What did you ask for?
It’s one of those questions that is often asked near Christmas, particularly when speaking to a young child, “What (presents) did you ask Santa for?” Think back over your younger years – how did you answer? For myself, and as I grew older, my expectations were tempered by what I learnt. No point in asking for the expensive present that you knew was not going to appear! So my requests became more realistic. I had more confidence that my desire would be granted. Hold onto that thought while your read on.
When did you last ask God?
When in an impossible or tragic situation we may find ourselves feeling the need to pray for help. Yet at such times we may feel helpless, not knowing how to pray. Where should we start? Should we ask someone else? Should we pray to God or to a particular saint – and if so, which one? Will prayer work? To help answer some of these questions, let’s turn to the Bible to learn about prayer.
Who can pray?
Throughout the Bible, both men and women are noted as praying to God. Some were leaders, others just ordinary people. We find examples of people praying for others; or asking for their circumstances in life to be changed – individually or as a larger group of people. Quite simply, there is no restriction on who can pray to God.
Is Prayer Effective?
Another point that shines through is that the better one understands God’s purpose, the more likely the request is to be granted. That’s where my analogy of the questions for Santa may help – not that I seek to limit the power of God – but God will only act in accord with His purpose. Consider what Jesus said about it, and then in the second passage, what the apostle John had learnt:
Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.
And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
1 John 5:14-15
We find that the effectiveness of our prayers depends on our faith. So how can we increase our faith? Again, the answer is simple (though the practice might take more effort) – read your Bible.
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
How should be pray?
The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray and his answer was the model prayer we know as The Lord’s Prayer – you can read it in Luke 11 or Matthew 6. He taught us to acknowledge the distinctiveness and power of God; to remember His purpose; to ask for daily provisions to sustain us, for guidance in life, for forgiveness.
How can our prayers be helped?
There are a number of passages that say we should pray for others – to do that we need to know about each other and what each is praying for:
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
The second verse mentions saints and it may surprise you to note that again it is praying for others and not to others. Looking at other uses of the word ‘saint’ we find that they are living people who are doing their best to live by the example set by God’s Son, the Lord Jesus. They are not dead people in the next life. Here are two reasons. When we die, we know nothing, can do nothing.
For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?
Secondly, the reward for the faithful comes when Jesus returns to the earth and raises them to life again.
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
1 Thessalonians 4:16