Recently I was delivering a service that included some familiar Bible texts on prayer and it made me think about the role of prayer in our faith and in our lives. Despite the fact that there is much emphasis put on us being a secular society, have you noticed that when there are atrocities or disasters from football managers to Prime Ministers and Presidents, we all say in response that our hearts and prayers go out to those affected. Why should that be? Maybe because when we are confronted by humanity’s frailty, we need to know that there is a loving God who cares for us, and through our Lord Jesus Christ shares our suffering , and at our weakest moments wraps us in His protecting love.
What then is prayer? Put simply prayer is a private personal conversation with God. Is it just for when we are in church, that bit where we close our eyes in the service and put our hands together? No it is not. The same way that we talk to family, friends, neighbours or colleagues, we can talk to God any place, anywhere, and about anything. Unlike some of those listed, God always wants to hear from us. He wants to hear about difficulties in our lives, our worries and our troubles; but He also wants to hear about our successes, our celebrations and our happy times. I am reminded of a line from a well-known hymn “take it to the Lord in prayer,” prayers for God’s help, and prayers of thanks for when things are going well.
There is plenty of guidance in the Bible from both the Old and New Testaments on how we should pray, what and who we should pray for. God wants to be part of our daily lives and He asks us to do this through our prayers each day.
In Psalm 66 there is the great line, ‘For I cried out to him for help, praising him as I spoke.’ In Matthew’s Gospel we are told ‘Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.’ The Bible tells us to never stop praying. On who to pray for Timothy says, “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” He goes on to say, “I want people everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.”
In our services we break our prayers into different sections: a prayer of approach, a gathering prayer, a prayer of intercession when we pray for others, a prayer of confession when we ask God to forgive us and bring us closer to Him, a prayer of thanksgiving and finally a prayer of blessing as we conclude our service. Prayer should not just be the bit between the singing, the collection and the sermon/address, it is the building block on which we develop our relationship with God our Father. The most famous prayer was given to us by Jesus himself known as the Lord’s prayer. Everything we need to pray for is encompassed in that prayer. I know people who when they could not pray themselves received great comfort from this prayer.
In our three sister churches we have a prayer chain where we are asked to pray for people in need either emotionally, for health reasons or just support. We don’t know the outcomes but we believe that the power of prayer helps. There have been numerous academic studies that have shown that those prayed for following medical procedures have recovered quicker than those who have not received this gift. Prayer is a powerful tool; it is not a passive activity, it benefits the prayer and those they pray for. By praying we tap in to God’s love for the world and every one of us. God knows each of us by name. He is constant even when we are not. He is waiting to hear from you.
With God’s Blessings,