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Prayer in the Bible: Best Gift 4 Faith & Love

  Prayer in the Bible: Best Gift 4 Faith & Love:
Prayer is “talking to God,” not meditation or passive reflection; but direct address to God communication of the human soul with its Creator

Prayer is a universal activity and is essential for every Christian. Hundreds of godly men and women have written of their experiences and offered powerful teaching to help us pray. But nowhere can be found better tips on praying in faith and love than in the Bible. Here are a few of them:

Prayer in the Bible: Best Gift 4 Faith & Love:

“Whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” – Jesus in Matthew 21:22

What is Prayer?

Here is a good biblical definition:

The most basic definition is “talking to God.” It is not meditation or passive reflection; it is direct address to God. It is the communication of the human soul with the Lord who created the soul.

Prayer is the primary way for the believer in Jesus Christ to communicate his emotions and desires with God and to fellowship with God.

Prayer in the Bible

Using different words, the activity of speaking to God runs through the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.

There are 1375 references clustered around these terms:

  • Prayer, pray, and prayed = 492

  • Call, called, and calleth = 850

  • Intreat and intreated = 33.

The first mention of prayer in the Bible is in Genesis 4:26

And to Seth*(3874-2962 BC), was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.

*Means this person is in my book Spiritual Lives.

This was an act of corporate prayer made possible by the growth of the family of God, their faith in Him, and their desire to be His people.

Adam and Abel, and all good men, had called upon the name of the Lord, and prayed to him, or worshipped him before this time personally, and in their families; but now the families of good men being larger, and more numerous, they joined together in social and public worship: John Gill (1697-1771)

Corporate Prayer

Corporate prayer is important for unity, worship, encouragement, praise, and thanksgiving. Psalms provide the best examples of liturgical prayer in the Bible.

O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.

For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.Psalm 95:6-7

Corporate prayer in the Bible occupied a central place in the Old Covenant and the worship of the children of Israel. The Psalms and books of history give us many texts of prayers offered to the LORD in the Tabernacle and Temple. Many of these corporate prayers are incorporated into Thomas Cranmer’s*(1489-1556) Book of Common Prayer, still used today in the Anglican communion.

Individual Prayer in the Bible

The first individual prayers in the Bible recorded in Genesis are by Abraham*(1996-1821 BC) and Isaac*(1896-1716 BC) and are requests “entreating” the LORD for women to have children. These prayers were gifts of faith and love.

This sets up some fundamentals. We come to the LORD from a position of humility, need, and weakness, while He is Almighty and has the power to answer our prayer.

We ask of Him; He is the One addressed, and we the supplicants.

The one prerequisite is Faith:

No one can please God without faith, for whoever comes to God must have faith that God exists and rewards those who seek him.Hebrews 11:6

Intercessory Prayer

This faith is based on Creation, evidence of His power and goodness, His making us in His own image, and His placement of our parents in paradise. Abraham and Isaac knew all of this. Abraham had waited 25 years for the son God promised. Now, after 20 years of marriage, Isaac had no son, and Rebekah was distraught:

And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren. And the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. -- Genesis 25:21

How kind God was in linking the fulfillment of His promise with His faithful servant’s prayer. How faithful Isaac was in his waiting and how loving in his prayer for His wife.

This is an example of intercessory prayer in the Bible, that is, praying for someone else. Here, God answered this prayer by blessing the one prayed for. God blesses the one praying as well:

And the LORD turned the captivity of Job*(1650-1689 BC), when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. – Job 42: 10

Moses*(1571-1452 BC) was a mighty intercessor for the often-sinning children of Israel in the wilderness:

Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.- Numbers 21:7

God answered this prayer on a grand and national scale, but He also granted the prayer of a humble, distraught woman.

Hannah was a second wife tormented by her husband’s senior wife who had given him many children. Driven to distraction, her sorrow drove her to prayer, and God gave her Samuel*(1130-1055 BC) and five other children. Hannah thanked Him:

For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him:
Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there.1 Samuel 1:27-28

The most important type of prayer in the Bible is one required of us all, a prayer of repentance. David*(1085-1015 BC) prayed and wrote Psalm 51 for forgiveness after his sins of adultery and murder:

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Psalm 51:1-3 &7

Rare as texts of prayers in the Bible are, those of Solomon*(1034-975 BC) at the dedication of the Temple are recorded in 1 Kings 8:22-61. Rarer still and more remarkable are the texts of God’s answers:

And the LORD said unto him, I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication, that thou hast made before me: I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there forever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually. 1 Kings 9:3

God always answers prayers offered in faith and love but not always verbally. When the army of Syria surrounded Israel’s prophet and his servant, the servant was terrified:

And Elisha*(925?-839 BC) prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. – 2 Kings 6:17

Devotional Prayer

Times of peril often drive us to prayer. In the final scene of prayer in the Old Testament, Daniel*(623-570 BC) was facing death in the lion’s den:

Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. – Daniel 6:10

This is the only picture of personal, devotional, prayer in the Bible. Notice it was personal and private but not hidden. He kept his windows open to show he was not afraid.

He approached God reverently, on his knees, and regularly, 3 times a day. He knew his God and gave thanks as he had done before. He was not distracted by impending danger.

The Bible does not tell us how Daniel felt when he was taken and thrown into the den of lions. The king was distraught and went early in the morning to assess the damage. He called to Daniel:

O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?

Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live forever.

My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. – Daniel 6:20-22

Prayer is powerful and a great blessing of faith and love to those who love God and are faithful. He is Almighty and willing to act on our behalf:

The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.– Psalm 34:15

Prayer in the New Testament

Jesus was a man of prayer. He always prayed before He acted.

And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.
And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; Luke 6:12-13

The only thing they asked of Him was to teach them to pray, and He did.

First where and how to pray:

When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites! They love to stand up and pray in the houses of worship and on the street corners, so that everyone will see them. I assure you, they have already been paid in full.

But when you pray, go to your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you. – Matthew 6:5-6

Second what to pray, the Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen. – Matthew 6:9-13

Jesus loved simple prayer, like this example He gives for repentance:

And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified. Luke 18:13-14

Jesus knew the power of prayer and taught His disciples:

And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.Matthew 21:22

And He prayed for them too, individually and as a whole:

And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:

But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.Luke 22:31-32

As Almighty God, Jesus had all power in heaven and earth at His disposal to work on Peter’s behalf. Instead of sending angels, changing circumstances, or destroying Simon’s enemies, He prayed; that is how highly Jesus valued prayer. And He uses that prayer for us!

Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. John 17: 11 & 20-21

During His last days on earth, Jesus promised this:

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; – John 14:16

When He ascended into heaven, He commanded His followers to stay in Jerusalem to wait for that Comforter. They waited ten days for the promise:

These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. – Acts 1: 14

God answered their prayer and supplication, and the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost, and the church was founded.

Prayer in the Bible in the new church

St. Peter (?- 64 AD) was the initial leader of the Pentecostal church, and King Herod arrested him. St. Luke gives this account:

After his arrest Peter was put in jail, where he was handed over to be guarded by four groups of four soldiers each. Herod planned to put him on trial in public after Passover.

So Peter was kept in jail, but the people of the church were praying earnestly to God for him.
The night before Herod was going to bring him out to the people, Peter was sleeping between two guards. He was tied with two chains, and there were guards on duty at the prison gate.
Suddenly an angel of the Lord stood there, and a light shone in the cell. The angel shook Peter by the shoulder, woke him up, and said, “Hurry! Get up!” At once the chains fell off Peter’s hands.Acts 12:4-7

What a miraculous answer to the prayers of the church!

When Herod continued his efforts to bring Peter to trial, he had to flee Jerusalem, St. James, the brother of Jesu became the leader of the church in Jerusalem. He valued prayer in the church and gave these commandments:

Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. – James 5:14-15

This teaching is a New Testament update of the healing role the Tabernacle and Temple priests practiced for the children of Israel.

The church also inherits the Mosaic teaching on confession given in Leviticus and Numbers

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16

St. Paul*(5-67) teaches prayer in the Bible 35 times in his epistles. He understands the challenges of prayer and likewise, our inability to pray as we should. But he does not leave us in doubt as to how to go on despite our inadequacies:

Likewise, the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Romans 8:26

Knowing this and allowing the Holy Spirit to pray through us makes it possible to keep this challenging and ongoing commandment:

Pray without ceasing. Thessalonians 5:17

The last words on prayer in the Bible we have from the epistles are a summary of its purpose and importance. St. Peter reminds of that God hears our prayers.

He highlights the continuing love of God for us by citing a Psalm of David’s (34:15)

For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. – 1 Peter 3:12

The eternal destination of our prayers

St. John*(? – 100 A.D.) testifies that he saw them presented to Jesus in heaven:

And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints. Revelation 5:8

Incense was a symbol of prayer in the Old Testament, and in his visions of the future, John saw the accumulation of all prayers from the first ones in Genesis to those we are offering now presented to God. They endure forever.

And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.
And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.Revelation 8:3-4

Jesus on the next steps for perfect prayer:

First the simple instructions:

Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.

And then this affirming promise:

For everyone who asks will receive, and anyone who seeks will find, and the door will be opened to those who knock. Matthew 7:7-8

Please read below the wonderful poem on Prayer by James Montgomery. Better still, sing along with the beautiful musical rendition HERE:

1 Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,

uttered or unexpressed:

the motion of a hidden fire

that trembles in the breast.

2 Prayer is the simplest form of speech

that infant lips can try,

prayer the sublimest strains that reach

the Majesty on high.

3 Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,

the Christian’s native air,

his watchword at the gates of death:

he enters heaven with prayer.

4 Prayer is the contrite sinner’s voice,

returning from his ways;

while angels in their songs rejoice,

and cry, ‘Behold, he prays!

5 The saints in prayer appear as one,

in word and deed and mind;

while with the Father and the Son

sweet fellowship they find.

6 Nor prayer is made on earth alone:

the Holy Spirit pleads,

and Jesus on the eternal throne

for sinners intercedes.

7 O Thou by whom we come to God,

the Life, the Truth, the Way,

the path of prayer thyself hast trod:

Lord, teach us how to pray!

James Montgomery, 1818

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