Jesus prayed often, and at times He spent the entire night in prayer. To Jesus prayer was His life-line to the Father, who guided every step of the Son’s life. And Jesus left us an example to follow: If the Son of God, the One who created the entire universe (Hebrews 1:1-3) needed to pray, then what must our need be—who have only an earthly heritage.
Often we find that whenever we get into trouble of one kind or another, we pray that God will get us out of it. It’s like the old saying, “There is no atheist in a fox hole.” The minute we feel threatened in any way, we go to God for help. And I suppose that is right, for in many cases, God alone can help us.
But how can we expect God to help us when we don’t even know Him? He might come to our aid and save us from the fix in which we find ourselves in the view of bringing our thoughts toward accepting Him as our God. But then again He might say, in our language, “Who are you? Why should I help you?”
How do we get to know God? Through prayer and through study of the Bible. The Bible is like God talking to us; prayer gives us the benefit of talking to Him and telling Him what we need. So prayer and Bible study become the basis for building a saving relationship with God. When we have that kind of relationship with God, then our prayer is, in effect, the breath of the soul.
1. WHEN WE REALIZE THAT WE’RE SINNERS, WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PRAYER THAT WE CAN PRAY?
1PR 1 John 1:9 This is the one petition in which we can be certain that God will answer our prayer. God’s plan is that we become like Him and that we thus become His people. And one of the first things we need to do when we seek to become His child, is to realize the utter sinfulness that colors our lives. So the first prayer that comes to mind is: “God, forgive me.”
But you’ll notice, from the text, that there’s a condition on the answer to this prayer. We must first confess our sin before He can forgive us. In fact, the verse says nothing about asking God to forgive us. It merely tells us to confess and He will forgive. (compare Ps. 51:3)
2. WHEN WE ASK GOD FOR THINGS WE NEED, WHAT WONDERFUL PROMISE DID JESUS GIVE US?
2PR Matt. 6:7, 8 God has the ability to know what we’re going to need, and what we’re going to ask, even before we ask Him. “If He already knows what I need, why should I ask for it?” you may wonder. God wants us to ask so that He knows that we know our own need of His blessing. Then when He answers our prayer, we’ll know that He answered it, and that it wasn’t just circumstance.
Example: A family prays for food because they’re hungry. “Why do we have to pray?” scoffs the oldest son. “There’s no God up there anyway.” His father tries to help him see how much they depend upon God in this time of need.
After a time there’s a knock on the door, and there stands a man they’ve never seen before. “I thought you might need some groceries,” he comments as they help him unload a trunk full of groceries. Then he’s gone. “I told you,” scoffed the oldest son. “You went through all that prayer stuff, and that man was already getting groceries for us.”
Some members of the family see the work of an angel of God. The unbelieving son sees only that their prayers were completely unnecessary.
Some of the Jews who believed in prayer stood on the street corners and prayed with a loud voice—some of them even had trumpets blow in order to draw attention to their piety. They would pray in long, loud voices. But Jesus said that God didn’t hear them because they were only trying to draw attention to themselves.
3. IN CONTRAST, WHERE DID JESUS SUGGEST THAT WE PRAY?
3PR Matt. 6:5, 6 There are, of course times for public prayer, but not for the purpose of drawing attention to ourselves. Find some lonesome place—a garden, a mountain top, a room, a closet—and there pour our your heart to God. Tell Him your needs, your desires, your sins. No One but God will hear that kind of prayer. And He’s the One who needs to hear it anyway.
4. WHAT SHOULD WE PRAY ABOUT?
4PR Matt. 6:9-13 In this prayer—often called the Lord’s prayer–Jesus gave his disciples a model around which they could form their own prayers.
Here, in just a few verses Jesus, in broad sweeps, lays out the basic needs of life and of our spiritual existence.
• 1. First, we praise God because of his holy name, and invite Him into our hearts and lives; we then desire to have His will done in everything.
• 2. We ask for our basic needs
• 3. We ask for our sins to be forgiven; but Jesus puts a condition on it: we are forgiven according to the way we for others who have violated our space.
• 4. Finally, we ask that God won’t lead us to a place where temptation will present itself to us. In such a request, we are asking for victory over Satan.
5. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CONDITIONS FOR ANSWERED PRAYER?
1. Ask in prayer:
• Matt. 21:22
2. Ask in Jesus’ name:
• John 14:13, 16:23, 24
3. Obey what Jesus commands:
• John 14:14, 15
4. As the branch remains in the vine, so we must remain
• John 15:7
5. We must Bear Fruit:
• John 15:16 (compare Gal. 5.22)
6. We need to Love Jesus and the Father:
• John 16:26, 27
7. We should Believe that God will answer our prayer:
• Mark 11:24, 25; James 1:5, 6
8. We Ask according to His will:
• 1 John 5:14
9. Forgive those who have wronged us
• Mark 11:26
6. IS THERE ANY REASON THAT GOD WOULD NOT ANSWER OUR PRAYERS?
6PR James 4:3 When we pray to God from a wrong motive, God cannot hear us. For instance: “Lord, if you’ll help me to win the Lottery, I’ll give half of it to You.” Sounds good—and many people have prayed that prayer. But who gets the other half? The basic motive here is greed for gain. God cannot answer that kind of prayer.
Perhaps another motive would be better. An insurance salesman could pray: “Lord, let me sell more policies this week. My car needs some work done on it, and I need the car in order to reach my clients.” We need to check out our motives before we ask something of God.
Another example: “Lord, the Smith family down the block doesn’t have enough money to buy food for their family. I feel impressed to give them $XX.XX. Please replace it so I can meet my own obligations. May Your will be done.”
7. HOW OFTEN SHOULD WE PRAY?
7PR 1 Thess. 5:17 We should never find ourselves in a situation in which we cannot pray. As we bring our needs to God day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment, we really come to know God, not only as our Creator, and Redeemer, but as a Friend and Companion. Then no matter in what situation we find ourselves, we know that we have a Friend and Helper near at hand.
Even if He does not save us from the immediate crisis, we know that He is there because He promised (Ps 23:4), and that He will allow nothing to come to us that is greater than we can bear (1 Cor. 10:13).
A man developed a kidney stone, producing one of the most intense of pains. He went to the emergency room of a nearby hospital.
“What level is your pain on a scale of 1-10?” asked the nurse.
“It must be a 12,” he gasped. “I’ve never hurt this bad before.”
As he lay on the bed waiting for the doctor to come, still in great pain, he didn’t cry out or moan and complain. Though the pain persisted, he knew that God was with him in the hospital room. And that knowledge gave Him strength to bear the pain.
8. HOW ABOUT PRAYING FOR OTHERS?
8PR James 5:16 This type is known as “intercessory prayer.” Praying for others helps us to see beyond ourselves—to realize the needs of others and to seek God’s blessing upon them.
• Abraham used
this kind of prayer when He interceded
• Jesus often prayed for His disciples.
God is already doing all He can to aid these individuals. If He were to do more, Satan would accuse Him of taking unfair advantage. But when we pray for someone in physical or spiritual need, we give God “permission” to do more for that person than He would ordinarily be able to do (under the terms of the great controversy—explained in lesson 4).
9. WHAT IMPORTANT SUBJECT DO WE NEED TO INCLUDE IN OUR PRAYER?
9PR Matt. 24:20-31 Jesus explains that we need to pray that we will be faithful through all the things that are to come on the world and to be ready for Him to come.
This request is often left until the last of a prayer because it’s the most important part of the prayer.
10. WHAT IS ONE OF THE MOST VITAL PARTS OF OUR PRAYER?
10PR Matt 26:42 We must be willing to let God make the final decision on everything we pray about, just like Jesus did. God sees the end from the beginning. He knows what is best for us.
God has promised us many things, and we need not ask for His will to be done in these things—such as forgiveness of sin, etc. His promise reveals that the fulfillment is already His will. But in requests other than those specifically promised, we want Him to choose how to answer our prayer. It’s the only safe way to live.
In all things pertaining to the Christian life, we must be willing to surrender ourselves and all that we have to God. We should be willing to do whatever He requires. As we walk with Him having that attitude ingrained in our consciousness, we can be sure that God will lead us in everything.