Prayer: Supplication and Thanksgiving
In such a busy world, it is often difficult to make ourselves pause and pray. We may think of it around mealtime or only during hard times. We may only pray when we assemble with other Christians in worship or Bible study. What role should prayer have in our lives? What kind of prayer-life does our Father want us to have?
To begin, it is beneficial to answer the question – what is prayer? Man has described it as, “a devout petition to God; a spiritual communion with God or an object of worship, as in supplication, thanksgiving, adoration, or confession” (dictionary.com). From biblical examples, it can involve “pouring one’s soul out before God” (1 Samuel 1:15), making supplication (Job 8:5), “pleading with the Lord” (Exodus 32:11), giving thanks unto God (Ephesians 1:16), praising the Father (Psalm 9:1), and confessing/repenting of our sins (Nehemiah 1:6; James 5:16). Simply put, prayer is talking to God, knowing that as a faithful Christians, He listens and answers our prayers (Matthew 7:7-11; 21:22).
As God’s Word is perfectly complete, giving us “all things pertaining to life and godliness”, His Spirit says much on the subject of prayer (2 Peter 1:3, 20-21). From the patriarchs to the faithful among Israel to the 1st century Christians, we are given examples in God’s Word of their prayers (Genesis 24:12, 32:9; 1 Samuel 1:10; 2 Kings 19:15; Job 16:17; Daniel 6:19; 9:3; Jonah 2:2; Acts 1:14, 24, 2:42, 4:24, 8:22). There is no question that prayer was important in the lives of God’s people through the centuries. It was not something thought meaningless or an act to be done in a senseless manner. We can learn much from Israel’s prayers (or lack thereof) and the commandments and examples set forth under Christ’s law, the New Testament. As Christians today, living under the New Testament, we should desire to understand this important line of communication to our Father so that wemay all grow closer to the Lord, more dependent on Him, trusting in Him and increasing our knowledge of our Lord and His Word.
Our Lord, while He was on this earth, was no stranger to prayer. The very God-man, who gave of Himself to be “tempted as we are, yet without sin,” submitted Himself to the Father and “offered up prayers and supplications” (Hebrews 2:18, 4:15, 5:7). Indeed, our perfect Savior often made time to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life to be alone in prayer to God (Mark 1:35, 6:46; Luke 5:16, 6:12, 9:18). These verses make a great impression upon the readers as we take note that even Jesus needed time alone to communicate with His Father. He prayed for all things to be done to glorify God, for His apostles and the disciples to “keep them from the evil one”, and for all believers to be unified (John 17). His prayer in the garden the night before His death reveals His agony and pouring out of His soul to the Father (Matthew 26:36-44). If the very Son of God needed to take several minutes (even hours) out of His day to speak to His Heavenly Father, then how much more do we? Let us follow our Lord’s example and make sure we give the time God has given us back to Him – in continualprayer to our Father.
Secondly, the Lord spoke of the prayers of others and expressed to His disciples what to pray for in their prayers (Matthew 5:44; 6:5-15). There is so much we can learn from these passages on how our Savior expects us to view and practice prayer, and it would benefit us all to make an in-depth study of these verses. The Great Teacher gave instructions for properly praying. We are not to pray to be seen by others – that is hypocrisy (Matthew 6:5). Our personal prayers should be a quiet time (without distraction), alone with our Maker (Matthew 6:6). As Christian women, it may be only God and ourselves whotruly know the extent of our prayer life. Christ said not to use “vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7). Memorizing Scripture (including the model prayer) is great, but the importance lies in understanding and sincerely acting on the meaning of the words, not simply being able to recite them back to God. Furthermore, the suggestion has been put forth by some that referring to God in our prayers with the pronoun, “Thee” or “Thou” is showing more respect than using today’s language. Let us remember that there are Christians all over the world that pray to God in their native tongue. We are not requiredto know (or use) the language of King James’ day to show reverence to our Almighty Creator. The Lord wants our hearts, and with that comes humbly speaking to Him from our hearts with the vocabulary He has given us. God knows all; He knows what is in our hearts before we speak it. Do not think that He will answer our prayers more to our own liking if we use excessive or pretentious words (Matthew 6:8). The model prayer Jesus gives teaches us the varying categories we may include in our petitions:
Matthew 6:9-13 ------
1. Address: We are addressing the Father (we are His children - we depend on Him). He is in heaven – we are on earth. Christ is our Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5-6).
2. Reverence: He is holy; sacred is His name; thus, we are not calling on His name lightly as those who take it in vain – saying it flippantly when no prayer is in mind to Him. This reflects our respect for the Maker of the universe.
3. His reign in the hearts of believers: Since Christ established His kingdom on this earth around 30 A.D. at His death/resurrection/ascension/day of Pentecost (Mark 9:1; Acts 2:22-24, 36; Ephesians 1:22, 23), we cannot, as the disciples could in the context of the model prayer, pray for the “kingdom to come”; but, certainly, we as Christians should be praying for that kingdom to be ever growing and filling the earth with God’s glory (Luke 10:2; Mark 16:15). The church, the body of the saved should be at the top of our prayer lists.
4. The Lord’s will: We should always have the mindset in (and out of)our prayers that God’s will be done and not ours. Indeed, the path we walk as Christians involves changing our will to be conformed to His will (not the other way around!). See James 4:13-17; Romans 12:1-2.
5. Daily needs: God wants us to remember that He gives us all things, even the food in our fridge. We should remember to be thankful and content with such as we have (1 Timothy 6:8).
6. Humble Confession: If we continue to confess our sins to Him and walk in the light (being continually cleansed by Christ’s blood), He forgives us (1 John 1:9). We sin from time to time and are always in need of the Savior; thus, we must be willing to forgive others. God is merciful – He wants His children to practice mercy (1 John 4:20).
7. Humble Request: Asking for strength to withstand the Devil should part of theprayers we utter to God. Through Him our weaknesses are made strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).
8. Praise: We should always seek opportunities to praise God. Prayer is one of those special times we can glorify the God of heaven.
Our Lord goes on to emphasize the importance of forgiveness (Matthew 6:14-15). If we pray to God for forgiveness, we must be willing to forgive others. See Matthew 18:21-35. It should be noted that within the context of the “Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus mentioned prayer earlier in Matthew 5:44. We should love, and thus, pray for those who persecute us or wish us harm. This is a deep thought and could be explored more, but here we will simply ask: When was the last time we prayed for the atheist, the Muslim, or the woman to whom we cannot stand to talk?
From our Lord’s example and His Word given through the inspired apostles, we can know the attitude one must exhibit in prayer or in other words, the person praying. First, let us discuss who can pray? Well, simply put, anyone can pray. Maybe a better question: Whose prayer does God answer? God’s Word teaches that the non-Christian does not have the privilege of prayer. It is through Christ that Christians are blessed with “every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3). Souls who have not obeyed the Father’s commands do not have a relationship in which they may speak to Him through the Mediator, Jesus Christ (Proverbs 15:8, 9, 29; Psalm 66:18-20; 1 Peter 3:12; 1 Timothy 2:5). Secondly, Christians who have returned to living a life of sin have lost the privilege of prayer. Our prayers (and all other aspects of service) are hindered by impenitent sin (Matthew 5:23, 24; 1 Peter 3:7). It is notable that James states that, “the righteous man’s prayer avails much” (James 5:16). As Christians, we must examine ourselves in the light of God’s Word and make sure we have “holy hands lifting up” to God when we pray (1 Timothy 2:8).
So far, we have been discussing prayer in the general or personal sense, but what about our public prayers and prayers in the assembly of the saints? 1 Timothy 2:8 can be applied to all Christians in the sense we mentioned above (holy living)(and the previous verses on ‘who to pray for’–1 Timothy 2:1-4), but as ladies verse 8 cannot be applied to us in mixed-gender groups. That is, the specific Greek word for “men” (adult males) is used here instructing us that when men are present, they are to be the leaders (in all spiritual areas – 1 Timothy 2:12; 1 Corinthians 14:34, 35). This is at home and in public assemblies – note the word “everywhere”. May a lady ever lead others in prayer? Certainly, as women we should be praying with our children at home (when our husband is not present since he is given the main leadership role to train children – Ephesians 6:4) and in Bible classes where no adult men are present. Ladies may assemble together at an appointed time to study, pray, and encourage one another (which would require a lady leading prayer). As Christian women may we seek to follow our Creator, desiring to obey/submit to what He states in His Word (Colossians 3:17).
Some questions to ask ourselves concerning our prayers:
Do we come before the throne of God in faith? Faith in God’s promises and complete trust in His Word is foundational to Christian living and our prayers (Hebrews 11:6; James 1:6; 1 John 5:14, 15). Sometimes, we pray because it is the right thing to do, but we do not really believe God will answer. As we grow in our faith (Romans 10:17), may we remember that God’s time is not our time and He will answer our prayers in one way or another – it may be something we never imagined. May our attitude be: Come what may, I will trust Him!
Do we pray according to God’s will? As noted above, it is faithful children of God who have the privilege of praying to Him, and with that comes knowing His Word. As Christian ladies, we should be ever striving to study and learn more of our Maker and what His Word says for our lives (2 Timothy 2:15). Only by “rightly dividing the word of truth” can we correctly apply it in our lives, and thus pray according to His will (1 John 5:14). For example, if I am struggling to love my husband and have thoughts of divorce, I should not pray with the mindset that God will help me make the right decision (including possible divorce) and find happiness elsewhere. God’s will is for the man and woman who made a covenant with each other in a God-joinedmarriage to remain together until death (Malachi 2:16; Matthew 19:9). Rather, I should pray for God to help me be more loving and respectful toward my husband (even if he is not lovable and respectable – 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, 10; Titus 2:4; 1 Peter 3:1). Furthermore, I should seek out a faithful, older Christian woman to encourage and admonish me to love my husband or learn to “re-love” my husband (Titus 2:3-4). May we strive more to love God, keep His commandments, and pray in the Spirit (John 14:13-15; Romans 8:27; Ephesians 6:18: Jude 1:20).
Do we approach God with a humble mindset? The Lord’s parable of a Pharisee and a tax collector going to the temple to pray is example to all of us (Luke 18:9-14). The Pharisee, trusting in himself for righteousness, says (paraphrasing): “God, look at me.” The tax collector, knowing God to be merciful, says (paraphrasing): “God, I can’t look at you.” We must honestly ask ourselves, “Whichattitude do I really have?” Humility is a requirement for believers in God’s Word (Psalm 18:27; Proverbs 29:23; Micah 6:8; Luke 14:11; Romans 12:16; James 4:6-10; 1 Peter 5:5, 6).
Do we give our worries to God? Often times as women, we let our worries outweigh our prayers. Really, constant anxiety and worry is faithlessness. God is bigger than our biggest problems and He knows us better than we know ourselves. The Almighty Creator takes care of the smallest of His creation – will He not take care of those whom He made in His Image? (Luke 12:22-30; Matthew 10:27-31) Rather than being anxious about things, let us “cast our cares upon Him” knowing that “God gives to all liberally” (Philippians 4:6; James 1:2-5; 1 Peter 5:7).
Do we have a thankful heart? The apostle Paul wrote often of thanksgiving (Ephesians 1:16, 5:4, 20; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 1:3, 17, 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; 1 Timothy 2:1, 4:3, 4; Hebrews 13:15 – to list a few). After everything Paul suffered (2 Corinthians 11:24-33), how could he still maintain a thankful attitude? He knew God’s grace had come to all (Acts 20:32; 2 Corinthians 9:12-15). He knew that for a faithful Christian, whatever happens in life can be for God’s glory (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:20, 21). None of us have been through persecutions and problems like Paul, yet we complain instead of give thanks for the issues we face in life (1 Corinthians 10:10; Philippians 2:14). Let us be grateful, not only for the good and abundant gifts God gives us but also for the hard times (maybe our supposed setback is a door of opportunity to lead someone to Christ).
Do we pray on a regular basis? Paul told the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). He told others that he didnot cease to make mention of them in his prayers (Romans 1:9; 2 Timothy 1:3). He is telling us to have a prayerful mind; not to be negligent in praying to the Father. Often, we are guilty of praying only when something bad has happened. We have all seen the sign that says: “If you only pray when you’re in trouble…you’re in trouble”. God wants our happy moments (and mediocre moments) to be shared with Him as well as the hard times. This is why making prayer regular in our life is a commandment.
May we all as daughters of the King strive to incorporate these characteristics in our lives so thatwe may grow closer to Him in prayer and better serve in His kingdom.
The Gospel of Christ
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