Prayer T0 Retain Biblical Knowledge
The Power of Prayer: Biblical and Theological Foundations
March 30, 2016
Prayer can be defined as talking to God, but it is much more than that. Prayer is an act of worship that glorifies God and reinforces our need for Him. Through living a life of prayer, we respond to Christ’s work of salvation and communicate with the very source of and purpose for our existence.
Prayer is a popular focus in sermons and Christian literature. A few important questions guide and clarify the power of prayer in each Christian’s life.
Why Should We Pray?
Several truths help illustrate why we need prayer in our lives.
- We are commanded to pray. Multiple times we read that we are to be in continual prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Philippians 4:6-7, Ephesians 6:18-19). And in Luke, Jesus “spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1 NKJV).
- It gives Him the glory. Prayer is a way to serve God (Luke 2:36-38). Through prayer, we have the opportunity to glorify and praise Him for all He is and has done (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
- It helps us overcome. Jesus tells Peter to pray for strength in overcoming temptation (Matthew 26:41). Also, in Luke 6:12-13, Jesus demonstrates the importance of prayer in making major decisions. Prayer helps us face and overcome all types of struggles.
- It brings our requests to Him. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you,” Jesus said in Matthew 7:7. This does not mean that we will be granted anything we ask, but when we ask for things that are in His will, He will give those things to us (1 John 5:14-15).
- It helps us discern His will. Jesus prayed continually to the Father for guidance. We too can begin to understand His will for us when we stay in communion with Him.
“What is the goal of the Christian life?” asks theologian and pastor R.C. Sproul. “Godliness born of obedience to Christ. Obedience unlocks the riches of the Christian experience. Prayer is what prompts and nurtures obedience, putting the heart into the proper ‘frame of mind’ to desire obedience.”[cta]
We need the power of prayer for understanding, spiritual growth and unity with God. “The prayer does not change God, but it changes the one who offers it,” writes philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard in his book Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing.
How Should We Pray?
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Paul encourages us to pray for everything with a thankful heart. When we are open and present all to Him, He will protect us with His peace. This passage captures the heart and mind we should strive to have when we pray. When combined with 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, we see how we should be in continual prayer — that is, we should always connect with our Lord and Savior.
What if we can’t find the “right” words when we pray? “wise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses,” Paul writes in Romans 8:26-27.
“For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” As Christians, the Spirit intercedes on our behalf during prayer.
Some people tend to focus on less important aspects of prayer. Care should be taken for specifics such as whether or not we close our eyes, what time of day we pray, and the length and number of our prayers. These types of guidelines can be helpful or harmful.
A Life of Prayer
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”
Prayer should reflect the relationship we have with God. After all, it is beautiful to think that we have been given the ability to communicate with Him. In any moment and from any place, we can thank Him, ask for His strength, discern His will and become more Christ. As James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”
Ministry leaders in all settings should model Christian servant leadership to serve others and point them to Christ. The power of prayer can help leaders grow spiritually and inspire other people to communicate with God.
Grace College’s online Master of Arts in Ministry Studies helps students enhance their ability to minister to others in a variety of vocational ministry careers. This fully online, accelerated program can be completed in just two years and offers optional concentrations in camp administration or women’s leadership studies.
THE BIBLICAL PATTERN IS FOLLOWED IN PRAYER
Members of the church of our Lord are taught to pray. Any Christian who loves God surely will consider prayer to be a most essential evidence of love for God and a right relationship with God. Since there are many abuses of prayer one may pray and still not have assurance that God hears and accepts his or her petitions.
LOVE FOR GOD AND PRAYER
The Pharisees loved to pray, but their prayers were not acceptable to God (Matthew 6:5; 15:7-8). Their long prayers, uttered to be heard and praised by men, received no reward from the heavenly Father.
Empty repetitions in prayer do not reach the ears of God; words without thoughts may please men but they are a mockery to God. “God heareth not sinners: but if a man be a worshipper of God, and do his will, him he heareth.
” There must be proof that we love God before we can pray acceptably (1 John 3:18).
Evidence that we genuinely love God is shown when we believe in Jesus Christ and obey his commandments (1 John 2:1-5). To know Christ and to keep his commandments is not grievous (1 John 5:3).
This involves believing (1 John 3:23; 5:1), turning from sin (1 John 3:6), confessing faith in Christ (1 John 4:2,15), being born again into God's family (John 3:5, Acts 2:38, Romans 6:1-6), and striving to observe all things he commanded until death (Matt. 28:20).
Having evidenced our loved for God in obedience, we are cleansed of sin by the blood of Christ, and are added to the family of God, the body, the church of Christ (Acts 2:47; Galatians 3:26-27). After Christ established his church in 33 A.D.
, there is no record of any man being told to pray until after his sins were washed away through obeying the gospel (see 1 Peter 1:22). For this reason, in churches of Christ no “mourner's bench” or “altar to pray through” will be found.
Prayer is a privilege for those in the spiritual family, the church, rather than the means of entrance into it.
Although sinners are not saved through prayer from their alien sins (those sins of their former lives before they came to Christ), yet they must come in a prayerful, penitent and humble attitude Saul of Tarsus did (Acts 9:11) when they inquire what they must do to be saved (Acts 2:37-38).
After obeying Jesus' commandments for salvation (Mark 16:16), then prayer is a daily essential in the personal life of every Christian (1 Thessalonians 5:17). It is also prominent in the worship assemblies of the saints.
Through repentance and prayer, forgiveness of sins is obtained by the child of God – forgiveness for his shortcomings continued from day to day through ignorance, weakness or negligence (Acts 8:14-24).
FOR WHAT DOES THE CHRISTIAN PRAY?
In addition to praying to God for forgiveness (1 John 1:9), members of Christ's church are to pray for “all things” (Philippians 4:6) which would include the following:
1. Adoration, and Praise of God . God's holy name is to be hallowed when we pray (Matt. 6:9). We thus place God where he belongs – far above us, majestic, perfect, sinless, great, pure, ever-present kind and good. “We are dust” (Psalm 103:14) and worthless in relation to the Almighty God, ever-to-be adored.
2. Thanksgiving . Thank God for everything! For the gift of the Holy Spirit, for the gift of God's love, for Christ, his church, our Christian brothers and sisters, our families, and all God's innumerable blessings. Many Psalms are outpourings of gratitude in prayer (see Psalms 8, 9, 30, 35, 103, 117, and 118 as examples).3. Wisdom. God will grant wisdom to those who ask (2 Chronicles 1:1-13; James 1:5). We gain knowledge of God's will through a study of the Scriptures (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17; Psalm 111:5), but the ability to discreetly use the knowledge comes through prayer.
4. Others. Members of the churches of Christ pray for preachers and teachers of the gospel and for elders (2 Thess. 3:1).
They pray for all Christians (Colossians 4: 2-3; Hebrews 13:18) as well as for government officials and rulers (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Jesus taught us to love our enemies and to pray for them (Matt. 5:43-45).
Christ died for us “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8), so it behooves his disciples to love and pray for all men, including them that persecute you.”
5. Deliverance from Temptation. Jesus told his disciples to “watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41).
He said further in the model prayer, “And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matt. 6:13). God does not tempt us (James 1:12-16), but he does allow us to be tempted.
He will not “suffer you to be tempted above what you are able to bear; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
6. Peace. The world needs peace today, but it cannot be obtained in the many ways by which man has sought it in the past. Read Philippians 4:6-7 for God's way to obtain a lasting peace.7. Unity. Jesus, the Head and founder of the true church, prayed that all disciples who believe on him might be united together with each other, the same as he and his Father are “one” (John 17:20-21).
Since the prayer life of Jesus is an example for members of his church, we should pray for all Christians to be one, to be “perfectly joined together” in one mind, in the one body, the church (1 Cor. 1:10-13).
Divisions over names and doctrines are sinful and we are commanded to avoid the party spirit within the church. We should therefore pray fervently that denominational divisions be utterly and quickly destroyed. If we “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29) and speak only “as the oracles of God” (1 Pet.
4:11) there will be unity in the one body, the church for which Christ died and to which he adds the saved (Acts 20:28; 2:47). Truth and unity constitute a great part of Jesus' prayers to the Father.
GOD ANSWERS PRAYERS
When we pray “in faith” and “according to God's will,” God will hear us and will answer our prayers (Matt. 7:7-11; 21:22; 1 John 5:14). Some who pray are not heard because they ask for things to gratify their own lust (James 4:1-3). Prayers must be honest, sincere (Psalm 17:1; Isaiah 29:13) and humble (Luke 18:14).
CHRIST THE MEDIATOR
There is “one God, and one mediator between God and man, himself man, Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). In spite of this plain teaching in the Bible, today the religious world recognizes literally hundreds of mediators.
Some say to pray through Mary; others say, “No, pray through Mohammed” or some other prophet or man. Friend, there is no priest on earth through whom God is approached. Pray to God through the one he has appointed (Heb. 4:14-16; Col.
3:17; John 14:4).
Can you give a biblical example of prayers that were not acceptable to God?
What Bible teaching regarding prayer is violated by praying memorized prayers with (or without) beads?
Does God hear and answer prayers of those who have not obeyed the gospel of Christ, and who are not in the spiritual family, the church?
Can you give any Bible reference for women leading in a public prayer in assemblies when men were present? What does this suggest about church leadership today in the light of such passages as 1 Timothy 2:8-12?
Name some things for which Christians are to pray.
The visit to Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, Korea – the largest Christian Church in the world with 700,000 spirit-filled members by Günther & myself was more than an “eye-opener”.
We were deeply moved by the way, manner and method in which these brethren prayed and gained answers to their prayers.
Looking at such verses as: MARK 11:22-25, it can be said that these Korean Christians do not hesitate to fulfil what is stated here by Our Saviour & Lord, Jesus Christ!
The unbelief is swept away by concentrated prayer and belief that whatsoever is asked of God in Jesus' Name will be fulfilled!God's Word is not doubted and this was powerfully anointed to both Günther & myself.
With the following tips and points which we ourselves have “learned and watched” in the Korean Church, we wish to “aid” our European brethren in their prayer life before God. Over 60,000 new converts were saved this year alone…
and statistics show that over 70% of ALL prayer requests made by our Korean brethren are answered by God! God will answer all those who come to Him humbly and in obedience!
Pray in this way
Praying is “difficult” because it is not a conversation with another person, it is an audience with the Almighty God.
1) Start Praying by Praising God:
“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and into His Courts with praise” (PSALM 100:4). He created everything; gave us Salvation; loving care. God delights and dwells in our praises: “…who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel” (PSALM 22:3). In the O.T. the High Priest burned sweet incense 24 hours a day.
2) Repent of Your Sins:
Examine yourself before the presence of the Lord, and repent of sins. “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts: the whole earth is full of His Glory.” (ISAIAH 6:3).
The partition of disobedience and disbelief must be broken. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart, Oh God Thou wilt not despise.” (PSALM 51:17, 1 JOHN 1:9 & ISAIAH 1:18). A person who has repented of his sins, can come boldly to the Throne of Grace.
3) Make Your Requests Known to God:
“Ask and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened…” MATTHEW 7:7-11
When you come to God with a request, you must come to Him with an earnest desire.
The Bible well describes how Jesus prayed at Gethsemane, “Being in agony, He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became drops of blood, falling down upon the ground” (LUKE 22:44).
If the Son of God prayed so earnestly, how much more shall we have to pray fervently?! Jesus taught us the necessity of incessant prayer through the parable of the widow (LUKE 18:1-8). You must pray in accordance with God's Will (JAMES 4:3).
4) Express Your Thanks:
“Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” PHILIPPIANS 4:6-7
All great wonders of Christianity, sometimes beyond our imagination, result from fervent prayer. If you learn this secret of the order of prayer, you may be able to experience the proper order of God's blessing: prosperity in your spirit, the blessing of good health, and prosperity in all things (3 JOHN 2).
Pastor David Yonggi Cho taught on “Prayer Life” during a seminar; giving advice on how we ought to occupy our time during prayer before God.
Most American pastors spend a maximum of 5 minutes daily in prayer…
and Cho gave this talk to show how he has “planned his prayer time” so that he has an aim and direction in which to pray and put his petitions to God.
The following are notes and advice taken from this seminar:
- God created us to minister and fellowship unto Him.
- We are to pray, praise and worship.
- No prayer = no power!
- We must plan our prayer – we are in a spiritual battle!!
1) Improptu Prayer: (Topical Prayer)
Concerns our needs. It doesn't last long before you run requests before God. In this type of prayer you present your needs; desires and normal everyday requests before the Lord.
2) Positional Prayer:
“God, you are my Creator”! “You have total sovereign power of good and evil in my life… I am not sovereign to decide anything to do with my life” – only God can decide and direct my steps! Think of the Sovereignty of Almighty God Who is our Father.
.. we do not know which is to be “good or evil” in our lives – (think of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – GENESIS 2:17; and leave this to God to decide how our lives are to be directed!).
“I don't know which is good and evil – I will simply follow You!”
3) God is the Shepherd:
I am the sheep. God protects; nurtures me… I am not to go ahead of God. God must lead my life! Cho gave an example here how he had to wait on God for the establishment of his newspaper and of the difficulties involved…
but he wasn't to “get ahead” of the Lord's leading – God supplied his every need! The Shepherd guides us to the “green pastures” and causes us to eat and be filled and receive our needs for His work.
We don't need to struggle to do God's Work – He is in charge of everything He needs!
4) You are the Vine:
I am the branch. The activity belongs to God! Receptivity belongs to me… I am the vessel. Do NOT let me act (do anything) till You, the Lord gives/supplies! We can't do anything in our own strength!
5) God is the Husband:
I am the “wife”. The husband loves the wife and must work! God will do all the work. God provides; gives us good things… the husband's love is “work” (just as fleshly husbands). The wife only has to obey! God proves His love with gifts; sacrifices.
God gave His Son! Our role is a passive one – we simply have to OBEY! …
Therefore this is a POSITIONAL PRAYER! God is Sovereign and we are the servant!! Pray; Trust & Obey! – we wait before and upon God! God acts = we receive! Don't go ahead of God – He loves us – we are to obey! God = Leadership = we follow!
6) Ripple Prayer:
This prayer is never ending when introduced/used before the Lord. This prayer need not end and includes everything… (a) – it begins usually with oneself = pray for self and needs; confess one's sins; (b) – we then ask God to help in various needs…
(c) – pray for one's family… (d) – pray for relatives… (e) – neighbours and friends… (f) – nation and politicians… (g) – world mission – spreading God's Word through the Cell Groups and Assemblies… (h) – Pray about own Cell Group/Church and projects…
7) Tabernacle Prayer:
A knowledge of the Tabernacle as seen in Exodus Chapters 25; 26 and 27 is absolutely recommended for this prayer! Pastor Cho prays this “Tabernacle Prayer” every morning and “The Lord's Prayer” at night. – Worship God through your Body, which is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. (see 1 CORINTHIANS 6:19).
- You worship firstly at The Bronze Altar = The Cross of Jesus Christ = The Precious Blood! This is deeply meaningful and emotional. You speak to God about The Blood of Jesus – the enemy has no power! = “I am a blessed person!”
- Now “move on into The Tabernacle”… must live righteously – God will cleanse me… make me truthful and totally faithful. A holy life both in public and private is demanded! = this will give God's Power!
- Now you are at the “Laver”… God is to make me forgiving & loving. It is easy to forgive but harder to love! We are to be made meek & humble! Don't be very rough = be tender and meek! Deliver me from covetousness etc. This is where you pray to “be washed” by God's Word! = “The Laver” = French “to wash”.
- Then you enter into “The Main Sanctuary”… Candles = Light of the Holy Spirit… have only the Light of God = Golden Candlestick… without the Holy Spirit there is no burning Light! = no anointing! Here the self-image in Christ needs to be built up – he who condemns himself and has no respect with revelation of whom he is in Christ, destroys himself and turns into an animal! God is our Power; our Knowledge – we are equipped through God for all things… no matter how we have missed out on things in this world or whatever our circumstances fleshly-seen – e.g. born poor; illegitimate; etc., etc. … God is our image (2 CORINTHIANS 3:18) and the Holy Spirit helps in every way!
- Then you come to The Table of Shewbread = This is The Word – love it; take it to the lost world. Eat The Word!! (MATTHEW 4:4).
- Then you come to The Incense Altar = Praise God; Creator; Almighty God.
- Then you go into The Holy of Holies = Through Jesus = The Ark of the Covenant = Forgiveness; love; holiness and righteousness. God cannot deny His Covenant through Jesus!!
There is one condition = Believe and obey!
Cho commented that this “Prayer” takes him at least one hour!
N.B. This all shows then a need for careful and planned prayer! (You will soon find that you need more than an hour for such prayer!)
Headquarters, October 1992
Notes adapted from David Cho's talk “Prayer”; Korea, October 1982
What is Biblical PRAYER? • WebBible Encyclopedia • ChristianAnswers.Net
ChristianAnswers.Net WebBible Encyclopedia
Prayer is conversation with God; the intercourse of the soul with God, not in contemplation or meditation, but in direct address to him. Prayer may be oral or mental, occasional or constant, ejaculatory or formal. It is a…
We do not need to be well-spoken to talk to God. In fact, He hears what is in your heart, even if you can’t express it well or even talk. And the Holy Spirit promises to express to the Father what you cannot.
“…the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…” —Romans 8:26 NASB
Prayer presupposes a belief in the personality of God, His ability and willingness to communicate with us, His personal control of all things and of all His creatures and all their actions.
Persistent and watchfully alert to specific needs
Rather than being unfocused or vague in our prayers, we are to be on watchful alert for specific needs about which we should pray. The Apostle Paul urged,
“Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving…” —Col. 4:2 ESV
The Greek verb proskartereó (προσκαρτερέω) translated “devote” above means to be steadfastly persistent and perseverant. Christ emphasizes persistent prayer in Luke 11:5-10 and Luke 18:1-8.
“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints…” —Eph. 6:18 NASB
“…devoted to prayer…” —Romans 12:12b NASB
“…continually devoting themselves to prayer…” —Acts 1:14 NASB
“pray without ceasing” —1 Thessalonians 5:17 NASB
Prayer is not optional for God’s people
Prayer is frequently commanded or referred to in Scripture ( Exodus 22:23, 27; 1 Kings 3:5; Psalms 37:4; Isaiah 55:6; Joel 2:32; Ezek. 36:37).
“If…My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” —2 Chronicles 7:13-14 NASB
“Prayer is the dove that Noah sent forth, which blessed him not only when it returned with an olive-leaf in its mouth, but when it never returned at all.” —Thomas Robinson, Homiletical Commentary on the Book of Job
“We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties.” —Oswald Chambers
“We look upon prayer as a means of getting things for ourselves; the Bible idea of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself.” —Oswald Chambers
“We must move from asking God to take care of the things that are breaking our hearts, to praying about the things that are breaking His heart.” —Margaret Gibb
Acceptable prayer must be…
No rules are laid down anywhere in Scripture for the physical posture to be assumed by the suppliant (hands folded, hands held up, kneeling, stretched out with face on the ground, etc.). However, there is mention made of…
Except for the “Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13), which is, however, rather a model or pattern of prayer than a set prayer to be offered up, we have no special form of prayer for general use given us in Scripture.
Types of prayer
There are different kinds of prayer:
- Thanksgiving (prayers of gratitude)
- THANKS—Why should people and nations give thanks to their Creator? What does the Bible say about it? Answer
- What should we thank God for, and how should we praise Him? Answer
- THANKFULNESS—Tips for New and Growing Christians—GO
- Are you thankful to God? GO
- Confession and repentance
- Secret prayers (Matthew 6:6)
- Social prayers (as in family prayers and social worship)
- Public prayers, in the service of the sanctuary
- Worship and true worshippers
- Intercessory prayers (praying on behalf of others) is commanded.
“Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him…” —James 5:14a NASB
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
‘May they prosper who love you.’” —Psalm 122:6 NASB
“On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; All day and all night they will never keep silent.
You who remind the Lord, take no rest for yourselves…” —Isaiah 62:6 NASB
“…My servant Job will pray for you. For I will accept him so that I may not do with you according to your folly…” —Job 42:8 NASB
“…I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” —1 Tim. 2:1-2 NASB
Praying for those in authority includes: our nation’s leaders, our local government leaders, our church leaders (pastor, elders, ministry leaders, deacons and deaconeses), etc.
“…Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. …” —Numbers 6:23 NASB
- Praying for God’s guidance
“O Lord, I know that the path of [life of] a man is not in himself; It is not within [the limited ability of] man [even one at his best] to choose and direct his steps [in life].” —Jeremiah 10:23 Amplified Amplified Bible
“Direct my steps by Your word,
And let no iniquity have dominion over me.” —Psalm 119:133 NKJV
“I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit,
who leads you in the way you should go.” —Isaiah 48:17 NASB, ESV
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct [Or make smooth or straight] your paths.” —Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV
- Prayers of blessing
- Prayers for punishment—calling for God’s righteous judgment on enemies of God and persecutors of His people / It is acceptable for God’s righteous people to do this where warranted (Psalm 109:14-15).
Examples of answered prayers in the Bible
the prophet Isaiah praying
- Abraham’s servant prayed to God, and God directed him to the person who should be wife to his master’s son and heir (Genesis 24:10-20).
- Jacob prayed to God, and God inclined the heart of his irritated brother, so that they met in peace and friendship (Genesis 32:24-30; 33:1-4).
- Samson prayed to God, and God showed him a well where he quenched his burning thirst, and so lived to judge Israel (Judges 15:18-20).
- David prayed, and God defeated the counsel of Ahithophel (2 Samuel 15:31; 16:20-23; 17:14-23).
- Daniel prayed, and God enabled him both to tell Nebuchadnezzar his dream and to give the interpretation of it (Dan. 2:16-23).
- Nehemiah prayed, and God inclined the heart of the king of Persia to grant him leave of absence to visit and rebuild Jerusalem (Neh. 1:11; 2:1-6).
- Esther and Mordecai prayed, and God defeated the purpose of Haman, and saved the Jews from destruction (Esther 4:15-17; 6:7-8).
- The believers in Jerusalem prayed, and God opened the prison doors and set Peter at liberty, when Herod had resolved upon his death (Acts 12:1-12).
- Paul prayed that the thorn in the flesh might be removed, and his prayer brought a large increase of spiritual strength, while the thorn perhaps remained (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
We have very many Biblical testimonies that prayers have been answered (Psalms 3:4; 4:1; 6:8; 18:6; 28:6; 30:2; 34:4; 118:5; James 5:16-18, etc.).
- Abraham (Genesis 17:18, 20; 18:23-32; 20:7, 17-18)
- Moses for…
- Samuel (1 Samuel 7:5-12)
- Solomon (1 Kings 8; 2 Chronicles 6)
- Elijah (1 Kings 17:20-23)
- Elisha (2 Kings 4:33-36)
- Isaiah (2 Kings 19)
- Jeremiah (Jeremiah 42:2-10)
- Peter (Acts 9:40)
- The church (12:5-12)
- Paul’s prayer for the father of Publius (28:8)
- Discover the good news that Jesus Christ offers
Questions & Answers about God
- GOD—How can we know there’s a God? Answer
- What if the cosmos is all that there is? Answer
- If God made everything, who made God? Answer
- What does God say? Answer
- Is Jesus Christ God? Answer
- ACCURACY—How do we know the Bible is true? Answer
- INERRANCY—When we say that the Bible is the Word of God, does that imply that it is completely accurate, or does it contain insignificant inaccuracies in details of history and science? Answer
- INFALLIBILITY—How can the Bible be infallible if it is written by fallible humans? Answer
- SUFFERING—What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer
- Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer
Article Version: November 26, 2018
Posture During Prayer
Very often church members ask about the proper posture in prayer, whether in church we should only pray kneeling down or whether sitting or standing are also correct postures.
The question is provoked by the teachings of some well-intended church members who, their personal study, have concluded that all prayers in church should be offered on our knees.
The debate demonstrates that for many church members prayer is very significant and meaningful and they want to ensure that in its practice they are following God’s instructions. We will discuss this issue not to discourage interest in this very important subject of Christian praxis, but to provide information and clarification.
According to Scripture, prayers are presented to God by His people in different circumstances and physical postures. I will summarize the most important biblical information on the topic.
1. Kneeling: There are many examples of people praying to the Lord on their knees, suggesting that this was a very common practice.
Daniel prayed on his knees three times a day (Dan 6:10), Stephen fell on his knees and talked to the Lord before he died as a martyr (Acts 7:60), and Peter knelt down before the corpse of Tabitha, prayed for her and she came back to life (Acts 9:40; see also Acts 20:36; Eph 3:14). Sometimes the person placed the head on the knees while praying (1 Kgs 1:13).
Kneeling was a ritual expression of the willing surrender of the life of the worshiper to God. By kneeling down the worshipers went voluntarily down to the dust, from which humans were created, surrendering their lives to the Lord in prayer (cf. 2 Kgs 1:13).
Standing: Standing before the Lord in prayer was also a common practice, perhaps more common than kneeling. One of the most impressive cases is found in 2 Chronicles 20 where a corporate act of prayer is described. When Judah was about to be invaded by the combined military forces of Moab and Ammon, Jehoshaphat called the people to pray to the Lord.
He stood in the assembly in the house of the Lord and prayed for liberation while the people were “standing before the Lord” (2Chr 20:5, 13). Hannah presented to the Lord her petition while standing, and the Lord answered her (1 Sam 1:26). Job also prayed standing (Job 30:20).
The Jews used to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to display their piety. Jesus condemned the pride but not the practice of praying standing (Matt 6:5).
In fact, he endorsed it when he said to the disciples, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions” (Mark 11:25).Standing in prayer emphasizes the privilege we have to approach God and address him with our needs and concerns knowing that he can grant us our petitions. Those who were allowed to have an audience with a king usually stood before him and presented to him their petitions (cf. Esther 5:2).
Standing in prayer means that we acknowledge God as the king of the universe and consider it a privilege to approach him to request from him guidance, blessings and favors.
3. Sitting Down: The practice of praying to the Lord while sitting down is rare in the Bible but not totally absent. A good example is king David, who “went in and sat down before the Lord, and he said . . .” (2 Sam 7:18; NASB). This is the posture assumed by an individual who is seeking instructions from the Lord, through his prophet (e.g. 2 Kings 4:38; Ezek 8:1; 33:31), and who is ready to serve him.
4. Lying Down: We also find in the Bible cases in which people prayed during the night from their beds. While lying on the bed they remembered the Lord and meditated on him (Ps 4:4; 63:6). Sometimes the person would bow down (prostrate) on the bed and pray to the Lord (1 Kgs 1:47). Praying while lying down on a bed places the emphasis on prayer as an opportunity to meditate on the goodness of the Lord and to approach him during the night seeking his help. This is a private act of personal piety.
5. Prostration: When prostrating, people lay down horizontally with their faces on the ground and usually with outstretched arms. One of the knees remained bent in order to facilitate rising up from the ground. Rarely is prostration clearly associated with prayer in the Bible. (e.g. 1 Kgs 1:47; Mark 14:35). It is fundamentally an expression of homage and submission before a superior. The person seeking the help of the king prostrated before him in dependence and submission (2 Sam 14:4). It was also practiced to greet a superior (2 Sam 14:22), or as an act of homage (1 Sam 28:14). In religious contexts, this is the posture of worship (cf. 2 Chr 20:18). It intensified the conviction that God was the very source of human life and the one who could preserve it (e.g. Num 16:45; Josh 7:6; 2 Sam 7:16). Sometimes worshipers came before the Lord, prostrated before him as an act of homage and then assumed the posture of kneeling probably to pray to him (Ps 95:6). Prostration before the gods was very common throughout the ancient Near East as an expression of homage, submissiveness, worship, and dependence. Prostration did not become an indispensable aspect of worship in the Christian church probably because God no longer manifested himself or dwelt permanently in a particular place on earth, but was accessible through his Son (cf. John 4:21-24).
This review of postures during prayer in the Bible indicates that there was not one particular posture that was always required from worshipers when addressing the Lord with their requests. Postures are important in the sense that they are the external expression of reverence, inner feelings, and commitments to the Lord, but one of them was not large enough to encompass all of those experiences. Hence, we find in Scripture a diversity of options and possibilities. Any attempt to select one as superior and indispensable over the others lacks biblical support.
The Writings of E. G. White
Ellen G. White emphasizes praying on our knees and encourages us to do it. She wrote: “Both in public and private worship, it is our privilege to bow on our knees before the Lord when we offer our petitions to Him” (Gospel Workers, p. 178).
We should never consider kneeling down a burden but a privilege. Again she comments that, “both in public and private worship it is our duty to bow down upon our knees before God when we offer our petitions to Him. This act shows our dependence upon God” (Selected Messages, vol. 2, p. 312).
Statements those should not be used to teach that the only proper position for prayer in public worship is kneeling. She makes it clear that it is not always necessary to kneel down in prayer (Ministry of Healing, pp. 510-511). While participating in public worship, E. G.
White herself at times asked the congregation to stand for a prayer of consecration(Selected Messages, vol. 3, pp. 268, 269), or to remain seated (ibid., pp. 267-268), or to kneel down (Selected Messages, vol. 1, pp. 148-149).
One must conclude that according to her, kneeling down was not the exclusive posture of prayer in church. In her private life she even prayed sitting in bed (Review & Herald, December 13, 1906).
By way of summary we can conclude that according to the Bible and E. G. White there are different postures for prayer and the importance of one of them does not exclude any of the others. During worship the Adventist church allows for praying sitting down, standing up or kneeling down.
Since worship should be characterized by order, it is important that when the community of believers comes together to seek the Lord we all follow the common liturgical elements accepted in our worship services.
Those who in church kneel down to pray when the rest of the community is praying standing up may be unintentionally displaying piety in a questionable way.