Biblical Prayer: The Purpose of Prayer

1 John 3:20-24, John 14:12-17, Alignment with the will of God
Ephesians 3:14-21; 1 Timothy 1:17, Adoration and recognition of God’s holiness
1 John 1:8-10, Confession and request for forgiveness
Mathew 11:25; John 11:41; and other passages, Thanksgiving
Luke 22:31-3, Supplication and intercession

More About Biblical Prayer

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1 John 3:20-24, John 14:12-17, Alignment with the will of God (8/11/08)

Today we begin a new unit, Biblical Prayer.  Did you know that our daily study goes to more than 100 email addresses?  Sometimes you may have the feeling that it's just you and me, kid.  Sometimes I have the feeling that it's just me.  But in fact we are "reading together."  Let's pray together, too.

I am not a very good pray-er. My prayers tend to be late, short, disorganized, and repetitive. I’d like to improve, but I’ve looked at half a dozen books without finding much help. One thing these books have in common is that they say little or nothing about God’s position on prayer. So in this study we are going to see what the Bible says on this topic. We can’t cover every verse about prayer, but I’ve tried to pick out representative texts. Many of the readings will be shorter than we are used to. I hope that each day you will take the time to pray that God will help all of us to understand the scripture we are reading.

This week we are doing a preliminary examination of the purpose of prayer. Jesus says that only if we believe in him and keep his commandments will we be able to pray in a way that our petitions will be granted. I believe that the number-one purpose of prayer is to align our wills with the will of God. Many years ago I heard a sermon that convinced me that my will is like a drinking straw in a stream. (I don’t remember the sermon; I just remember what I what thinking about during the sermon!) If the straw is crosswise to the flow of the stream, not only does the water not flow through it, but it’s liable to get bent on a rock. But if the straw lines up with the flow of the current, the power of the stream flows through it and guides it around all the rocks as well. Prayer is a way of aligning the straw of my will with the power of God.

Today’s Prayer: Dear God, just for today, help me to know your will for my life and to do it.  Amen.

Ephesians 3:14-21; 1 Timothy 1:17, Adoration and recognition of God’s holiness (8/12/08)

Some classes on prayer teach ACTS – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. I already gave you my opinion that Alignment with the Will of God is the number one purpose of prayer, but the ACTS are also central purposes. Today we look at adoration. Adoration and Thanksgiving are, I think, the easiest aspects of prayer. They are the ones we learn as tiny children: “God is great; God is good. Let us thank him for our food.”

After all, what's not to like about God?  God is great, good, holy, immortal, wise, our loving and forgiving creator, and the provider not only of what we need but also of the glorious riches of the Spirit.  The best prayer of adoration I know is one I learned at an intra-church Methodist Youth Fellowship meeting in high school: “God is great; God is good. Yaa-aay, GOD!"

Today’s Prayer: God is great!  God is good!  Praise God!

1 John 1:8-10, Confession and request for forgiveness (8/13/08)

One of my nieces is Catholic, and back in January I went to mass at her church in California. I picked up a brochure called “How to Make a Good Confession.” It’s not just a matter of being sorry for anything you might have done but don’t remember right this minute. Oh, no. The brochure has a lo-ong list of questions to ask yourself prior to confession, ranging from "Have I repeated gossip?" to “Have I stolen another's property?” If we Methodists actually had to answer all these questions before we said the prayer of confession together on Sunday, it would have a tremendous chilling effect on committing sins, let me tell you. Or maybe not.

And then, to make matters worse, you must be contrite! True contrition means (1) you wish you hadn't done it, (2) you promise not to do it again, and (3) you intend to stay out of situations that might tempt you to do it again. The point is, adequate confession takes more spiritual effort than, “Hi God, it’s me. I might have committed a couple of sins since the last time we talked, but I have to run, so can I be forgiven?”

If you don’t make a good confession, you can’t be forgiven, the brochure says. Uh-oh – that's exactly what John says, too! God is always ready to forgive our sins, but first we have to confess and be contrite.

Today’s Prayer: Dear God, I'm sorry for this specific sin which I now name in my heart.  Please forgive me.  Help me not to do it again.  Amen.

Mathew 11:25; John 11:41; Romans 1:8; 1 Corinthians 1:4-5; Philippians 1:3-6; Colossians 1:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-4; 2:13; Philemon 1:4-6; 1 Timothy 1:12-14, Thanksgiving (8/14/08)

What are you thankful for?  What wholesome activity do you enjoy?  Who lights up your life?  What have you had the talent and strength to accomplish?  We know that every good and perfect gift comes from God and that we should thank God for them, but sometimes we take a "one thanks fits all" approach.  Our readings today show that our prayers should offer thanks for specific blessings and that we should offer continual thanksgiving. 

Today’s Prayer: Dear God, thank you for your blessings which you have given me today, and which I name in my heart!  Amen.

Luke 22:31-3, Supplication and intercession 2 (8/15/08)

Several years ago, I reported in Sunday School that I was going out of town to make a presentation, but I was losing my voice – I often get to the point that I cannot speak above a whisper, and I know the early warning signs.  When I got back, your fellow-reader Mary-Lou D. asked how it had gone.  I said, no problem, my voice had unexpectedly been fine.  She said, "I was praying for you," and I replied, "I knew that someone was."

A long time ago, I was part of a bell choir.  After practice one day, one of the choir ladies told another lady in the church that she couldn't attend on a certain day and said, "Will you play for me?"  The other lady agreed, but when the day came, she wasn't there.  It turned out that she thought the request was "Will you pray for me?" and she had done that.  Although her error was musically unsound, it was theologically sound.  Jesus himself gives us numerous examples of supplication – asking that God grant some petition, and intercession – asking God's favor on another person.

Today’s Prayer: Dear God, please give me what I need today.  I also ask that you give this blessing that I name in my heart to my friend.  Amen.

More About Biblical Prayer

The Purpose of Prayer
Conversations with God – Abraham
Conversations with God – Moses
Conversations with God – David and Solomon
Adoration: Sing to the Lord a New Song
Liturgical Prayer
When God Speaks
God promises to answer all prayers…
… Except the prayers of the Wicked. But if the Wicked repent, God hears them, too.
Sometimes the answer is “No.”
The disciples talk about prayer.
How Not to Pray
How to Pray: Effectively
How to Pray – Privately
How to Pray – Corporately

Copyright 2008, 2011 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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