Proverbs 31:15She rises while yet it is night and gets spiritual food for her household.”

Spiritual food

Jesus said, “I have food (nourishment) to eat of which you know nothing and have no idea.” He then explained to the disciples, “My food is to do the will (pleasure) of Him Who sent Me and to accomplish and completely finish His work.” (John 4:32-34 Amp) We take our pattern for our life, from our Lord Jesus, if He really is our master. How did Jesus know, on a daily basis, what was the Father’s will? He spent hours in His presence. (Matthew 14:22-23; Mark 1:35)

Meaning of prayer

To pray can mean to petition, to entreat, to bow down, to ask, to wait, to interrogate, to wish and to call for. For Christians, it means talking to God in the Name of Jesus, under  the direction of the Holy Spirit. Prayer is seen throughout the whole Bible but, in the New Testament, it takes on added depth and significance through the teaching of Jesus about prayer. Above all, it is the main way in which we can give expression to the intimate relationship that we have with our heavenly Father. It is a communion so deep that our will and His will become entwined as one and the same. (John 14:19-20)

"Eternal (true) life is about knowing the true God and His Son, Jesus." (John 17:3) If you make Jesus your Lord, you have access to the throne of Almighty God. (Hebrews 4:16) He has every solution to every problem you'll ever encounter and He is just waiting for you to come to Him, so that He can give you the answer. (Mark 11:24) It may take some private time alone with Him, but He will never disappoint you.

Who should pray?

Every disciple of Jesus Christ should pray.

  • "Don’t be weary in prayer; keep at it. Watch for God’s answers and remember to be thankful when they come." (Colossians 4:2)
  • "Now about prayer: when you pray, don’t be like those hypocrites who pretend to be pious by praying publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. Truly, that is all the reward they will ever get." (Matthew 6:5)
  • "Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God your needs and don't forget to thank him for His answers." (Philippians 4:6)
  • "The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore be earnest, thoughtful people of prayer." (1 Peter 4:7)
  • "Keep alert and pray, otherwise temptation will overpower you. For the spirit indeed is willing, but how weak the body is!" (Matthew 26:41)
  • "So I want men everywhere to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from sin and anger and resentment." (1 Timothy 2:8)

How to pray

  1. According to Jesus, our prayers should be simple and uncomplicated. (Matthew 6:7) He also gave us the key to prayer, when He prayed: “...not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
  2. It is not about us asking for what we want, but about allowing God to tell us what is on His heart and what He has in mind for us.
  3. We need to be in constant communion with God. “Pray continually.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Pray in the Spirit

The Holy Spirit has been given to us to help in all our needs, including our prayer lives. (John 14:16) As we develop that intimate relationship with our Father and begin to walk in the Spirit, the things of God will start to flow out of the "well of living water" that we now have inside us. (John 4:14) Alongside that, as we have been learning over the past weeks, everything we do, say and think must be based on God's word. If something doesn’t line up with what God has already said, we can forget it! He has not gone back on His word thus far and He is not about to start now! (Hebrews 13:8) So, prayer that is based on God's word is not only advisable, it’s essential. You cannot separate God from His Word. God is the Word. (John 1:1-18) God's word is also described as "the sword of the Spirit". (Ephesians 6:17) As we allow God's Spirit to prompt us and guide us, He will tell us what to do with this sword.

In conclusion, we should pray:

  • Simply
  • Not hypocritically
  • To the Father
  • Always - continually and
  • Everywhere
  • In the Name of Jesus.

In biblical thinking, a person's name is more than simply a label or badge of identity; it stands for a person's whole character. So, when we pray "in Jesus' Name", it doesn't mean that we are supposed to use a little formula at the end of each prayer like some Harry Potter spell; it means that we are praying as if we were Jesus Himself. We are putting ourselves, as it were, "in" Him - linking ourselves closely and intimately with Him in a united partnership. We are saying, in effect, "Jesus and I are together on this, Father!"

Jesus knew His Father’s will because He had grown to know the Father through spending so much intimate time with Him. Their relationship was such that Jesus refused to do or say anything that was not from Him. (John 8:26) His teaching ministry consisted of three years of supernatural, miraculous, Spirit-led, living, yet He had spent some thirty years preparing for it! We read about Him praying all night and then performing miracles the next day. (Luke 6:12-13; Matthew 26:39; John 6:15-21)

Types of prayer

Prayer, like all communication, can take many forms.

  • Praise - (Psalm 52:9; 68:3)
  • Worship - (Psalm 100:2)
  • Waiting - (Psalm 46:10)
  • Confession - (Psalm 139:23,24)
  • Word praying – (Luke 4:4; Luke 4:8; Luke 4:12; Romans 8:27; Jeremiah 29:19)
  • Listening to God - (Colossians 4:2; Ecclesiastes 5:1-3)
  • Intercession - (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
  • Petition - (Matthew 7:7; Genesis 25:21)
  • Thanksgiving - (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
  • Meditation - (Joshua 1:8)
  • In the Spirit - (Romans 8:26; Ephesians 6:18)
  • Agreement - (Matthew 18:19)
  • Binding and Releasing - (Matthew 16:19; 18:18)
  • Prayer of Faith - (James 5:15)
  • Private prayer - (Matthew 14:23; Matthew 6:6)
  • Overcoming prayer - (Matthew 26:40-41; Philippians 4:6-7; Exodus 32:9-14)
  • With fasting - (Luke 2:37; Luke 4:1-2; Acts 13:2-3)

Why should we pray?

There are as many reasons for praying as there are needs. As those who have been "born again" as spiritual children of the Most High God, we have the privileges of children (John 14:21-23) but we need to spend time with our Father to see His plans and to better understand His perspective on all situations in our life. We were created for fellowship with the Father and that is what He wants: a relationship of love with His children. (Revelation 3:20) Prayer is the best way to develop this relationship. If we want to grow in a relationship of love with another human being, we need to spend time together with that person, sharing our hearts and just being together. How much more so in our relationship with God!

Examples of prayer

  • For peace in Jerusalem - (Psalm 122:6)
  • For healing - (James 5:15)
  • For mission workers - (2 Corinthians 1:11; Colossians 4:2-4)
  • For forgiveness - (Hosea 14:2; Mark 11:25)
  • For power - (Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 3:16)
  • For our enemies - (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:28)
  • For greater intimacy with God - (Deuteronomy 4:7)
  • For healing of our society - (2 Chronicles 7:14; 1 Timothy 2:1-4)
  • For royalty and political leaders - (Ezra 6:10; 1 Timothy 2:2)
  • For prosperity in our society - (Jeremiah 29:7)
  • For strength in trouble - (Matthew 26:38-42; John 12:27; Psalm 91:15)
  • For strength against temptation - (Matthew 26:41; Luke 22:40)
  • For everything! - (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Colossians 4:2)
  • For those needing spiritual re-birth - (John 17:20)
  • For greater knowledge of the love of God - (Ephesians 3:17-19)
  • For a life worthy of God - (Colossians 1:10)
  • For spiritual revival - (Habakkuk 3:2)

Seasons of prayer

Prayer can be seen as the sea when it approaches dry land: it generally comes in waves. In the same way, believers through the ages have recognised different phases (or "seasons") of prayer. We may feel a stirring in our inner selves or get an “uneasy feeling” about something that moves us to pray about it, asking our Father what He's saying or what He wants to do. He may show us a person to pray for, even someone that we may or may not know. He may put the thought of family members into our minds, encouraging us to pray and perhaps even speak to them. He may give us a vision about how we could use a particular gift that He's given us to serve others. Sometimes, through the Holy Spirit, God will ask us to simply worship Him. This could be at a particular time each day, week or month, or for an extended period of time. It might mean learning to praise Him in a new way, such as singing or speaking in "tongues" (different languages or ecstatic utterances). We may get a sudden urge to read God's word in depth; not simply a few verses but tackling an entire book or set of books in one go.

As we experiment with all these different forms of prayer, we will come to recognise the "voice" of the Holy Spirit, prompting us about what to pray for and even how to pray. As we persevere in learning to pray, we will also come to understand the truth that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6) Faith is simply about trusting God. Over time, we learn that God always listens to our prayers, but He is not always in such a hurry as we are to do things! Our modern society, in particular, has become enslaved to time as never before. We are encouraged to fill every available minute with as much activity as possible and we expect instant gratification or results in so much that we do. Our God has all the time in the world and much of what He does is about growing things and people with loving nurture and care over weeks, months and years. When we pray, we need to get used to the fact that God will answer us in His own good time - not necessarily ours. As the moments tick by and become hours, then days and weeks, we need to fall back on our trust and faith in God.

In our next study, we shall be looking more closely at how the Holy Spirit can lead us in prayer. In the meantime, here are some suggestions on how we might pray for other Christians.

Praying for others

  • Be thankful for their faith and changed lives. (Colossians 1:3-5)
  • Ask God to help them know what He wants them to do. (Colossians 1:9)
  • Ask God to give them spiritual understanding. (Colossians 1:9)
  • Ask God to help them live for Him. (Colossians 1:10)
  • Ask God to give them more knowledge of Him. (Colossians 1:10)
  • Ask God to give them strength for endurance. (Colossians 1:11)
  • Ask God to fill them with joy, strength, and thankfulness. (Colossians 1:11)

For further ideas, have a look at some of these passages: Ephesians 1:16-19; Ephesians 3:16-21; Ephesians 6:19-20; Philippians 1:3-5; 9-11

Opposition to prayer

Prayer is primarly a spiritual activity and, since we have a spiritual enemy who is opposed to God, opposition to our praying is likely to arise in three areas:

  1. Self - The apostle Paul describes a battle in every human soul between the sinful "old nature" and the "new nature" that comes from being born again of God's Spirit. (Romans 7:18-25)
  2. Sin - This separates us from God and spoils our intimate relationship with Him. To counter this, read 1 John 1:7-9.
  3. Satan - Our enemy will always oppose our praying, because it is part and parcel of Jesus' ongoing work in the world. (Ephesians 6:12; Matthew 26:36-46)

Why not ask Father now, for a passion for His presence and His Word? As we seek Him, we will find Him. (Matthew 7:7-8) As we come to know the truth, it will set us free! (John 8:32) Why not just get intimate with God right now. Expect Him to speak to you and listen with your “spiritual ears”. He is waiting for your call! “My sheep listen to My voice. I know them and they follow Me.” (John 10:27)

Click on the button below to load the QUESTIONS for this study in a new browser tab. You can opt to print the question sheet or simply follow the questions and write down your answers in a notebook or a separate file on a computing device, such as a laptop or mobile 'phone.