What is Prayer?

When we pray we are talking to God. But how can we talk to someone whom we cannot see or hear?

Our Father who is in heaven

Many people think that God does not exist. But for people who follow Jesus Christ, prayer is very important. It is the way we talk to God, the Father of Jesus Christ.

The Bible tells us what God has done. It tells us what God is like. We see that God is true. We see that God is fair. We see that God keeps His promises. We see that God made everyone and everything. We see that He cares for us. We see that God loves us like a father.

Lesson 42

Lesson 42 read out in full

When you were a child, did you talk to your father? Sometimes, fathers were not there when we were little. Or our father was cruel to us. But when we think about God as our Father, we find that He is the best father. When we learn about God, we find that we want to talk to Him. No matter how old we are, we need a father to care for us and to love us.

If we read the Bible, we can hear God talking to us. When we pray, then we are talking to God.

What we pray for

Now, you would have heard of people who are greedy. They want everything. If a greedy person asked God for lots of money, God would not give it to them. If your son or daughter asked you for money, would you give them a lot of money? No, because we know that the money would get them into trouble. We are loving parents. It is the same with God. As a loving Father, He knows what is best for us.

So if we pray for something, His reply might be: “Yes”. Or it might be: “No”. Or it might be: “Wait”. But we do not hear God’s reply. We always have to wait.

Why do we pray?

Why do we pray? Praying is not always asking for something. We pray when we are happy. We pray to than God when He has answered our prayer. We should be like good children, who want to thank their parents for what they have done. We pray when we are sad. God listens to us, and if we read the Bible each day, we will find help there also, when we are sad. We can pray anytime, anywhere. We do not need a telephone to speak to God. We can pray anywhere. Sometimes, a prayer is short. Sometimes it is long. We usually close our eyes when we pray. That is because it helps us to think about what we are praying without being put off by what is happening all around us. If we have our eyes open, we may forget that we are talking to God who made all things.

While God is a Father who loves us, we must show Him respect. He is far greater than we are. He could destroy us if He wished to. We must always remember that we are talking to the most powerful being in the universe. If you were to meet the President of the United States, or Queen Elizabeth: what would you say? You would think carefully what you would say. It is the same with God. When we speak to Him, we have to think carefully about what we are going to say.

How can we learn how to pray? Like most things, we listen to other people who pray, or we look at the prayers of other people. Then we can do as they do.

The Bible has many examples of prayers. The book of Psalms has the most. But there were prayers by many other people in the Bible.

Let us look at some now:

The servant of Abraham: Genesis 24:12. He asked God to help him find a wife for Isaac, the son of Abraham. God replied to his prayer.
Hannah: 1 Samuel 1:10-11. She asked God for a son.
King David: 2 Samuel 7:18. God had promised him that a special son (which was Jesus) would be king after him. David prayed to God and thanked Him.
Daniel the prophet: Daniel 6:10-11. Daniel prayed to God for help three times every day.
Jesus: He spent many hours in prayer to his Father. Jesus spoke about prayer in Matthew 6:5. Please turn there now and look at what he said in verses 5-8.
Points to note:

  • Many people in the time of Jesus prayed where everyone could see them.
  • People sometimes want to say too much to God. But God knows what we need before we even ask Him!

In verse 9 of Matthew chapter 6, Jesus gives what is known as ”The Lord’s Prayer”. Let us look at the “Lord’s Prayer”, and see what is says.
This is the “traditional words” of the Lord’s Prayer, that is, the words used are an older form of English, used in the 17th Century.

Old >>> New
art >>> is
thy >>> your
thine >>> yours

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

The first part shows that we praise God because He is so great. He is also our Father, and that we know that soon His Kingdom will be on the earth. “Hallowed” means “honoured” or “esteemed”.

Give us this day our daily bread.
God knows what we need to live, so we ask Him to give it to us. “Daily bread” can mean what we need for each day.

And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
We know that sometimes we do not do what God wants us to do. So we ask Him to forget those things. But we also have to forget the bad things done by others to us!

And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil.
We ask God to keep us away from places and people that might make us do the wrong thing. But if we wander, then we ask God to take us away from the evil things.

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory. For ever. Amen.
In the last part, we again realise how powerful God is. That He will always be there, even though we may not be. “Amen” is a Latin word that means, “so be it”, or “let it be as we have said”.