Prayer

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Praying Hands

In Christianity and many other religions, prayer is the process of directly connecting to God, usually for the purpose of deliberate communication.

Through prayer our thoughts and hopes are heard and understood. Oftentimes, prayer will result in feeling God's presence or feeling like one is touched by God. This feeling of a connection is cited by many theists as proof of God's existence. It is through prayer that man can understand God's will in his life and ask God for the courage and strength to carry his message to the world. Prayer is common throughout the Bible in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Contents

A guideline of how one should Pray

In Christianity, Jesus gives a guideline of how one should pray to God with The Lord's Prayer:
"Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name, thy kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread, forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever, Amen."[1][2]

God is the only heavenly object of prayer in the Bible

One way that is a great way to pray when you are praying privately (i.e. talking to God as though he is a close friend)is to just thank Him, thank Him for creating you, the world you live on, the stars, the sun, the galaxy, and everything else. We rarely thank him, but more so we usually ask for help, but it is good to thank him whenever you can.

Private and Public Prayer

There are many instances in the Bible of praying in private and also of praying within a group, and sometimes even of praying in public.

"But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed."[3]
Jesus praying at Gethsemane
Jesus also instructed:
"But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."[4]

Even though he was with his disciples, Jesus also went off alone to pray on the Mount of Olives when he was about to be seized and crucified.[5]

There are also many examples in the Bible of group prayer or praying in front of others:

Other religions, and even different traditions within Christianity have developed their own practices related to prayer.[6]

Modern societies often oppose and discourage public prayer. For example, in the United States, government schools forbid classroom prayer.

Nearly six-in-ten adults in the U.S. say they pray at least once a day.[7]

St. Francis Vocation Prayer

Most High, Glorious God,

enlighten the darkness of our minds.

Give us a right faith, a firm hope and a perfect charity,

so that we may always and in all things

act according to Your Holy Will. Amen.

Different types of prayer in the Bible

The Bible is much a book or prayer, containing about 650 different prayers,[8] and consisting of various types. Some types that are categorized are,

  • 1. Prayer of supplication. (1 Kg. 8: 37-40; 54-55; Lk. 11: 9-13; Ja. 5: 17-18)
  • 2. Prayer of intercession. (Gn 18: 22-33; 1 Kg. 18: 41-46; 2 Kings 4: 32-36 Acts 12: 1-18)
  • 3. Prayer of faith. (Mk. 11:12-14; 11: 20-25, Luke 7: 1-10; Ja. 5: 13-18, Mt. 9: 18-26)
  • 4. Prayer of agreement. (Gn. 11: 1-9; Ex. 17: 8-13; Psalm 133: 1-3; Mt. 18: 19-20; Acts 4:23; Heb. 10: 24-25)
  • 5. Prayer of praise and thanksgiving. (Ps. 100; 149:4-9; Acts 16:16-34; 1Thes. 5:15-19) [9]

Quotes on prayer

  • 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 (Bible)
  • In what name they were to present their petitions: Ask in my name. To ask in Christ's name is, (1.) To plead his merit and intercession, and to depend upon that plea. (2.) It is to aim at his glory and to seek this as our highest end in all our prayers. - Matthew Henry
  • We look upon prayer as a means of getting things for ourselves; The Bible idea of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself. - Oswald Chambers
  • Prayer crowns God with the honor and glory due to His name, and God crowns prayer with assurance and comfort. The most praying souls are the most assured souls. - Thomas B. Brooks
  • The great thing in prayer is to feel that we are putting our supplications into the bosom of omnipotent love. - Andrew Murray
  • We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties. - Oswald Chambers
  • Teach us to pray that we may cause The enemy to flee, That we his evil power may bind, His prisoners to free. - Watchman Nee
  • Prayer is the great engine to overthrow and rout my spiritual enemies, the great means to procure the graces of which I stand in hourly need. - John Newton
  • Pray, always pray; when sickness wastes thy frame, Prayer brings the healing power of Jesus' name. - A. B. Simpson
  • Prayer is the force as real as terrestrial gravity. As a physician, I have seen men, after all other therapy had failed, lifted out of disease and melancholy by the serene effort of prayer. Only in prayer do we achieve that complete and harmonious assembly of body, mind and spirit which gives the frail human reed its unshakable strength. - Dr. Alexis Carrel
  • Every time we pray our horizon is altered, our attitude to things is altered, not sometimes but every time, and the amazing thing is that we don't pray more. - Oswald Chambers
  • One night alone in prayer might make us new men, changed from poverty of soul to spiritual wealth, from trembling to triumphing. - Charles Haddon Spurgeon
  • The less I pray, the harder it gets; the more I pray, the better it goes. - Martin Luther
  • He who has learned to pray has learned the greatest secret of a holy and a happy life. - William Law
  • If you can't pray as you want to, pray as you can. God knows what you mean. - Vance Havner
  • It is not so true that "prayer changes things" as that prayer changes me and I change things. God has so constituted things that prayer on the basis of Redemption alters the way in which a man looks at things. Prayer is not a question of altering things externally, but of working wonders in a man's disposition. - Oswald Chambers
  • We read of preaching the Word out of season, but we do not read of praying out of season, for that is never out of season. - Matthew Henry
  • To God your every Want In instant Prayer display, Pray always; Pray, and never faint; Pray, without ceasing, Pray. - Charles Wesley
  • Pray, always pray; beneath sins heaviest load, Prayer claims the blood from Jesus' side that flowed. Pray, always pray; though weary, faint, and lone, Prayer nestles by the Father's sheltering throne. - A. B. Simpson
  • Sometimes we think we are too busy to pray. That is a great mistake, for praying is a saving of time. - Charles Haddon Spurgeon
  • Tomorrow I plan to work, work, from early until late. In fact I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer. - Martin Luther
  • In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart. - John Bunyan
  • Refusal to pray is passive rebellion against God, "in whose hand thy breathe is." - Anonymous
  • All the prayers in the Scripture you will find to be reasoning with God, not a multitude of words heaped together. - Stephen Charnock
  • Prayer is not eloquence, but earnestness; not the definition of helplessness, but the feeling of it; not figures of speech, but earnestness of soul. - Hannah More
  • The best prayers have often more groans than words. - John Bunyan
  • Unless I had the spirit of prayer, I could do nothing. - Charles G. Finney
  • A man's state before God may always be measured by his prayers.- J. C. Ryle
  • Oh, what a cause of thankfulness it is that we have a gracious God to go to on all occasions! Use and enjoy this privilege and you can never be miserable. Oh, what an unspeakable privilege is prayer! - Lady Maxwell

Perhaps the most noted author on prayer is the late Methodist minister E. M. Bounds (1835 - 1913):

  • Prayer honors God, acknowledges His being, exalts His power, adores His providence, secures His aid.
  • By prayer, the ability is secured to feel the law of love, to speak according to the law of love, and to do everything in harmony with the law of love.
  • Praying which does not result in pure conduct is a delusion. We have missed the whole office and virtue of praying if it does not rectify conduct. It is in the very nature of things that we must quit praying, or quit bad conduct.
  • Natural ability and educational advantages do not figure as factors in this matter of prayer; but a capacity for faith, the power of a thorough consecration, the ability of self-littleness, an absolute losing of one's self in God's glory and an ever present and insatiable yearning and seeking after all the fullness of God.
  • The goal of prayer is the ear of God, a goal that can only be reached by patient and continued and continuous waiting upon Him, pouring out our heart to Him and permitting Him to speak to us. Only by so doing can we expect to know Him, and as we come to know Him better we shall spend more time in His presence and find that presence a constant and ever-increasing delight.
  • Importunity is a condition of prayer. We are to press the matter, not with vain repetitions, but with urgent repetitions. We repeat, not to count the times, but to gain the prayer. We cannot quit praying because heart and soul are in it. We pray "with all perseverance." We hang to our prayers because by them we live. We press our pleas because we must have them, or die. [10]

Effectual prayer

All faithful Christians attest to answered prayer, as well as countless people who have prayed in times of crisis. An evangelical Christian, George Mueller (1805-1898), probably best known as the "Father of Orphans", prayerfully met the needs of thousands of children. Mueller and his wife decided to depend on God alone to supply their needs - never again to approach people about them - and 68 years later Mueller had prayed in over seven and a half million dollars, and logged in his journal 50,000 specific answers to prayer - 5,000 were answered on the very day of their asking. [11]

Prayer in government

Prayer is a mandated part of governmental affairs within a theocracy such as Islam, while voluntary prayer may play a part within governments which recognize separation of church and state. In contrast, refusal to acknowledge God is seen as practically conveying atheism, with prayer being excluded as part of atheistic systems such as Communism.

In America, upon landing the pilgrims "Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees, and blessed the God of heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof…" [12]

Three days before George Washington took the oath of office as the first president of the United States, Congress passed the following resolution:

Resolved, That after the oath shall have been administered to the President, he, attended by the Vice President and members of the Senate and House of Representatives, shall proceed to St. Paul’s Chapel, to hear divine service. (Annals of Congress, Vol. 1, p. 25, April 27, 1789)

Samuel Provoost (1742–1815), the newly appointed chaplain of the United States Senate and first Episcopal bishop of New York, performed “divine service” at St. Paul’s Chapel on April 30, 1789, immediately following Washington’s inauguration.

In the aftermath of the Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the Rev. John G. Butler, pastor of Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington, D.C., and chaplain of both the U. S. House of Representatives (1865–1875) and the Senate (1886–1893), organized interfaith inaugural prayer meetings in the nation’s capital commencing in 1869. These services continued well into the twentieth century.[13]

In America, prayer and worship services have regularly been part of Inauguration Day activities. [14]

Prayers by American Presidents

In September 1789, Congress asked President George Washington to “recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a Constitution of government for their safety and happiness.”

Washington complied, and in early October sent a proclamation to the governors of the states.The proclamation asked the governors to make Thursday, November 26 a day of Thanksgiving, saying:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor--and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be--That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions--to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best. Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789. [15][16] [17]
  • George Washington, an undated prayer for guidance from Washington's prayer journal, Mount Vernon:
O eternal and everlasting God, I presume to present myself this morning before thy Divine majesty, beseeching thee to accept of my humble and hearty thanks, that it hath pleased thy great goodness to keep and preserve me the night past from all the dangers poor mortals are subject to, and has given me sweet and pleasant sleep, whereby I find my body refreshed and comforted for performing the duties of this day, in which I beseech thee to defend me from all perils of body and soul.... Increase my faith in the sweet promises of the gospel; give me repentance from dead works; pardon my wanderings, and direct my thoughts unto thyself, the God of my salvation; teach me how to live in thy fear, labor in thy service, and ever to run in the ways of thy commandments; make me always watchful over my heart, that neither the terrors of conscience, the loathing of holy duties, the love of sin, nor an unwillingness to depart this life, may cast me into a spiritual slumber, but daily frame me more and more into the likeness of thy son Jesus Christ, that living in thy fear, and dying in thy favor, I may in thy appointed time attain the resurrection of the just unto eternal life bless my family, friends, and kindred.
  • Thomas Jefferson; a prayer for the Nation (Washington D.C., March 4, 1801):
Almighty God, Who has given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will. Bless our land with honorable ministry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people, the multitude brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endow with Thy spirit of wisdom those whom in Thy name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that through obedience to Thy law, we may show forth Thy praise among the nations of the earth. In time of prosperity fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail; all of which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
  • Abraham Lincoln; a prayer for peace (Second Inaugural address, March 4, 1865):
Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet if God wills that it continues... until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid another drawn with the sword... so still it must be said that the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and for his orphans, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and a lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt; a prayer in dark times (D-Day, June 6, 1944):
Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity... Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph... Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom. And for us at home--fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them--help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice... Give us strength, too--strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces. With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace--a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.
  • John F. Kennedy; a prayer of gratitude (Thanksgiving Day, 1963):
Let us therefore proclaim our gratitude to Providence for manifold blessings--let us be humbly thankful for inherited ideals--and let us resolve to share those blessings and those ideals with our fellow human beings throughout the world. On that day let us gather in sanctuaries dedicated to worship and in homes blessed by family affection to express our gratitude for the glorious gifts of God; and let us earnestly and humbly pray that He will continue to guide and sustain us in the great unfinished tasks of achieving peace, justice, and understanding among all men and nations and of ending misery and suffering wherever they exist.

Jimmy Carter; a prayer for a meaningful life (inaugural address, January 20, 1977, and Thanksgiving speech to the nation, November 27, 1980):

I would like to have my frequent prayer answered that God let my life be meaningful in the enhancement of His kingdom and that my life might be meaningful in the enhancement of the lives of my fellow human beings. I call upon all the people of our Nation to give thanks on that day for the blessings Almighty God has bestowed upon us, and to join the fervent prayer of George Washington who as President asked God to "impart all the blessings we possess, or ask for ourselves to the whole family of mankind.

Ronald Reagan; a prayer for healing (from a speech to the American people, February 6, 1986):

To preserve our blessed land we must look to God... It is time to realize that we need God more than He needs us... We also have His promise that we could take to heart with regard to our country, that "If my people, which are called by my name shall humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." Let us, young and old, join together, as did the First Continental Congress, in the first step, in humble heartfelt prayer. Let us do so for the love of God and His great goodness, in search of His guidance and the grace of repentance, in seeking His blessings, His peace, and the resting of His kind and holy hands on ourselves, our nation, our friends in the defense of freedom, and all mankind, now and always. The time has come to turn to God and reassert our trust in Him for the healing of America... Our country is in need of and ready for a spiritual renewal. Today, we utter no prayer more fervently than the ancient prayer for peace on Earth. If I had a prayer for you today, among those that have all been uttered, it is that one we're so familiar with: "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace...." And God bless you all.

George H. W. Bush; a prayer to help others (Inaugural address, January 20, 1989):

My first act as President is a prayer. I ask you to bow your heads. Heavenly Father, we bow our heads and thank You for Your love. Accept our thanks for the peace that yields this day and the shared faith that makes its continuance likely. Make us strong to do Your work, willing to heed and hear Your will, and write on our hearts these words: "Use power to help people." For we are given power not to advance our own purposes, nor to make a great show in the world, nor a name. There is but one just use of power, and it is to serve people. Help us to remember it, Lord. The Lord our God be with us, as He was with our fathers; may He not leave us or forsake us; so that He may incline our hearts to Him, to walk in all His ways... that all peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other. [18]

Prayer in other religions

In Hinduism, Prayer is an integral part of the daily living. Chanting of mantras is the most important form of prayer in Hinduism. Some devotees meditate chanting different names of the Gods. Prayer is also a vital part of Islam. As part of their faith, they are required to say five prayers at certain times of the day facing Mecca. Each prayer must be recited in Arabic.[19]

How not to Pray

See the above section.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned against hypocrisy in prayer:
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."[20]

At the time, the religious authorities believed it was necessary to pray at specific times of the day, and would often make sure they were in large crowds of people when those times arose so that they could be seen and heard by all. Jesus did not approve of this.

Jesus also warned against a high word-to-substance ratio in prayer:
"And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."[21]

Pagan prayers at the time believed that there was power in continuous repetition of words, that if you said a word often enough, then you could eventually own that object or claim that power for yourself. Jesus condemned this.

See also

External links

Online Prayer

References

  1. Matt 6:9-13
  2. Instructions for praying
  3. Luke 5:16
  4. Matt 6:6
  5. Luke 22:39-41
  6. "The Modes of Prayer," from the Nazerine Way of Essenic Study [1]
  7. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, 2008
  8. http://www.bible.ca/ntx-prayer.htm
  9. http://www.wordlibrary.co.uk/article.php?id=11
  10. Famous Quotes and Authors.com Prayer Quotes and Quotations
  11. http://www.eaec.org/faithhallfame/georgemuller.htm
  12. William Bradford November 9, 1620; http://www.dailyencouragement.net/seasonal/pilgrim_history.html
  13. http://www.nationalcathedral.org/about/presidentialInaugurals.shtml
  14. http://inaugural.senate.gov/history/daysevents/morningworshipservice.cfm
  15. The Massachusetts Centinel, Wednesday, October 14, 1789
  16. http://www.cnsnews.com/public/content/article.aspx?RsrcID=40032
  17. Thanksgiving Proclamation - The Original
  18. http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Faith-Tools/Meditation/2005/01/Prayers-Of-The-Presidents.aspx?p=2
  19. http://muslimvoices.org/muslim-prayer/
  20. Matt 6:5
  21. Matt 6:7-8
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