The importance of prayer was instilled in me from little on. As a young girl my Opah taught me much about Jesus. We lived by my grandparents. Each Sunday evening my brother and I would have “church” with them. My Opah would be the “pastor”, Omah would be the congregation, and my brother and I were the choir. We would always sing, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” A beautiful hymn outlining the truths about the importance of prayer.
Now when I think of my prayer life, my joys and struggles in praying, my mind returns to these precious moments. Opah taught me so much. He demonstrated so much about Jesus and life in Him. As an adult I now look to the Lord and His Word for help in prayer, but often wish that Opah was still here to guide me when I am struggling.
The Bible is filled with prayers demonstrating ways we can pray. It gives many examples of how others prayed. I would like to share a few examples of the different kinds of prayer, there is so much to learn in God’s Word.
Many of our prayers fall under the umbrella of petitions, sometimes this type of prayer is referred to as supplication, these terms refer to the times we cry out to the Lord with our needs. We may petition the Lord about anything; our finances, our health, for our protections when we travel, or about difficulties in our workplace, the opportunities are endless.
David shares his prayers throughout the Psalms. Psalm 3 is an example of him petitioning the Lord for deliverance. David is in the middle of a very stressful situation He is feeling as if everyone is against him. There are times in our lives when we feel exactly the same way, whether it is in the workplace or in our homes, or maybe just in dealing with inner conflict about an issue. David knew the Lord was on his side and he needed the Lord to help him through and out. He felt pummeled by his enemies. We may have human enemies but many of our emotions can seem like enemies. Guilt, greed, anger, and jealousy can entangle our hearts and destroy our peace and joy. We then may need to call out to the Lord for deliverance in these situations as well, petitioning the Lord for His help.
When we are not praying for ourselves, we often are praying on behalf of others. We see the needs of family and friends. We see problems in our world; problems of persecution, wars, human trafficking, abuse, and other injustices. When we look in the Bible, one of the most beautiful examples of intercession is found in John 17 when Jesus cries out to His Father on our behalf. He prayer for his disciples and ultimately, for us. It is such a beautiful prayer of love. Intercession is truly a prayer of love for another, there is nothing more important that we can do than cry out to God on another’s behalf. Paul also give us many examples of intercession, for example He speaks of his prayer for the people in the church of Ephesus in Ephesians 1:15-23. He prays for their spiritual growth. He asks that the eyes of their hearts be enlightened so that they will know the hope of God’s calling. You can’t go wrong interceding for someone’s spiritual growth, what could be more important to the Lord than that.
Another kind of prayer we see demonstrated in the Bible is the prayer of thanksgiving. In Psalm 138 we read the words of David giving thanks for the Lord’s favor. He thanks God for His loving-kindness, His truth, and His answers to prayer. He gives thanks for the confidence and strength that the Lord gave him in life, for fulfilled promises, for deliverance, and so much more. David has seen the hand of the Lord at work in his life and he is grateful for so much. We too have many reasons to give thanks. I think that we often neglect sharing our gratitude with the Lord, and in doing so we often miss out on the joy that can fill our hearts because of such a prayer.
Similar to this are the prayers of worship and praise. Hannah prays such a prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. Hannah rejoices in the Lord because of Who He is and what He has done. She is filled with worship and praise because after a time of infertility the Lord has answered her prayers and blessed her with a child.
When we see the reality of God’s goodness in our lives or recognize the gift of answered prayer we too may go to the Lord as Hannah did with words of worship and praise.
The last type of prayer that I want to mention is that of confession. David gives us a beautiful example of a prayer of confession in Psalm 51. He wrote this after he sinned with Bathsheba. You can read about his sin in 1 Samuel 11. David realizes his sin of committing adultery after the prophet Nathan confronts him. David then pours out his heart to the Lord in Psalm 51. He prays for God to have mercy and compassion on him. He asks that the Lord would blot out his sins (transgressions). He admits that he has sinned against the Lord by doing evil in His sight. He asks for cleansing and restoration. David desires to praise the Lord again. He wants his heart to be right before the Lord and his realtionship with Him restored.
When we personally find ourselves realizing that we have grieved the Lord with our sin, we too need to bring that sin before the Lord in confession. 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Confession restores our relationship, broken by sin, with the Lord.
There are many reason to come before the Lord, to cry out to Him, these are only a few examples. These prayers give us words to express our feelings and needs. They can encourage us in praying when we are at a loss for what to say or when we feel stuck. Each of these prayers are expressed by real people going through real struggle, recognizing heartfelt needs, or responding to God’s intervention. We can relate to their heart cries, and our heart have cries of their own that we can bring before the Lord.
When prayer is a struggle we can find hope and help in God’s Word. The Lord often uses His Word to prick my heart to help me realize a personal prayer-need of my own or to realize the need of another. The Lord wants to hear from us. He wants to meet us in our neediness, in our desperation, as well as in our rejoicing and praise. Jesus is our loving Friend. The hymn I use to sing in my grand parents living room tells it all.
“What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer.
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear.
All because we do not carry, Everything to God in prayer.”
(written by Joseph M. Scriven)
What a privilege it is to take our needs to God in prayer. I am so grateful for these beautiful scriptural examples that serve as a guide when I struggle in my prayer life. I hope that you have found encouragement for your prayer needs also. Truly what a privilege we have to take our concerns to the Creator God of this Universe.