Prayer is a sincere expression of our utter dependance upon God, an expression of our humble reliance upon God’s immeasurable power, infinite wisdom, and sovereign mercy. It is a means by which we commune with God. Prayer is more than just talking with God, it is worship. We can understand, then, why the Apostle Paul exhorted the early Church to “pray without ceasing” (I Thess. 5:17). Prayer is a part of the very fabric of the Christian life. Therefore, if we want to grow in our relationship with God, we must pray. In order to mature as Christian believers we must pray privately, in our families, and in the gathered assembly of worship (c.f. WCF XXI; vi). Our prayers ought to be informed by, and conformed to, God’s holy Word–– filled with adoration, confession, thankfulness, and supplication.
Since prayer is so vitally important for our spiritual health and growth as believers, we ought to work at it. Like the disciples, we should humbly ask, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Some have the impression that trying to improve the form and content of our prayers is somewhat formalistic; even, perhaps, insincere. But that’s the farthest thing from the truth. As we grow in the knowledge and understanding of Scripture, the content of our prayers should reflect this growth. Brothers and sisters of Christ Church, when our prayers are saturated with the Word of God –– and allusions to the Word of God –– our souls are greatly encouraged, unlike when we drone on with the same old tired cliches and sanctified fillers. Let us incorporate the Word of God into our prayers. For a start, let’s look to the book of Psalms, the prayers of Paul (Eph. 1:16-23; 3:14-19), and the Lord’s Prayer (Mt. 6:5-13), those inspired prayers that instruct, inform, and enrich our prayers.
Another way to improve our prayers, in addition to praying Scripture, is to learn from other believers. We can benefit immensely from the prayers of fellow Christians. I love attending the Christ Church prayer meeting, for example, and hearing my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ cry out to the Lord. It is both instructive and encouraging to hear fellow church members bringing their praises and sincere requests to the Lord. Of course, we can also learn how to pray more faithfully by reading prayers which have been recorded throughout church history. The following is a sixteenth-century Puritan prayer dedicated primarily to Lord’s Day preparation.
O LORD, we commune with Thee every day, but week days are worldly days, and secular concerns reduce heavenly impressions. We bless Thee therefore for the day sacred to our souls when we can wait upon Thee and be refreshed; We thank Thee for the institutions of religion by use of which we draw near to thee and Thou to us; We rejoice in another Lord’s Day when we call off our minds from the cares of the world and attend upon Thee without distraction; Let our retirement be devout, our conversation edifying, our reading pious, our hearing profitable, that our souls may be quickened and elevated. We are going to the house of prayer, pour upon us the Spirit of grace and supplication; We are going to the house of praise, awaken in us every grateful and cheerful emotion; We are going to the house of instruction, give testimony to the Word preached, and glorify it in the hearts of all who hear; may it enlighten the ignorant, awaken the careless, reclaim the wandering, establish the weak, comfort the feeble-minded, make ready a people for their Lord.
Be a sanctuary to all who cannot come, forget not those who never come, and do Thou bestow upon us benevolence toward our dependents, forgiveness towards our enemies, peaceableness towards our neighbors, openness towards our fellow Christians” (The Valley of Vision, 378-9).
Beloved Christ Church, may our personal, family, and corporate prayers reflect the rich and everlasting truth of God’s Holy Word and our utter dependence upon Him. May our prayers be permeated with love and gratitude to God, and a sincere desire to glorify Him in every part of our lives. And may our prayers be evidence that we are striving in the grace and strength of our Lord Jesus, and not in our own (Col. 1:29).