The first question one might have is “are we supposed to pray?” Is there actually a prescription for prayer? Well, yes and no. We are to pray, but it is assumed, not commanded. I notice in the Bible, or should I say that I have never noticed an explicit command to pray. For the Christian it is simply assumed that we will. We will desire to communicate to the God who has saved us.
First in this assumption though, is the fact that we pray to God, not the other way around. Because prayer in itself is a form of worship, this first assumption should be humbling for us each time we pray. As Jesus described, we are hypocritical if we do not assume a dependence of God’s mercy in the mere fact that he allows us to approach him in prayer. In other words, by the mere fact that you are allowed to pray directly to the God of the universe, you should automatically experience extreme fear and humility.
To express it in a few words, whether a man prays alone, or in the presence of others, he ought to have the same feelings, as if he were shut up in his closet, and had no other witness but God.- Calvin
That being said, we need to understand that there is a prescription of how to pray. This prescription is in the passage listed in What is Prayer? Matthew 6:5-13, otherwise known as The Lord’s Prayer, is Jesus’ prescription of prayer for us. How can that prescription help us to pray better?
1. Pray to the Father-the 1st Person of Trinity, recognizes headship and child-ship relation. As a general rule, we should address our prayers to the Father. I hear many people address Jesus in their prayers, and I think this is probably alright, mostly because I don’t want to be a stick in the mud. I also realize that Jesus is a member of the Trinity and that he is in fact God. He is not the Father though. They are distinct and in his description of how we are to pray, Jesus himself makes the distinction to pray to the Father. I do believe there is a general principle of which he wants us to be aware. I think one of the reasons for this is spelled out in the second part of his prescription for prayer.
2.Honor of the Name-We should honor God for His ontos or being, who He is, or His attributes. Although the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in nature, they are distinct and subordinate in relation to each other. i.e. the Son sends the Spirit; the Father sends the Son and the Spirit. This idea must have something to do with how we are to address our prayers to the Father. We are to honor him as God because of his nature and his relation in the God-head.
3.His kingdom and His will-We should pray for His victory and triumph over evil and that His will would be accomplished. This cannot be so that it would be possible that they would come to pass, but so that we would place our hope in the promises of God. In other words, it is not as if our prayers are necessary to bring these things to pass, but they necessarily will bring them to pass. I hope you catch the nuance there. Our prayers do not mean God’s plan changes, but they are the means by which God plans changes.
4.Daily bread-We should pray for God to sustain us. This helps us to understand our utter dependence upon God for our very existence.
5.Forgive us our debts-We are to regularly confess our sins before God. Confession is a necessary part of the Christian experience because the more truly and fully we get to know God, the more we understand our sinfulness and become acutely aware of our need of his forgiveness.
6.Deliver us from the evil one-We should pray for God’s rescue or deliverance, and express dependence upon Gods redemption. We should remain aware that we are not at war with flesh and blood, but are engaged in a real, spiritual war with real, evil, spirits. We need his deliverance, most of the time unknowingly.
As followers of Christ, we will need to have a full prayer life. Our prayer life should be rich with worship. We should strive to have a Biblical prayer life. Once again, because I realize some will accuse me of this, I don’t mean to make this an exercise of legalism. I do intend to communicate the idea that we should not take prayer lightly as if we were merely talking with our “benevolent buddy”. We should approach God carefully and if anyone could describe a proper method, it would be Christ. Consider his way next time you pray, and this Thanksgiving, consider prayer as more than a formality to lunch.
Christ went more readily ad crucem, than we to the throne of grace. THOMAS WATSON