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What is Prayer? A Creedal Imperative for Prayer As Christians we see prayer as centrally important.

In the Bible through example or exhortation we are shown the importance of prayer.

Firstly A Few foundational Thoughts.

Prayer the breath of a Christian As we walk with God and grow in grace the Lord will often use people to guide us. For Saul it was Ananias. Ananias was called to go to Saul and was given details of where he would find him and how he would recognise him by his prayer life. Acts 9:10-11 What struck me as a new Christian was the fact that Saul was so changed he was now recognised by prayer and praying. If this be true for Saul should it not be true for every believer? I have never met a sincere Christian who wants a worse or poorer prayer life. But many of us bemoan to ourselves or others the low ebb our prayer lives are at.

Jesus teaching on prayer

Matthew 6:5-7 Jesus lays before us: (1) An assumption of prayer (2) A warning about prayer (3) An instruction for prayer.

A Creedal Imperative for Prayer

Why enter the closet? The point of heading for the closet is to make sure we dont parade our praying so as to impress others. Its somewhere you can get alone with God. This closet is somewhere you will have to discover or even make for yourself. Why shut the door? The point of the closet is for praying but what is the point of going somewhere alone, somewhere secluded and then leaving ourselves open to every distraction possible. We must conscientiously shut the door on distractions for the time we have set aside for prayer. Today the closing of the door may be putting the phone on mute, logging off the laptop or tablet, the TV being switched off etc. Why pray in secret? Praying in secret is as much about who you are with as who you are not with. Those who prayed to be seen will get their reward from people round them, and the reward they seek is praise. However that unseen crying unto God in the secret place is revealed in the public place by answered prayer! Why no vain repetitions? Our praying shouldnt literally descend into a pitter-patter of words that have been robbed of a vitality and life.

A Creedal Imperative for Prayer


Bishop JC Ryle wrote, I believe that there are tens of thousands whose prayers are nothing but a mere form - a set of words repeated by rote, without a thought about their meaning. Some say over a few hasty sentences picked up in the nursery when they were children. Many, even of those who use good forms, mutter their prayers after they have got into bed, or scramble over them while they wash or dress in the morning. Men may think what they please, but they can count on the fact that, in the sight of God, this is not praying. Words said without heart are as utterly useless to our souls as the drum-beating of the poor heathen before their idols. Where there is no heart, the lips may move and the tongue wag, but there is nothing that God listens to - there is no prayer. (Ryle 1878, p79)

Secondly - How do we Pray?

"Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, in the name of Christ, by the help of his Spirit; with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies." (Larger Catechism Q&A 178) (Larger Catechism 1647) We are to offer our desires unto God Psalm 62:8 We are Gods creatures, and it is our nature to be dependent upon him for the supply of our needs, physical, mental, social, and spiritual...Since no human being is able to face life by his own abilities and powers, prayer is necessary if we are truly to enjoy and glorify God. (Vos, p513)

A Creedal Imperative for Prayer

Matthew 6:9-13 (The Lords Prayer) What praying for our desires can descend into! We are given a warning in James 4:1-3. Ephesians 2:3-5 We can judge our own desires by thinking about what we want: is it the glory of God, the salvation of sinners, the welfare of believers, help for missionaries or those who preach the gospel whether in pulpit, Sunday school? etc. We can pray for anything that is not sinful. What would help? It is helpful to write down what we are praying for helps us remember to keep praying for the issue and allows us review how the Lord intervenes. In prayer we are to confess our sins. Psalm 32:5-6 1 John 1:8-10 Practical help for confessing sin Galatians 5:19 Galatians 5:19-23 Impediments that stop us confessing our sins We are redeemed sinners living in a fallen world therefore we must keep searching our hearts and confessing our sin before God. Two dangers evangelical Christians face when thinking about confession of sin:
A Creedal Imperative for Prayer


1) Through the prism of the Roman Catholic sacrament of penance which includes the confessional. 2) A confused view of justification and sanctification leading the individual to antinomianism: [they believe] when scripture says that believers are not under the law but under grace, it means that the moral law is not binding upon believers in any sense, even in the sense of a rule of life; and/or a believer may sin with impunity because the grace of God super abounds over his sin (Cairns 2002, p31). In prayer we are to thank God for His mercies. Philippians 4:6 Lamentations 3:21-23 - a counter balance against a self-centred, self-motivated prayer life. Ten reasons to acknowledge the mercies of God: 1) so we do not forget what God has done for us. 2) so we do not become overwhelmed by the situations we have to face and lose hope. 3) it is a Biblical concept to remember [this is also a wonderful study!] 4) it may be the only way to encourage ourselves in the Lord. (1 Samuel 30:6) 5) it will help us to trust in the God who can, has, and will.

A Creedal Imperative for Prayer


6) if we do not acknowledge the mercies of God towards us what are we acknowledging and what effect is this having on us? 7) acknowledging Gods mercies demonstrates our faith in the God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 8) thankfulness to God in prayer links together the request, the giver, and the gift. 9) thankfulness to God in prayer will make us more thankful to God in life. 10) if we do not thank God for His general mercies, will we be thankful to God for His great mercy to us salvation through Jesus Christ? Some people argue that because they cannot pray rightly, it is better not to pray at all. They draw support from scripture verses that describe the prayers and worship of sinners as a stench in Gods nostrils and an abomination in His sight. They say that God will not hear sinners and that whatever is not of faith is sin. The first part of this argument is right that we cannot pray rightly...but the conclusion that it is better not to pray at all is false. If such reasoning were valid, then we could draw similar conclusions about all sorts of spiritual activates. Can I read the bible in the right way? If not, I had better not read it. Can I sing Psalms and hymns in the right way? If not, I had better not sing them. Can I attend church in the right way? If not, I had better not go. This reasoning if true, would actually keep believers from praying for unbelievers, since believers feel their sinful
A Creedal Imperative for Prayer


infirmities more. Are the converted or the unconverted more acquainted with their unworthiness? Who truly recognises what an abomination and offense he is to God? Who fully acknowledges that he as a sinner lacks faith? Who understands that God has every right not to hear prayer the converted or the unconverted? This type of argument that sounds pious, is really an irreligious excuse and a perversions of the gospel message. It is dangerous to teach, believe, or imply that we may not pray until we are whole or that we may only approach God when we are spiritually upright. (Beeke and Beeke 2010, p2)

Thirdly The Triune Nature of Prayer.

Within the description of prayer already given we also see the triune nature of prayer. Why do we come to God in prayer? 1. He is the only one who searches the heart 1 Kings 8:39 Romans 8:27 2. He hears our requests Psalm 65:2 3. He pardons our sins Micah 7:18 4. He fulfils the desires we bring before him. Psalm 145:18 We also should be clear in our thinking about who God is in His being.

A Creedal Imperative for Prayer


We can have a little God of our own estimation or the creator God of the heavens and the earth. 1. He is the only God to be believed in. Romans 10:14 2. He is the only one to be worshiped with religious worship. Matthew 4:10 3. Prayer is a vital and central part of our worship. 1 Corinthians 1:2 4. We pray to God and to no one else. Psalm 50:15 Why do we pray in Jesus name? 1. In obedience to His command. John 14:13-14, John 16:24, Daniel 9:17 2. We pray in Jesus name having confidence in His promises. John 14:6 Isaiah 59:2 Ephesians 3:12. 3. We pray in Jesus name asking Him for mercy. Hebrews 4:14-16, 1 John 5:13-15 Why do we need the help of the Holy Spirit? Romans 8:26-27 1. Because we dont know how to pray 2. Because of our infirmities/weaknesses 3. Because we need help to know who, what and how to pray
A Creedal Imperative for Prayer


4. Because He can quicken our hearts. (Not the same at all times or for all people.)

Thirdly, an encouragement to keep praying.

Luke 18:1-8 (The Unjust Judge) Contrast is here used: if an unjust judge hear the cry of a poor widow how much more will a loving heavenly Father? 1. The widow woman keeps on coming and keeps on asking. 2. God will hear and answer in His will the prayers of His people. 3. The challenge is made, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? We come to the Father, through the Son, with the help of the Holy Spirit. We bring our desires, we pray in Jesus name, we have the help of the comforter, we confess our sins, and we acknowledge Gods mercies to us and His church.

A Creedal Imperative for Prayer


Fourthly Who should we pray for?

The whole church: Ephesians 6:18 Psalm 28:9 To help in prayer ask questions such as, What are the needs or How can I help with the needs? Office bearers have to also ask the question, How can we help? Local, Denominational/Associational, the visible church locally, Missionary link, The global church, and the persecuted church Government & judges (whether we like them or not): 1 Timothy 2:12 Ministers, pastors, preachers, evangelists, church workers: Colossians 4:3 Ourselves: Genesis 32:11 Our brethren: James 5:16 Even Enemies: Matthew 5:44 All sorts of men living: 1 Timothy 2:12 Children that havent yet been born: John 17:20 & 2 Samuel 7:29 We do not and cannot pray for the dead: 2 Samuel 12:2123 The Biblical examples of seasons of Prayer I would suggest that we can find help with prayer from the Bible. We will examine the prayer life of Jesus, then some Old Testament examples and finally look at what Jesus taught on prayer.

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Fifthly when should we pray?

Examples from Jesus Prayer Life and also a few from the Old Testament. Morning Devotion (Mark 1:35) Morning is generally the quietest part of the day with fewest distractions. Evening Prayer Mark 6:46-47 Luke 5:15-16 There will be much to give thanks for, repent for, plead for, request insight for. Prayer at night brings the day to a close rather than just letting it slide to a slumbering halt. All Night Prayer Luke 6:12 Jesus here spends the night in prayer and then on the next day he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles. [verse 13] This night of prayer preceded a very important decision. We can apply this lesson to ourselves. Only the disciples near Luke 9:18 An illustration of those who are Jesus disciples gathering together with Him in times of corporate prayer.

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Public Prayer Matthew 11:25 Luke 3:21-22 John 11:41 John 17:1[26] Unique Circumstances The Garden of Gethsemane Luke 22:44 Luke 22:41 Old Testament evidence for a daily rhythm of prayer Psalm 55:16-17 Brief, silent, public and pressing prayer Nehemiah 2:4-5

Works Cited
Beeke, James W, and Joel R Beeke. Developing a Healthy Prayer Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010. Cairns, Alan. Dictionary of Theologicial Termas. Belfast/Greenville: Ambassador Emerald International, 2002. Gill, John. Gill's Commentary. Vol. 6 Romans to Revelation. 6 vols. London: Baker Book House, 1980. Hendriksen, William. New Testament Commentary Matthew. Edinburugh: Banner of Truth, 1973. Larger Catechism. Vol. Westminster Confesion of Faith. 1647. Ryle, JC. Practical Religion. Reprint: 2001. Evangelical Press, 1878. Vos, Johannes G. The Westminster Larger Catechism a Commentary. Edited by G I Williamson. Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 2002.

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