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Faith Alive! | Commandments of Christ 3

3. Concerning God – prayer

From issue 79 (October 2004)

THE Bible is full of guidance about prayer – not as an academic, theological subject, but based upon practical and personal experience. It is also packed with examples that indicate when to pray, how to pray, and what to pray for. People like Daniel, Nehemiah, Hezekiah, Paul, Hannah and Jesus provide us with a huge range of illustrations, with the book of Psalms recording King David’s prayer-life. However, faced with words like “be instant in prayer” (Romans 12:12) and “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), discussing prayer and praying actively can seem a bit daunting. By asking a few questions about prayer (and hopefully getting a few answers!) it is possible to understand Christ’s command to pray more clearly and prioritise prayer in our everyday lives.

Worth a closer look

Prayer and Incense

  • Psalm 141:2
  • Revelation 8:4,5
  • Leviticus 16:12,13
  • Think about how often Aaron offers up incense, can this teach us anything? – Exodus 30:7
  • Consider the different elements of the incense, how are they significant? – Exodus 30:34-38

First, what is prayer? Simply put it is the lifting of our hearts, minds and wills to God and talking to Him. The obvious starting point to prayer is faith because “without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6). Prayer is our voluntary response to God’s call and shows our willingness to seek Him (Matthew 7:7-11). If we do not accept that God exists or has the power to answer there is little point in praying!

So, why is prayer important? It is easy to see that if we are spending time in contact with God through prayer and Bible reading that our minds can develop a more spiritual perspective and become less involved with the material things around us. Constant seeking of God in prayer led David to be described as a “man after God’s own heart”. Even just glancing through the Psalms gives us an idea of how many aspects of his inner life David actually prayed about. Ultimately this is our aim too - to develop our characters through prayer to be more like Christ.

Prayer is also vital as it enables us to ask God for forgiveness. In Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the publican, the publican asks for forgiveness with faith and humility, saying “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:11-14). The key role of prayer in the process of forgiveness is particularly highlighted by examining the function of the incense used by Aaron in the tabernacle. (See “Worth a Closer Look” – Study Box)

Lastly, how should we pray? The Bible shows us that prayers can be given at any time or in any place, but the most important ingredient is a sincere and humble attitude. John writes that we must speak to God with confidence trying to ask things that are “according to his will” (1 John 5:14). This is just what Jesus did. No matter what Christ requested from his Father his priority was “not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39). It is the way in which we pray to God that is so important, rather than when or where. And if we are sincere we can have true assurance that God really does hear us (James 5:16; 1 John 5:14-15).

Let us aim never to take for granted the opportunity we have to pray, remembering it is our privilege to approach God in prayer because of Christ’s sacrifice. To show our thankfulness to God let us try to pray often to Him, that we might “keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Esther ashton


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