Coming to Terms: Prayer

Terms in the Bible are specialized words of particular significance. In Coming to Terms we explore the significance of these terms to deepen our understanding of biblical truth through a question and answer and fill in the blank format.

(Fill in the blanks where applicable to gain a deeper understanding of the term. I’ve used the New Living Translation for the Scripture passages.)

Unpacking the term

Putting it simply, prayer is talking with God. The many different contexts, conditions, and types of prayer found in Scripture all boil down to talking with God. Biblical prayer involves three essential and interdependent elements: our assumptions, attitudes, and actions.

What are the essential assumptions about prayer?

Prayer presupposes the belief that God is a person with mind, will, and emotions who has the ability and willingness to communicate with us (Exodus 3:14).

Prayer assumes God’s personal control of all things including all his creatures and all their actions. He makes everything work out according to His plan (Ephesians 1:11). If He’s not in control, why pray?

What should we assume about God’s relationship to man? God made man a “living person” (Genesis 2:7). He made us for a loving relationship with Himself. In that relationship He communicates with us and we communicate with Him. God loves us and wants to hear from us. Prayer is that communication.

Jesus’ disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray…” (Luke 11:1). Why do we have to be taught how to pray? Adam and Eve’s rebellion and that of their posterity alienated humanity from God, severing our relationship and communication with Him. God acted to restore the relationship by sending His Son to die and, upon faith in Christ’s sacrifice, take away the barrier of sin separating us from God. Prayer is based on the core truth that Jesus Christ is the only __________ through whom we can approach God (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5). As those who have been adopted into the family of God from a state of enmity with Him we need to learn and understand how to communicate with our heavenly Father.

There are many types of communication between people. Regular, personal communication between people results in deeper relationships. Similarly, there are many types of prayer to God and regular, personal communication with Him deepens our _________ with Him.

What are the essential attitudes involved with prayer?

Jesus shows us that prayer is personal. He calls God Abba, an intimate Aramaic term for Father, without diminishing the holiness of God (Matthew 6:5–15). In prayer there is a balance between an attitude of intimate familiarity that says “Daddy” and the reverent respect that says “Holy Father.”

An attitude of total need and dependence is foundational for prayer. From this foundation other essential attitudes and actions arise like humble supplication and intercession—asking God for things for ourselves and others springs from a sense of need. Being dependent we are grateful when God answers and meets our needs (Colossians 4:2). Knowing how dependent we are compared to God’s all-sufficiency causes us to praise Him. We are even dependent because of our ignorance. “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:26–27 NIV).

Another key attitude is enjoyment. Prayer is an act of savouring God. “Take ________ in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires” (Psalm 37:4).

What are the essential actions involved with prayer?

We are to pray according to God’s will (1 John 5:14–15 NIV). How do we know the will of God? His revealed will is found in the Bible. We need to pray in line with what God has said He wants to accomplish in the Bible (Matthew 26:41). When God’s Word doesn’t address our specific situation, we may ask anyway but we have no assurance our request will be granted. Paul asked for his thorn to be removed but God didn’t take it away (2 Corinthians 12:8–9).

We are to pray with a pure life. “If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18).

We are to pray earnestly. “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16).

We are to pray persistently. “One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up” (Luke 18:1).

Christ died so we could talk to God. Are you exercising your privilege of prayer?