What is prayer?
- Prayer is talking to God.[i]
- A solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship.[ii]
- Prayer is spiritual communication between man and God, a two-way relationship in which man should not only talk to God but also listen to Him. Prayer to God is like a child’s conversation with his father. It is natural for a child to ask his father for the things he needs.[iii]
- Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.[iv]
Talking to God…You would think it would be simple, right? Yet, we struggle. We don’t know what to say/ask. We fall asleep or our minds wander. We struggle to be discipled to pray every day, much less “without ceasing”! We are unsure, not knowing if God is listening or if He will hear and answer. It is good know that the LORD Jesus has given us guidance! Luke records a time when Jesus had been praying…
Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." 2 And he said to them, "When you pray, say: "Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread, 4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation."[v]
One of the disciples (who had likely been observing Jesus in prayer) asks Jesus to teach them to pray. Jesus gives His disciples a guide, we know it as “the LORD’s prayer”. These verses are not a mantra to repeat or a formulaic address to God that we borrow so that we have the right words. No, Jesus is answering a request for instruction, he is teaching the disciples “how” to pray. We might say these short verses give us Jesus’s guide to prayer. Jesus give us:
A way to address God: “Our Father”
This is followed by five topics or petitions:[vi]
- Hallowed by your name.
- Your Kingdom come.
- Give us each day our daily bread
- Forgive us our sins
- Lead us not into temptation.
Let’s look at the first. What does it mean for God’s name to be “hallowed”?[vii] The Westminster shorter and longer catechisms help us to understand each of the petitions by scripturally expounding on each of the requests. Let’s consider the first:
Q) What do we pray for in the first petition?
A) In the first petition, [which is, Hallowed be thy name,] we pray, That God would enable us and others to glorify him in all that whereby he maketh himself known; and that he would dispose all things to his own glory.[viii]
I take a daily 20-25 minute walk each morning. Frequently, I use this time to pray. The LORD’s prayer is my “guide” or “help”. Usually I don’t get past the first petition! There are reasons for this!
Praying that God would “enable me and others to glorify him”, leads me to:
- honestly consider my own actions. this will lead to prayer of confession, repentance, and requesting God to change me ad enable me to act according to His will. Given the complexity of our lives, I am sure you can see that this will undoubtedly involve more than one problem or situation!
- honestly evaluate my own attitudes, with the same results as #1 above.
- grieve over the state of our nation/culture. There are innumerable places where men are in rebellion against the rule of God and are not glorifying Him. I pray for political leaders to glorify God and to act in a manner that is congruent with His world. This will involve praying for God to bring them to repentance and faith, which means praying for God to bring people into their lives who will share the gospel. This is followed by prayer for their nurture and growth in grace and courage to implement biblical principles into their governance.
This continues related to cultural movements, local political leadership (school boards, township or county officials, etc.) world governments, business leaders, military leaders etc…
- Pray in a similar fashion for the brothers and sisters in the flock, where I pastor. That God would enable them to live lives glorifying to God, the they would honestly examine their attitudes and actions, repenting when necessary and renewing the love and commitment to obedience. This involves grieving for them where they are caught in sin, or where their attitudes need to be changed. If we all would do this, it would be amazing how trifling our petty offenses with our brothers and sisters become!
- Pray in an imprecatory fashion regarding those who do not repent.[ix]
- Pray that God, who is working all thinks to our good and His glory, would do this very thing in the situations with which I am concerned. This will mean praying for my ability to accept and be prepared for the out-working of His providence.
It is likely that I don’t get this far by the point my walk is over. I have prayed for things that God desires and I have prayed for them (presumably) with the correct attitude (desiring His glory).
It is up to you to read the catechism on the rest of the petitions and learn to pray in the manner that the LORD Jesus has taught us!
Martin B. Blocki has served since 2003 as the Associate Pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North Hills in Pittsburgh, PA since 2002. Rev. Blocki graduated from Indiana University, Bloomington (BME), Arizona State University (MM), and the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (MDiv). Martin and his wife, Kathy, have two married sons, one daughter, and four grandchildren.
[ii] Oxford Dictionaries
[iii] Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
[iv] Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 98.
[v] Luke 11:1-5 (English Standard Version)
[vi] Matthew 6:9-13 gives six petitions.
[vii] Hallowed = “made holy”
[viii] Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 101
[ix] The reader should purchase and read “War Psalms of the Prince of Peace” by J. Adams. How little we love God when we think that it is wrong to pray for the destruction of His and our enemies! Are we really content to say we love Him when we think humans are more important this His glory?
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