One of my favourite scriptures is Philippians 4:6-7, which reads, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.
The above scripture, written by Saint Paul in his letter to the Philippians in the New Testament, tells us a lot about how and why to pray. The word ‘supplication’ means “the action of asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly”. So when we pray, Paul says we should be honest and humble. We should acknowledge the greatness of God, and recognise that as we pray He already knows everything that is going on in our hearts and in our lives; we don’t need to disguise the truth.
I heard an interesting message from the Holy Trinity Brompton vicar Nicky Gumbel recently in which he suggested there are three important components to prayer. He said we should be childlike in our prayers by remembering to say ‘please, sorry, and thank you’. If you’re not used to praying, this is an excellent way to start. You might say please in relation to your needs, sorry in relation to your sins, and thank you in relation to your gifts and blessings.
Today I was doing outreach with my church, which is where we go out onto the streets to chat to people about the gospel and about God. I met a lovely man who spoke to me about how certain events in his life had caused him to distance himself from God. He was carrying a certain amount of regret and even guilt about a situation in his life which took place many years ago. I felt prompted to pray for him, and I explained that it was precisely for situations such as his that Jesus came and died; allowing us all to be in right relationship with God if only we would have faith and ask God for forgiveness.
When I prayed for this man, I asked for God’s blessing and favour to be upon his life, and I know that God heard my prayer. I felt a real sense of God’s presence while I prayed, and I trust that God will begin to untie the knots in this man’s heart, and bring him back into right relationship with Jesus.
Jesus teaches us about how to pray. You will no doubt be familiar with The Lord’s Prayer, which can be found in the Bible in Matthew 6:9-13. This prayer varies slightly according to different translations but the version I pray (which I remember for my school days) goes like this:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory,
Forever and ever. Amen.
God doesn’t always answer prayer in the way we expect. But the very act of praying is an act of humility. And when we humble ourselves before God, acknowledging Him in all His greatness, power, and glory, He never fails to respond and to speak into our hearts and into our lives. He is working all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
Perhaps you have never said a prayer. Or perhaps you haven’t prayed for a long time. Perhaps you are not even sure whether there is a God, and so the idea of praying seems strange and foreign. I would urge you to humble yourself today, and take a leap of faith, and reach out to God in prayer. The treasure – and I mean spiritual treasure, not earthly treasure – of our Lord Jesus Christ is waiting.