What is Prayer?
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12).
In the life of the church prayer is something that was often mentioned, but more rarely taught. We hear prayers in services and say prayers together from our service books, but when it comes to praying at home you can feel high and dry. If we believe that we can communicate with God - and just pause a moment to think what a privilege that is - how might we go about such a task? This question is all the more urgent as we have gone through a period of churches being closed, and services being suspended.
Last week I made mention of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and I thought it might be interesting to see what it has to say about prayer:
Q. 99. What is prayer?
A. Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, (Ps. 62:8) for things agreeable to his will, (1 John 5:14) in the name of Christ, (John 16:23) with confession of our sins, (Ps. 32:5–6, Dan. 9:4) and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies. (Phil. 4:6)
What can we learn here? Firstly that prayer is a matter of the heart. We can boldly and humbly lay our desires before God, yet when we do so we need to be aware that these requests should be ‘agreeable to his will’. It’s not good asking God to bless your housebreaking career!
We can make this approach because of what Jesus has done for us. Through his death our sins are forgiven, and we are reconciled to God. It is because of this we come ‘in the name of Christ’, relying on his work and not ours. We are not perfect, so when we pray we confess those sins and thank him for his mercy.
This then a model for your prayers: open you heart, pray you would conform to God’s will, confess the sins you discover as you seek to conform to God’s will, and thank God for his forgiveness.
The catechism goes on to discuss the Lord’s Prayer and we’ll return to the over the next couple of weeks.