The Basics of Prayer

Prayer is at the center of our worship and service to God. It is also the heart of our relationship with God. Understanding what prayer is, and learning how to do it better, will enable us to worship and serve God more effectively. It will help us relate with God more intimately, too. We will, in the words of Jesus, become more blessed if we understand and practice prayer more deeply.

What is Prayer?

Prayer is quite simply an offering up or our deepest desires to God, who searches our hearts, hears our requests, pardons our sins, and fulfills our deepest yearnings.

For Whom Shall We Pray?

According to our faith tradition, we are to pray for the entire worldwide church. We are also to pray for those in authority over us, such as those who govern us and our ministers, elders and deacons. This is all self-explanatory, but the people for which we should pray the most and hardest are our perceived enemies.

For What Shall We Pray?

Okay, so we know for whom we should pray, but for what should we pray? We are to pray for all things and circumstances which will bring glory to God. Other things for which we should pray include the welfare of the church and whatever will bring good to us and our neighbors.

For What Shall We Not Pray?

We are to always pray for the good and benefit of others, most especially our enemies; therefore, we are never to pray for anything which might bring another human being harm or misfortune. To pray that others, even our foes and rivals, should suffer bad or ill is most certainly an unlawful prayer, and God will never answer it. Rather than praying that those who oppose or disagree with us be punished or hurt in some way, we should instead ask God to help us reach out to them and try to understand them better, to find points we share in common with them, and seek creative solutions to the problems which arise from our disagreement. Remember, God is both long-suffering and forbearing; therefore, we ought to be slow to anger and always ready to forgive. Also remember that Jesus quite clearly says that unless we forgive, we shall not be forgiven!

How Shall We Pray?

Invoking the name of God is a powerful and potent act with huge implications for life; therefore, we must never take our prayers to God for granted and we should never approach God lightly. God is neither our best friend nor a doting grandpa in the sky. God is God; therefore, we are always to pray to God with a humble appreciation for God’s greatness and a deep understanding of our limitations. A spirit of penitence and thankfulness is most appropriate for prayer. Patience should also accompany our prayer together with the sincere intent to submit to God’s will for our lives.

What is the Pattern of our Prayer?

Jesus gives us the best and most trustworthy pattern of prayer, and we should strive to emulate it every time we pray. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus gives us 5 mandatory things for which to ask God whenever we pray. After we make these five obligatory requests, then we can make our other desires and yearnings known to God. These are:

  1. Declare God’s name sacred and praise God for all the good things that God has done for us.
  2. Ask that the Kingdom of Heaven and its virtues be established upon this earth as we put God’s will (revealed in the life and teachings of Jesus) into action in our lives, families and communities.
  3. Ask for whatever we may need to sustain us and our neighbors (even our enemies) for this day.
  4. Ask for the strength and wisdom to forgive others their debts against us just as our debts against God have been forgiven.
  5. Ask God to send God’s Spirit into our hearts, so that we do not fall into the temptation to turn away from God or do anything which might bring harm to a neighbor (even our enemies) or ourselves.
  6.  Ask that God hear our requests and fulfill whatever desires we have for ourselves and others, so long as they are loving, kind and helpful to them.