… God … answered their prayers

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.. God … answered their prayers, because they trusted in him. (1 Chr 5:20 NIV)

1Thes 5:16-18 Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

Prayer and thanksgiving are a commandment of God. God’s will for prayer is that those who are “in Christ Jesus,” that is, those who are in the church (see 1 Thes 1:1), should pray and give thanks frequently and with regularity. Prayer and thanksgiving are activities that the Christian, one who is in Christ Jesus and a part of his church, can engage in anytime, anywhere, on any occasion.

But what is prayer, and what does it do?

Jesus said, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matt 6:5-8 NIV)

Prayer is presented by Jesus as a simple activity, personal conversation, one on one with God. It should be natural, as is conversation with anyone we know, not stilted or formalized or wordy or showy. There is a need for private prayer, Jesus says, the believer alone with God. Jesus also talked about shared prayers, prayers in the presence of others in the example often called the Lord’s prayer (Matt 6:9-13, where the pronouns indicate a shared prayer). Simplicity is a key feature, most prayers are about the basics of our lives, which include our physical needs, and our relationships with God and man.

Paul wrote, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” (Rom 10:1 NIV)

Paul’s prayer came, he said, from his heart’s desire. Our prayers too should come from our heart’s desire. And our heart’s desires should become our prayers. If by any chance our heart’s desire is something we don’t want to talk to God about, we surely need a change of heart and better desires. “From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” Jesus said (Matt 12:34). It is God’s desire that we should “know that we belong to the truth,” and “set our hearts at rest in his presence” so that “we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.” (I Jn 3:19-22 NIV) A heart yielded to God approaches him with peace and confidence in prayer and deed.

Paul wrote: So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind. If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified. (1 Cor 14:15-17 NIV)

Public prayer is a part of the regular meetings of the church, and must be done in a way that conforms to the teachings of Jesus and Paul. Prayer is not for making the one praying look good to others, but is to present an understandable, heart-felt message to God, that others can agree with and say amen to. Public prayer should build up those who hear it, as God is praised and thanked. Vocal prayer is meant by God to be a blessing to the church as well as a means of bringing him praise and presenting our requests and concerns to him. Congregational prayer, as Paul describes it, should engage the whole being physically, spiritually, and intellectually. Prayer is rightly emotional, but it is emotion with intelligent direction and content. Group prayers call for thoughtful speaking and listening, that believers may join together in presenting their hearts’ desires to God, knowing that he cares and responds.

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