Let’s pause and pray
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Background text: Ephesians 6:18
Devotional text: 1 Timothy 2:8
In these trying times, especially, prayer is an important part of our lives. Our Bible tells us we should pray at all times. The words of scripture give us hope and encouragement to get through difficult times.
There are four basic forms of prayer, according to various theologians. They are prayers to praise God (adoration), to ask God (petition), to pray on the behalf of others (intercession) and to thank God for all God has done (thanksgiving).
These are not necessarily individual prayers, though they can be, but they can also easily be included in one prayer to God.
Looking at The Lord’s Prayer, we can see some of these elements used by Jesus as he taught us to pray.
In the opening verses, we praise our Father God, “hallowed be thy name.” We move on to our petitions, “give us this day our daily bread,” “forgive us our trespasses” and “lead us not into temptation.”
When we say, “as we forgive those who trespass against us,” we are not asking God to forgive those who have been against us, as this refers to our act of forgiving others. It may be inferred that as we forgive others, we are asking God to intercede in our need to forgive, in the form of helping us to do so. However, it still reads as a petition rather than an intercession for others.
We close The Lord’s Prayer with a thankfulness that comes from following the ways of God’s kingdom and knowing that, because of God’s mercy, we should give praise forever.
Both Old and New Testaments speak to us about prayer and how to pray, as well as how not to pray.
World Vision has put out its eight keys to a more powerful prayer life for 2020. The organization’s advice includes: recognizing to whom you are speaking to and thanking him. Ask for his will in your life and say what you need. Ask for forgiveness. Pray with a friend. Use scripture in your prayers and memorize scripture.
All of these are good ideas for prayer. I find that the most powerful prayer a person can pray is one that comes from a heartfelt plea to God. Psalm 34:17 tells us “The righteous cry out and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.”
In essence, scripture like this tells us to look to God first. Voice your concerns to God. Then, allow God to soften your heart as he prepares the way for you. Pray for God’s will to happen.
You may want to write down your issues and concerns. Perhaps you will find specific scriptures that seem to voice your very needs. Use the scripture as you pray to God. Even if you should be afraid of something, ask God for help in taking away your fears.
We find scripture in James that helps us to ask according to the will of God. For it is God who truly wants the best for us and will do what is right for us. James 4:3 says, “You ask and don’t receive because you ask wrongly, to spend on your own desires.”
The beginning verses of Matthew 6:5-8 remind us “do not pray like the hypocrites who stand and pray on street corners and places of worship just because they like to be seen by others.”
Matthew 6:7 reminds us “not to pray using empty phrases,” with words that have no meaning to you. When we pray to God, either sitting, kneeling or lying down, pray as if you are speaking to someone who loves you beyond measure, who knows who you are and is wanting to hear from you.
Remember also God does not always reply immediately to our prayers. Sometimes, we need to be patient and wait for God. Isaiah 40:31 advises us to “wait upon the Lord, and he shall renew your strength.”
The Bible gives us examples of who and what we pray for, including praying for one another (James 5:16, Romans 1:9), pastors and spiritual leaders (Ephesians 6:19-20, Colossians 4:30), the sick (James 5:14-15), political leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-3), enemies (Matthew 5:44, Acts 7:59-60), everybody (1 Timothy 2:1) and forgiveness of sin (1 John 1:19).
When we are praying for burdens in our lives and that of others, the Bible reminds us: “Cast your burdens upon the Lord and he will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22); “The Lord will hold your right hand, saying, ‘Fear not, I will help you’,” (Isaiah 41:18); “Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you … even I will carry you, and will deliver you” (Isaiah 46:4).
In James 5:13-16, we find another list of those for whom we should pray: those who are suffering, who are cheerful (prayers of praise, thanksgiving and adoration), who are sinning and who are seeking God. James tells us to pray for one another and that “the prayer of a righteous person has great power.”
That leads us to where should we pray.
Community prayer within the church is powerful, as well as prayer chains. In Matthew 18:20, we read that “whenever two or more are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”
For personal prayer, the Bible tells us to “go into a room, shut the door and pray in secret, for the Lord who sees in secret hears us” (Matthew 6:6). This same message of praying in isolation can refer to any time or place we are alone. In a number of New Testament gospel scripture, we find Jesus going off to pray alone, such as in Luke 5:16 that speaks of Jesus going off to a desolate place to pray.
Other scriptures help us in preparing ourselves for prayer. Philippians 4:6 tells us we do not need to be anxious; 1 John 5:14 tells us we can pray in confidence to God; Romans 8:26 tells us the Spirit helps us to pray when we don’t know what to say; and 1 Thessalonians (among others) tells us to pray without ceasing.
I take these words to mean we should pray any time we feel nudged to pray, as well as making prayer a routine in our lives.
Jeremiah 32:27 reminds us who God is: “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?”
So, let’s always remember to take time to pause and pray in our lives. Do as Colossians 4:2 advises us, “continue in prayer with thanksgiving,” as well as the words from Luke 18:1, “pray, and do not lose heart.”