others, but also pray for yourself.
There’s nothing that you’re concerned about which God does not want to hear about.
5. We can pray anywhere, anytime
You don’t have to go into church to pray; you can pray on the train, on the bus, pray walking, you can pray in any situation.
If you find yourself sleepless at night, try praying for other people. It’s a really good time to do that.
Jesus talks about praying on your own. He talks about going into your room and shutting the door. That just means find somewhere you can be by yourself.
Find a time or a place where you love to get away and be by yourself and in conversation with God.
And then pray with others. Jesus said: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst.” There’s a power in praying together (Matthew 18:20).
Here are three tips to end with. First of all, keep it real. Be honest. Be vulnerable with God. Say what’s on your heart. He doesn’t want to hear about what you think ought to be in you; he wants to hear what is really in us.
And then, keep it simple.
Finally, keep it up. Prayer is two-way. You know, the main way God speaks to us is through the Bible. But he speaks to us as we pray.
Prayer really is the most important activity of our lives – and it works!
This article was adapted from the Alpha Transcripts and has been republished with permission. If you have more questions and would like to further explore the basics of the Christian faith, find out more about Alpha or use the map below to connect with an Alpha group near you.
THINK + TALK
- Have you tried praying?
- What do you think about the idea of God answering prayer?
- If you were to pray today, what would you pray for?