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A simple definition of Prayer would be 'A celebration of God's perfection's and Work.' This finds expression in the elements of Prayer. The model for Prayer is given for us in what is commonly called the Lord's Prayer. Matthew 6:9-14 It can best be remembered by the use of the acrostic ACTS:
- Adoration - Praising God's attributes and character
- Confession - Confession of our sins to God,
- Thanksgiving - Thanksgiving for the blessings we have received from Him
- Supplication - Petitions for the blessings we need. 1 Timothy 2:1-2
Old Testament Prayer
Before the first generation of mankind had passed away, men began to call upon the name of the Lord. Genesis 4:26 Prayers, whether with or without sacrifice, were constantly offered by the patriarchs to God. Genesis 12:8, 13:4; 20:7, 32:9-11 The efficacy of the intercession of good men was recognised. Genesis 18:23, 20:7; Exodus 32:11 The blessings asked for were mostly of a temporal nature.
Prayer is nowhere commanded as a duty in the Law, and prayers were not prescribed at the sacrifices except on two occasions, viz. a confession of sin on the Day of Atonement Leviticus 16:21, and a thanksgiving when offering the firstfruits and tithes. Deuteronomy 26:3,13 It is however probable from the nature of things, and from the custom in later times, that prayer always accompanied sacrifice. Incense which accompanied sacrifices became the recognised type of prayer.
Even in the times of the Judges, the children of Israel did not forget to cry unto the Lord, and a model of prayer is given by Hannah. 1 Samuel 2:1 Samuel was recognised by his nation to be characteristically a man of prayer. 1 Samuel 7:5,8; 12:19, 23; Psalms 99:6 David's Psalms, and the Psalms generally, give some of the highest expression of prayer. Remarkable prayers were prayed by Solomon 1 Kings 8; Hezekiah 2 Kings 19:14, etc.; Isaiah 38:9, etc.; Ezra Ezra 9:5; the Levites Nehemiah 9:5, and Daniel Daniel 9:3. 'Making many prayers' was a part of the corrupt religion of Israel under the later kings Isaiah 1:15, and a marked feature of the religion of the Pharisees. Matthew 6:5, 23:14
It was the custom to pray three times a day and so David Psalm 55:17, Daniel Daniel 6:10 and the later Jews are found performing this regularly. Prayer was said before eating in 1 Samuel 9:13; Matthew 15:36; Acts 27:35.
First because God has commanded us. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 We are commanded to ask and promised to receive. Matthew 7:7
Secondly it may be ordained of God to impress our own needs on our minds and to bring our minds into a state proper for receiving God's blessings.
Thirdly to acknowledge our total dependence on God. Since all of life depends on God it is only reasonable to acknowledge our constant dependence on God and to request our daily needs from Him. 'Give us our Daily Bread'. Matthew 6:9-14; Psalm 95:1-7; Psalm 100; Acts 17:28; James 1:17
In the Fathers Will
There are restrictions placed on our prayers. 1 John 5:14 limits our prayers to the will of God. In other words we must only pray for lawful things. God's word must rule all our prayers. Our prayers must be scriptural prayers, or biblical prayers. Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 6:33; James 4:2-3
But what exactly does the Bible mean when it speaks of the mountain moving prayer of faith. James 1:5-8; 4:2-3; 5:13-18 Well James tells us that it is illustrated by the life of Elijah whose prayer was instrumental in shutting the heavens. But shutting up the heavens was not a new idea with Elijah. It was actually the fulfillment of the promised threat of the covenant Lord. Deuteronomy 28:15, 22-24
Elijah was simply bringing his life in line with God's covenant promises. He was merely praying the revealed will of God as revealed in Scripture. The prayer of faith then is to ask God to accomplish what He has promised in His Word. It's to bring our lives and prayer in line with Scripture. Our struggle is to cry with the Savior, 'not my will but thine be done.'
In Jesus's Name
Jesus name is not to be used as a magic formula nor meant to be repeated over and over again. To pray in the name of Jesus Christ, is to draw all our encouragement and strength to pray, from Christ alone. We rely on His merit and intercession for acceptance and a gracious answer to our prayers from the Father. It is not a mechanical formula. The atonement of Christ and His intercession on our behalf are the basis of all true prayer and that's the reason we pray in Jesus name. We pray to God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ with the aid of the Holy Spirit. John 14:6; Ephesians 2:18; Colossians 3:17
Dependant on the Holy Spirit
Man is dependant on the Holy Spirit in prayer because we don't know what to pray for. In fact we are in danger of asking for the wrong things. We also don't know how to pray properly. In fact the only thing the disciples asked to be taught was how to pray. Matthew 6:9-14 So the Holy Spirit helps our weakness, enlightening our minds, to our needs, bringing Gods promises to our memories. That doesn't mean we don't have to work at our prayers but we must lean on the Holy Spirit for understanding, reverence, humility and fervency. Ephesians 6:18; Jude 1:20; Romans 8:26
Changes God's Mind?
Now while prayer changes things it does not change God's mind. James 5:16 does not state that prayer changes God's mind only that prayer makes all kinds of things happen. But it is clear from God's nature He cannot change. Numbers 23:19; Psalm 110:4; Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8
You see our heavenly Father is delighted to give us things if we would only ask. When God plans to do something, He acts knowing everything that we have prayed for. Prayer never inform God of anything new. Nor does prayer excite God's goodness towards man. James tells us that prayer makes a difference because in God's sovereignty, one of the means He uses to bring about His purposes is human prayer. James 5:16 John Owen defined Prayer as the 'ordained means God uses to bring about His purposes and our blessings.'
The general posture of prayer ordinarily was standing 1 Samuel 1:26; Nehemiah 9:2,4; Matthew 6:5; Mark 11:25; Luke 18:11,13; also kneeling 1 Kings 8:54; Daniel 6:10; Ezra 9:5; or prostrate Joshua 7:6; Nehemiah 8:6. The hands were spread upwards to heaven. 1 Kings 8:22; Ezra 9:5; Isaiah 1:15; Psalm 141:2 Smiting on the breast and tearing of the garments signified special sorrow. Luke 18:13; Ezra 9:5 Our Lord's attitude in prayer is recorded only once. In the Garden of Gethsemane He knelt Luke 22:41, fell on His face Matthew 26:39, fell on the ground Mark 14:35. It is noteworthy that Stephen Acts 7:60, Peter 9:40, Paul 20:36, 21:5, and the Christians generally 21:5, knelt to pray.
Prayers were said at the Sanctuary 1 Samuel 1:12; Psalm 42:2,4; 1 Kings 8 or looking towards the Sanctuary 1 Kings 8:44,48; Daniel 6:10; Psalm 5:7; on the housetop or in an upper chamber. Acts 10:9; Daniel 6:10 The Pharisees prayed publicly in the synagogues and at the corners of the streets. Matthew 6:5 Our Lord prayed upon the tops of mountains Matthew 14:23; Luke 9:28, or in solitary places. Mark 1:35