Talk of prayer is evident in the Christian home, church, and Holy Bible. We talk about prayer as a means of gaining wisdom, making important decisions, and otherwise living life as God desires for us. Why?
There are numerous examples of people using prayer in the Bible for the same reasons. In some of these instances, prayer is evoked to bring about healing over physical or emotional ailments and even victory over enemies in battle. We can conclude then that prayer at some level is a conversation between the person (or persons) praying and God. Yet, in order to fully comprehend prayer, there first needs to be an understanding of communication.
Communication is the basic foundation for any relationship, friendly, romantic, business. Humans utilize communication through spoken language and also nonverbal body language. Communication is vital in the life of a Christian, not just in how we relate to other people, but more importantly to God. Our language, spoken or otherwise, constantly affects our relationship with Him and our ability to live out His commandments.
At its root, there are three pieces to communication: “the sender, the message, and the recipient.” In prayer, Christians alternate between the roles of sender and recipient. When we operate as the sender, we pray to God seeking some sort of spiritual discernment. We send a message, which God receives. When God answers our prayers, we become the recipient, taking in the message that He sends.
Studying communication explains how prayer fosters a relationship between ourselves and God, and with other people. However, this does not explain the need for prayer in the Christian life. Nor does having communication with God mean He is listening to us. How are we to be sure? For these answers, we must turn to the Bible for insight.
Does God Hear Our Prayers?
We know that prayer is our way of communicating with God. The Bible helps us to further this understanding by giving us examples of how others pray and what they prayed about. One great example comes from Matthew 6 when Jesus presents the Lord’s Prayer. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus draws a comparison between true believers and hypocrites. He calls for those following His teaching to not pray out in the open to be seen and admired by others (Matthew 6:5).
Instead, Jesus advocates for a more personal and intimate conversation with God, one that does not to be heard by others to be heard by God. Important to note is that Jesus does not say to only pray in private, but that public prayer done for admiration is wrong. In this sermon, He goes on to recite the Lord’s prayer which embodies all the reasons why Christians pray.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10)
Jesus himself informs us of our greatest responsibilities as Christians (Mathew 22:34-40). With this in mind, we can confirm that prayer helps us to live a life dedicated to loving God and others. When we pray, we make our requests known to God, which helps us efficiently live out our responsibilities. Thus, according to Jesus, prayer is intimate, personal, and often private. When we pray, we may seek things to benefit ourselves, but any and all things should redirect us to fulfilling the first and second greatest commandments.
This explains why we pray to God. We pray because of who God is, our Father in Heaven, the one who grants us salvation, the one who guides us through life. We pray in order to live out His will as He has deemed for believers. Like Jesus, there were many figures in the Bible who used prayer to communicate with God. We can follow all of their examples of how to pray, when, and what to communicate to God.
One question still remains though, how do we know God hears our prayers. The Bible too answers this.
How Do We Know That God Hears Our Prayers?
The entirety of the Bible can be read as a love story, a story of God caring so much about humanity that He sacrificed His son in an act of redemption. How do we know God hears our prayers? He loves us.
We know that God hears our prayers because of the prayer accounts presented in the Bible. People tell the story of God answering their prayers, how they prayed, and what they prayed about. The aforementioned example of Jesus in Matthew 6 is just one account of many. And there are lines in the Bible of God himself speaking, that reaffirm He hears our prayers.
“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
Not being able to hear God as we would another person does not mean we cannot find Him. We also don’t pray to other people, meaning our relationship with God is bound to look different. Our relationship with God is governed by our faith and not by our ability to see Him or audibly hear him (2 Corinthians 5:7).
This information lets us know that God hears our prayers. We can look at the evidence in the Bible and the evidence in our own lives of God answering our prayers. God may not act when we want, or exactly how we want, but God does act when we pray according to His will. Knowing that God hears our prayers makes us better equipped to communicate with Him.
What Can We Learn from the Way People Prayed in the Bible?
Prayer Is Honest
“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?”
Psalm 13 is a great reflection of the human experience of suffering. David prays to God with questions. He is not only seeking insight, but deliverance. His words show that he is not approaching God timidly, but openly bearing his anguish. His words are so dramatic as to question God. Nonetheless, David ends on an upbeat note, saying that he will remain trusting in God.
When we pray, we can share with God our positive experiences, as some of the psalms reveal. However, we can also talk to God about our suffering. Much like the conversations we have with peers, everything we discuss does not have to be positive. God wants to be a part of every aspect of our lives, including the moments of despair and desperation.
Prayer Is Constant
We are called to pray every day. Much like any relationship with a person, what we invest in our communication is what we will get out of the relationship. The more we commune with God the stronger our bond. There is no time limit the Bible issues on prayer. Quite the opposite. As Christians, when we learn to pray without ceasing, we will begin to see God is all aspects of our lives. However difficult, the benefits are worthwhile.
Prayer Is Not Instantaneous
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Paul serves as a great example of someone who prayed for God to deliver Him from suffering, but God did not. God had His reasons, and Paul was fortunate enough to learn why. When we pray, God may not answer certain prayers when we want, how we want, or at all. We have to trust His reasoning and timing.
Prayer Brings Healing
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16)
Prayer has the power to bring about miracles, whether God is performing the miracle Himself or working through someone. As we seek to bring God’s kingdom to Earth, our prayers for spiritual discernment will put us on the path God sees fit. All the while we can include in our prayers, moments of gratitude, thanking God for the highs and lows of life knowing that He is present always.
The Lord’s Prayer
There are many aspects of prayer. Ultimately, we can conclude that prayer is vital for a relationship with God. Prayer allows us to communicate with Him in a way we do not with other people. Through our words and our actions, we have the ability to live a life that is God-centered like Jesus, or not. Part of power resides in prayer. With this in mind, we can recite the Lord’s prayers with greater wisdom as to how we pray and why we should.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
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Aaron D'Anthony Brown is a freelance writer, hip-hop dance teacher, and visual artist, living in Virginia. He currently contributes work to iBelieve, Crosswalk, and supports various clients through the platform Upwork. He's an outside-the-box thinker with a penchant for challenging the status quo. Check out his short story “Serenity.”