According to a Pew Survey, 55% of professing American Christians rely on prayer when making major life decisions, and 63% of professing Christians in America hold regular prayer as an essential part of their Christian identity.
What is your response to those statistics?
If you’re like me, you are left wondering what the other 45% of Christians rely on when making big decisions, and what the other 37% think is essential to their Christian identity if prayer isn’t essential to them.
These may look like encouraging statistics on the surface. The majority of Christians are praying, right?
These statistics are actually extremely troubling, however.
A sizable minority of Christians are neglecting prayer. They are starving themselves of the most essential part of a healthy relationship with God.
You can’t be in a relationship with someone and never talk to them, can you?
God commands us to pray regularly. Ephesians 6:18 says, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”
Prayer is essential to the Christian life. We pray to commune with God, confess our sins, worship Him, grow closer to Him, and pour out our desires and troubles before Him. John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, had this definition of prayer:
“Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to the Word of God, for the good of the church, with submission in faith to the will of God.”
Prayer is the cornerstone of our relationship with God.
God uses prayer to accomplish His purposes and change us.
James 5:16b says, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” We do not pray to get God to do what we want, but rather to commune with God and get our hearts right in order that our wills are in line with God’s will. Once our will is in line with God’s, we can be sure that whatever we ask of Him will be given to us because we will always be asking for what is in His will. We know God is sovereign and knows everything that is going to happen. However, we can be assured that our prayers are one of the ways God accomplishes His sovereign plan, so it is not pointless to pray in light of God’s sovereignty.
The Bible tells us to pray over and over again, but one of the best known and most important passages on prayer is Luke 11:1-4. This is the Lord’s Prayer, and just about everyone has heard it. This is the basis for our study today.
The Lord’s Prayer provides a template for our prayers to follow, showing what sorts of things we should be praying for and in what order.
Here is the Lord’s Prayer from Luke:
“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”
Here are 5 things the Lord’s Prayer shows us to pray about:
1. Glorifying God.
The Lord’s Prayer shows us that our prayers should begin with glorification of God. “Hallowed be you name” is a petition that everyone would worship and adore God above everything else. Your prayers should begin with worship and adoration of God, and an expression of your desire to see everyone worship God in this way.
2. Praying For the Spread of the Gospel and Christ’s Return
The second thing the Lord’s prayer models for us is to pray that God’s kingdom would come. This kingdom is initially the kingdom of God manifested in each believer in the World today, and eventually God’s kingdom when He returns to reign on the earth. We are called to pray for both of these things to come. Specific things to pray about in this area include missionaries you know of, countries that need to gospel, people in your life that don’t know God, and that you and others would be ready when Christ returns someday.
3. Praying For Daily Needs
The third thing the Lord’s Prayer exhibits is a prayer for daily needs. As Americans we often don’t even think about our daily needs, but we should. We should pray to God in thankfulness for the abundance of blessings He has given us, and acknowledge that we are reliant on Him for all of it. Maybe we are in need of a something as well. This is the point in prayer to ask for it humbly.
4. Praying For Forgiveness for Ourselves and Help in Forgiving Others
We are bound to sin in this life every day. We need to be confessing and repenting of these sins daily in our prayers, asking God to forgive us. This keeps us humble and frees our guilty hearts to worship God. In addition to this, every one of us is wronged by people every day. We should be praying to God for help in forgiving these people and loving them despite their sin against us.
5. Praying For Deliverance From Temptation
Every one of us is tempted to sin every day, and fighting it can get exhausting. We need to come to Christ daily in prayer asking for help from the Holy Spirit to fight the temptation of sin.
These are just guidelines on how our prayers should look. Obviously, some prayers will be shorter and some will be longer. Some might just be a quick cry for help or a short thank you to God for something, while others might be hour long times of pouring your heart out to God. Either way, keep these 5 areas of prayer in mind and try to incorporate all of them into at least 1 prayer a day.
Below are some reflection questions. Feel free to answer them in the comments below or just think about them privately in your own heart.
- How is your prayer life, and how can it be improved?
- How has prayer shaped and changed you and your life?