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Let us consider the miracle of prayer, a practice that surely dates back beyond recorded history, for a yearning to pray is as natural as breathing. Anyone who reads their Bible can be left in little doubt as to the importance of prayer; there are well over 300 references in the Scriptures.
‘Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.’ James 4:8
There is no space for pretense when we pray, God knows the secrets of our heart and He reveals them to us when we pray; however proud we may be, prayer humbles us. It is when we pray that God talks to us.
‘If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.’ James 1:5
Different types of prayer
Prayer can be a spontaneous outpouring of the heart or it can be read from a text, so that during the reading we meditate upon the words as we speak them. Prayer can also have a variety of purposes.
Prayer as an acknowledgement of God’s supreme power.
‘I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will tell of all thy wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in thee; I will sing praise to thy name, O Most High.’ Psalm 9: 1-2
Prayer as an articulation of gratitude, a recognition that all that is good comes from God.
‘Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Ephesians 5:20
Prayer as an act of repentance.
‘True repentance, like all good things, is a gift of God.’ Timothy 2:25
Prayer in which we ask God for help.
‘Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.’ Matthew7: 7
How should we pray?
Jesus prayed with others (Luke9: 28), for others (Matthew 19:13-14) and on his own (Luke 5:16). Although prayer was an established Jewish practice, Jesus felt it so important that his disciples understand what real prayer entails, that he taught them how to pray and he gave us the Lord’s Prayer as a model (Matthew 6:5-13). Prayer, he said, is not a public performance, it is not a fine sounding flow of words, it is a private conversation between an individual and God. The Bible does not command us to stand or kneel or sit when we pray. God is concerned with the quality of our prayer, not ritual behavior. So, yes it is all right to pray as you walk, you don’t need an altar and you don’t need a church in order to pray to God.
When should we pray?
King David, author of the psalms, prayed seven times a day,
‘Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.’ Psalm 119:164
but early Christians adopted the practice of praying the Lord’s Prayer at 9am, 12 noon and 3pm. There is no better way to start the day than in prayer and no better way to end it. Many Christians also use the moments before a meal as an opportunity for a prayer of gratitude.
Why are prayer schedules helpful?
We are all susceptible to the ‘I’ll get around to it when I have time’ way of thinking, but prayer is simply too important to be treated in this way. As Martin Luther said ‘ I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.’ Prayer enables us to connect with God and focus on what is important and when you fix a rigid time and place for your prayer you remove a significant obstacle in the way of getting closer to God. Creating a prayer schedule enables you to reflect on what is important before you pray so that you don’t find yourself sitting about thinking ‘ Now what shall I pray today?’ Of course there are times when the desire to pray will come upon you spontaneously, that’s the Lord calling you and it’s a call that you should never be too busy to answer. Creating a weekly schedule enables you to ensure that you are not just thinking about your needs but about praising God and the needs of others. Keeping a record of your prayers in your prayer journal enables you to reflect on your spiritual journey and see how God has answered your prayers. Monthly prayer schedules can help you focus on the Christian calendar and reflect more deeply on the meaning of Christian festivals and celebrations. ‘Compassion International’ is a Christian child-advocacy ministry that provides a child-centered monthly prayer schedule. It is well taking a look at it as an example of how our prayers can be directed to help others. Creating a prayer schedule is time well spent and you’ll find it deeply fulfilling, here’s an example, and that’s all it is, of a schedule you might try.
Monday – Start the week with gratitude, an uplifting recognition of some of the infinite gifts that God has given us.
Tuesday- Pray for guidance how to draw closer to God.
Wednesday – Pray the Scriptures. Open your Bible at a random page or meditate upon a verse from your Bible study.
Thursday- Pray for your friends and family and things that you may need help with in your life.
Friday – Pray for those who are suffering around the world.
Saturday – Reflect upon your week and ask God’s forgiveness for your sins.
Sunday – Join with others in Church and take part in an act of communal prayer.