Man communicates with God through prayer, and most often this will be in times of great need or distress or in times of joy and happiness.
It is in prayer that the inner man many times shines forth as a person leads the family of God in a public prayer. This means of communication to the “master of the universe” is a blessing from God and needs to be learned about and practiced on a regular basis. The question “How should I pray?” is appropriate in every way.
To pray as one should, the heart of the individual must be involved. Children, when being taught to pray, many times recite the same words over and over at each occasion of prayer, usually before meals and at bedtime. After a while, they begin to branch out and say what is on their minds. They pray for everyone and everything. They pray for the whole family or for a friend. Their prayers are not said to show how much Scripture they know or how many big words they can say. Those prayers come straight from their heart, and that is the key to proper prayer. Perhaps when the Lord said, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14), it is a commentary on how the heart must be when offering up prayers to God.
Jesus gave instructions on prayer in what man calls his “Sermon on the Mount.” In those instructions, he showed how humility and openness is a part of prayer. Those who pray to be noticed Jesus called hypocrites (Matthew 6:5). The Pharisees often would position themselves on the street corner so that all could see they were men of prayer. Their piety was for men and not God; they wanted to be seen as “religious.” Their prayers were not acceptable.
When prayers are uttered, it should be an outpouring of the individual’s soul in the petitions and thanksgiving being presented before God. This opening up to God is to lay bare all of one’s thoughts, needs and desires and the very being of the individual. It helps the one offering up the prayer to see just how vulnerable man really is in the presence of Jehovah. How wonderful it is to know that as insignificant as one may be, if they are one of God’s children, he cares about their every need. Prayers show the closeness one has to God and the faith of the individual.
Prayers should be uttered in a spirit of selflessness. While approaching God for personal things is not wrong, there are always others who are in need. Paul in talking about prayer wrote, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). It is the Christian way to be concerned with more than just personal things but also on the things of others (Philippians 2:4).
In a congregation of people there are always those for whom prayers should be uttered. The elderly need prayers of others as they face not only health problems but also loneliness. The youth need prayers as they face temptations and emotional upheavals and as they struggle with becoming adults.
Elders, deacons, preachers, teachers and members in general all should be included in prayer as they labor in the work of the Lord. Prayers for public officials should be offered, no matter what a person’s politics. It does not matter which party is in office; Christians serve God, not man.
Next week, we will continue our study of prayer.