Prayer in the Bible (Part 3 of 6)

The Bible is very comfortable with the idea that you can talk to God. Depending on the Bible version you look at ‘prayer’ is referenced over six hundred and fifty times!

As you work through the Old Testament there is a lot mentioned about prayer. The people of God are not called to pray, they just do. Abraham and Isaac prayed for children (Gen 20:17; 25:21). Jacob prayed that he would be saved from his angry brother (Gen 32:11). Moses prays as he fled Pharaoh’s army (Ex 14:12-12) and then sings to the Lord once delivered (Ex 15:1-18). Moses in fact, became a model of prayer as he interceded repeatedly for Israel as they travelled towards the promised land. David prays when he is undecided about attacking the Philistines (1 Sam 23:1-4). Solomon prays as he dedicated the temple to the Lord (1 Kings 8:22—54). Throughout the Psalms and Chronicles there are numerous examples of both David and Solomon calling out to God in prayer, praise or lament. And the list goes on.

There are wonderful examples in scripture of God’s Old Testament people talking to God in prayer. Nothing seems to be too great, too hard, or too difficult for God. That which seemed impossible and out of reach was given. Victories over nations and army’s, control over fire, wind, earth and water were all made possible – and why? Because the people of God asked of God and he listened and mercifully answered their prayer.

 

Here is a thought to ponder. Not every spiritual practice carries over from the Old Testament into the New Testament (Hebrews spends a lot of time helping the reader to understand what has changed!). For example, circumcision, the mark of Israel, was present in the Old Testament but had lost its significance as the mark of a Christian in the New Testament church. The sacrificial system of the Old Covenant was replaced by the New Covenant in the one true and lasting sacrifice of Jesus. But prayer, is one discipline that runs from to Old Testament right through into the New Testament and on to today! Why? Because Jesus considered that prayer was important and necessary!

As we move into the New Testament we meet the master pray-er!

Consider some of the key moments in Jesus’ life. Right at the beginning of his ministry after he had announced himself to the world by healing the sick and demon possessed and as the crowds gathered, he goes off to a solitary place, to pray (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16). In choosing his disciples, he prays (all night) and then appoints the twelve (Luke 6:12-16). In the garden of Gethsemane just before his arrest, he prays, for himself (‘God, not my will but your will be done’- Luke 22:42, c.f. Matt 26:42-44; Mark 14:36), and he prays for his disciples (‘protect them by the power of your name’- John 17:15), and for all believers (for those who would believe in me, be united in faith – John 17:20-23). On the cross as he was dying, Jesus cries out and prays ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34).

These prayers are extraordinary, not just because of the extreme humility and selflessness demonstrated, but because of the circumstances which surrounded Jesus at the time he prayed his prayers. Jesus is the model of faithfulness in prayer.

It is no wonder that the disciples led the church in prayer. They were taught by the best. We see in Acts that the early church learnt what Jesus taught them, because they held to the importance of prayer, meeting together to listen to the apostles teaching, to fellowship, to breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42). There are numerous further examples in Acts of the apostles and believers at large in prayer (c.f. Acts 4:23-31 is just one example).

The Apostle Peter teaches that the ears of the Lord are attentive to the prayers of the righteous (1 Peter 3:12). James, the brother of Jesus in his epistle, calls on any believer who is in trouble – to pray (James 5:13).

The Apostle Paul was obviously a big fan of prayer! In Philippians, he reminds the church that in faith there is no need to be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present their requests to God (Phil 4:6). In Romans, he exhorts the church to ‘Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer’ (Rom 12:12). To the Corinthians he says not to even let sex with your spouse prevent you from being devoted to prayer (1 Cor 7:5). In Ephesians, he instructs ‘pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests’ (Eph 6:18). To the Colossians he just plainly states ‘Devote yourselves to prayer’ (Colossians 4:2).

It seems clear, in the testimony of scripture that prayer is a good thing, and a directive for all disciples saved in faith.

For other articles in this series:

Faithful in Prayer

Talking to God

Prayer in the Bible

Prayer in Western Society

Praying the Lord’s Way

Tips for Prayer

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