Prayer is one of those interesting aspects of the Christian life that for many can be difficult. Some of the common arguments against prayer are things like, “God already knows what I’m going to pray so why bother?” or “Everything has already been sovereignly determined,” and maybe, “Prayer never changes anything.” My friends lets look at what the Bible teaches and see if we can’t learn a little bit about how and why to pray.

Let’s start by looking at the why; there is of course a very simple answer that we could give for this, but we’ll save that for later. As we look at the Gospel accounts one of the things that we notice about Jesus is that he prayed (since he is our Lord and God it is logical to assume that he considers it important enough to do it). Many times we see Jesus praying: he prayed all night before choosing the twelve (Luke 6:12), he prayed before walking on water (Matt 14:23), and he prayed before he was crucified (Matt 26:36). Jesus also taught quiet a bit about prayer which presupposes then that he wants us to pray (Matt 6:6; 6:9; Mark 14:38).

Paul also understands and desires that we pray. Throughout his letters he mentions that men and women should pray; the Spirit also helps us in our prayer (Rom 8:26). Paul, like Jesus, also mentions that he prayed (1 Thess 3:10), and that he did so often.

Of course the most obvious answer to the question of why pray is because we are told to! 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us that we are to “pray without ceasing.” ‘Nuff said.

So how are we to pray then? Perhaps the best place to look is Jesus teaching on prayer in Matthew 6 (which we erroneously call the Lord’s Prayer, when it is really the Disciples Prayer).

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matt 6:5-13)

Wow, just a little bit of teaching there! Most of the time we only focus on verses 9 through 13, but I think verse 5 through 8 are also important.

First, don’t pray like a hypocrite. I remember one time at a Bible study I was asked to pray in the most grandiose way I could. Another guy was asked to pray very meekly; so when it was my turn to pray I really hamed it up. I mean naming every name of God I could think of and extolling his many wonders throughout the heavens and the earth. When I think of praying like a hypocrite that is what comes to mind. When you pray don’t do it for the attention, pray because you desire to be more intimate with God.

The next thing that we see is that we are told to pray in secret. Does this mean that praying together in a Bible study is wrong? Of course not! Jesus is simply teaching us that prayer is often a private ordeal between us and God. If that means being alone and quiet to pray, then do it!

Another aspect of prayer that we observe is that we are not to say the same thing over, and over, and over, and over, and over. God understands what we are asking for the first time we say it; he doesn’t need to hear it 500 times. Hear my heart though, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray for something daily, just don’t beat the horse to death when you do pray.

When it comes to the form of prayer, at least here in Jesus’ example, there seems to be some things that we are to do. First, praise God; we have so much that we can praise him for giving him acknowledgement of those things comes right up front. We then ask that the will of God be done here on earth; there are lots of things that can work against the will of God so take some time and ask that God’s will be done.

Ask God to provide for your daily needs. Especially in difficult times when things seem lean asking God to give you exactly what you need for the day is important. We also ask that he forgive us; sadly even though we are made new Christ we still sin. Confess those sins to God and make sure that you are constantly in fellowship with him. Not only that but notice that second part? We need to be forgive others too. That one may need some prayer of its own because some times it can be hard to forgive others. And finally we ask that we be protected from the temptation to sin.

Now this prayer isn’t some magic spell that if you pray it all your dreams will come true. It’s a model to help us understand how to pray; take some time and spend it in prayer and build that intimate bond with our heavenly Father.