A Key Christian Belief Essay, Research Paper
Prayer is a universal human experience. There is not a culture in the world that does not have some means of prayer, some way of communicating with the Divine. That is why I have chosen to examine prayer.
Prayer is one of the “key beliefs” of Christians. Prayer illuminates our relationship with God and allows us to express our love for Him, our faith and hope in Him. We have the opportunity to share our concerns, fears, needs and desires with the Almighty. The quality of our prayer life is directly related to the quality of our spiritual life and our knowledge of God. If we understand the purpose of prayer and it’s components, we are able to strive towards enhancing our prayer life where it becomes rich and fulfilling. When we develop our prayer life, we develop a stronger and deeper relationship with God; our prayers become our point of power.
Definition of Prayer
Pray is a means of communicating with God. Aside from studying the Word of God, prayer is a method used to help us develop a relationship with God and also to know His will for our lives. Prayer is the privilege of speaking and listening to God. Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines prayer as conversation with God; the intercourse of the soul with God, not in contemplation or meditation, but in direct address to him. Prayer may be oral or mental, occasional or constant, ejaculatory; or formal. It is a “beseeching the Lord” (Ex. 32:11); “pouring out the soul before the Lord” (1 Sam. 1:15); “praying and crying to heaven” (2 Chr. 32:20); “seeking unto God and making supplication” (Job 8:5); “drawing near to God” (Ps. 73:28); and “bowing the knees” (Eph. 3:14).
Components of Prayer
There are four components of prayer: worship or praise, confession, thanksgiving and supplication.
Praise is an acknowledgement of God’s goodness, greatness, and loving kindness. After King David assembled the building materials for the future temple, he declared, “Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory and the majesty; yours is the kingdom” (1 Chr 29:11). Kind David was praising God. He was acknowledging God’s goodness and greatness because even though he was building a temple to offer to God, he knew that only by God’s greatness is he able. According to Fee and Stuart (1993), “God deserves praise for his greatness and goodness in spite of and in the midst of our misery. This life holds no certainty of freedom from distress” (p. 205).
Christians pray to confess their sins. Confession might be defined as telling God the truth about oneself. Confession is the process of bringing the darkness of ones faults to the light of God’s forgiveness. “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18). This means that one must not only confess one’s sins but one most also repent. When the Lord convicts us of sin, we need to own it, confess it, and then believe in God’s willingness to forgive us.
“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment” (Psalms 51).
This Psalm is David’s prayer to God after Nathan condemns him for killing Uriah the Hittite and then making Uriah’s wife his wife.
The Bible tells Christians to give God thanks for everything. It is very important to thank God when He has answered a prayer. In Deuteronomy 8:17-18, Moses said, “Do not say to yourself, My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth. But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth.” Moses was warning the Israelites not to forget God in Prosperity and that they should thank God for bringing them out of Egypt.
Finally, Christians pray for supplication. There are two types of supplication: petition and intercession. Petition means to ask for our own needs. Jesus said, “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you” (Luke 11:9). Jesus was telling his disciples to persevere in prayer and God will give them what they ask. God invites us to ask Him to meet our needs and even our wants.
Intercession is asking God for the needs of others. It is unselfish. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Tim. 2:1,2). This verse tells us that God wants us to pray for others so that all may know God’s will.
When we go to God in our prayers of petition or intercession, we have to be confidence in His perspective, His wisdom, His timing, and His Goodness. “Your will be done.” We can expect the desired answer when we ask in the scope of God’s will. Prayer is not getting God to do our will; it is asking that God’s will be done in our lives.
How to Pray
Christians learn to pray through Jesus Christ, who not only teaches us to pray, but also prayed himself. Jesus prayed regularly. Jesus prayed before decisive moments, beginning with his baptism and as he faced his passion and death. He frequently prayed to give thanks. His prayer was steady, thankful, and confident that God’s will was for his good. Like Jesus, Christians should pray at all times. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thes 5:17). Prayer should be steady and persevering. Also, true prayer should come from the heart. Praying with a clean heart is vital to successful prayer. In addition, we must have a believing heart if we expect God to answer our prayers. Jesus says, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:22), and “According to your faith will it be done to you” (Matthew 9:29). However, we need to accept whatever God’s plan is for us. His answers are always right; His answers are always best. As stated by Carey (1996), “God will always hear our—prayers of that we can be sure. But his response will not always be in accord with what we want or when we want it” (p. 367). Also, Jesus prayed to God saying, “Nevertheless, not My will, but Thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).
According to Barth (1985), “When we do pray, we are to avoid a certain approach. We should not be hypocrites” (p. 81). We should be sincere and honest.
Prayer is a dialogue between two who love each other—God and the individual. Therefore, we should communication with God in the same way we would with any other loved one. “We should not try to use terminology that is uncomfortable to us. We should speak in the language we find comfortable. The language we use when in conversation with a much loved and trusted friend” (Foster, 1992). God receives us just as we are and accepts our prayers just as they are.
Why should we pray?
God is omniscient, He knows what we want before we ask, He gives good things before we request them. We do not pray to enlighten God. God’s purpose in prayer is not to make us sit up and beg. He wants us to know Him. Prayer is His method to accomplish that. What changes through prayer is not the “mind” of God. What changes through prayer are we. “By recognizing the source of all of our blessings, our health, our success, our very existence, we bring ourselves to a higher spiritual level because we strengthen our relationship with Him” (Lustiger, 1987).
People often mistakenly believe that they should only pray for the “Big Things” like health and life. They don’t want to bother God with small things. God desires our prayers because He wants to bestow blessings upon us. In addition, God wants us to talk to Him about everything that is going on in our lives, even though He already knows everything.
“You will become a greater partaker of his love, faith, kindness, mercy, holiness and thoughts. You will see more and more answers to prayer; your prayer life will eventually touch all kinds of needs and circumstances all over the world. You will find yourself in a constant state of change even though at times you feel like you are not making any progress at all. You will realize more and more that this is perhaps the greatest work that you are doing on this earth, and there comes a sense of satisfaction of being involved in it. The number of blessings for those who pray is practically endless” (Barth, 1985).
In addition, relationship is dependent on communication. Our relationship with God, or anyone, will never grow and develop without communication. Prayer should not be used only as a way of getting what we want from God; a method of solving our problems or having our needs met. The main purpose and the power of prayer are in the relationship between God and man.
Prayer is one of the most important beliefs of Christians. Prayer helps us to develop a relationship with God. Pray keeps us connected with God. Prayer is an intimate communication between an individual and God. There are four basic elements to prayer: worship, thanksgiving, confession and supplication. When we pray in worship, we are praise God for being a loving, caring and great God. We pray in thanksgiving to give thanks to God for all the blessings he has bestow on us. We pray to confess our sins to God and to ask for his forgiveness. Finally, we pray when we need or want something for ourselves or for others. In addition, when we pray, we should follow Jesus’ example by praying at all times and praying for God’s will to be done. Also, we should have faith when we pray. We should also be comfortable and truthful in our communication with God.
The meaning and the concept of prayer have not changed. However, I don’t believe we, as Christians, pray as often as we should. Not many of us spend time in prayer. We believe in the power and importance of prayer but just don’t seem to do enough of it. We don’t pray enough for several reasons. A few of the reasons are as follows: First, we don’t want anything. Too many of us lead satisfied, complacent lives. Other than an occasional problem or two, things go pretty well for us in our comfortable homes and churches. We have money, houses and quite a few other material things. Why pray a lot when we got basically everything we want?
Second, we don’t care enough about others. We say “Good morning” and “Have a nice day” to people at work and at church, and we commiserate with our neighbor about the yard and the weather, but that’s about as far as it goes. We don’t care enough about others to go beyond bland superficiality, so we don’t pray for them much.
Third, we are too busy. Whether it is because of our jobs, the kids or our social life, must of us are too busy to take time to pray. Especially since we” have basically everything we want.” In addition, some of us don’t have time to attend Church on Sundays.
How could we neglect one of the most blessed things that God has given to us? How is it possible for us as Christians to go for weeks, months and maybe even years without really taking the time for prayer? I believe it is because the world system has distorted our thinking. We are more concerned with our jobs, our families or friends and our activities—our own plans, than our spirituality and prayer. However, we need to keep God central in our life. Otherwise, we will miss His plan.
Barth, K. (1985). Prayer. Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press.
Carey, G. (1996). The Bible for Everyday Life. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Easton Bible Dictionary. (Online). www.interhack.net/projects/library/easton/
Fee, G. D. & Stuart, D. (1993). How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. 2ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.
Foster, R. J. (1992). Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Lustiger, J. M. (1987). First Steps in Prayer. New York: Doubleday.
The Holy Bible. New Revised Standard Version. (1989). New York: American Bible Society