3 Kinds of Prayer
"Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:41, ESV).
According to one source, there are 650 prayers included in the Bible. Throughout the Bible, over and over we read about people who prayed regularly, even if their prayers weren’t recorded. Jesus taught about prayer, provided a model for how to pray, and spent a good deal of time praying.
If Jesus, the Son of God, valued prayer so highly, how can we not?
Praying is an essential part of a healthy Christian life. In fact, Paul exhorts us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Charles Picknell, writing in Christianity Today, stated, “Private prayer is important because it provides the Christian with a formidable defense against life’s perplexities and difficulties.”
There are at least three kinds of prayers we can, and most likely do, pray:
- Reactive Prayer
- Preemptive Prayer
- Sustaining Prayer
Let’s take a brief look at each one.
This is the prayer we pray when the storm is upon us and we need help now! It’s the proverbial foxhole prayer. Trouble is here and we need immediate deliverance. This is the kind of prayer that is often uttered almost involuntarily at the moment our car loses control on an icy street and we blurt out, “God! Help!” It acknowledges our present is in God’s hands.
When we are headed into battle and we know resistance will come, we pray that God will help us win the outcome. Preemptive prayer looks into the future, sees what’s likely ahead, and specifically asks God for wisdom, protection, and favor. Prayer in this sense is preparation for what is coming, for what we are about to do. It acknowledges our future is in God’s hands.
Just as we should never go a day without reading our Bible, we need to maintain daily communion with God through regular prayer. This is how we build and develop our relationship with God, by chatting with our Father every day. There is little formality but there is great intimacy. We share openly and completely with God what’s going on in our heads and hearts and around us. It acknowledges that all of our circumstances, all of our existence is in God’s hands.
But how to pray?
Some struggle with how to approach God in prayer. God welcomes us, no matter how formal or casual we approach him. He wants to hear from us, to commune with us. Keep in mind that prayer is also listening to God, not just talking to him. It’s often a conversation.
Jesus did offer one model for praying in Matthew 6:9-13, which we call The Lord’s Prayer. We can break it out into five parts that can offer a simple structure for our own prayers.
- Giving glory and honor to God: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” We focus our attention on God and who he is.
- Seeking His will over ours: “ Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We recognize that our will is to be submitted to his will and that we are his agents here on earth.
- Seeking our daily needs: “ Give us this day our daily bread.” The bread is ours, but we need to ask for it daily which keeps us humble and yielding to him.
- Seeking daily forgiveness: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” We acknowledge our sinfulness and our need for his mercies daily, and that we, likewise, should extend that same mercy to others.
- Seeking strength for our journey: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” We recognize the pressure of life’s challenges and ask for his deliverance and protection from life’s persistent barbs.
Picknell says, “We shall never search out the riches of God nor even begin to know ourselves until we establish the discipline of private prayer.”
A regular habit of prayer opens up communion with the Father, fueling spiritual growth and maturity.
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