When I was a child, my Sunday School teacher taught me to pray to Jesus for other people and myself. As a teenager, a minister taught more on prayer. He said prayers to God should include the words from the acronym A.C.T.S. – Adoration, Confession, Thanks, and Supplication. Considering the latter, I find it interesting the Bible records more prayers about petitioning God for one’s self and others than any other part of A.C.T.S. I believe this occurs because people throughout time realized their need for God to provide for them and intervene for them where they lived. Most people approach God when his or her body or life is under threat. Do we forget Him at other times and only realize our need for Him in our lives when we face dire days? We see this truth for many of God’s children. Yet for those who strive to have a growing faith and relationship with God, prayer is more than an SOS. It concerns relationship. Prayer is growing one’s relationship with Yahweh God, which requires speaking and listening, as we learned in the first part of this study, PRAYER: What is Prayer and How do We approach God? Let us now consider how to pray to God.
Petition for Self
Both the Old and New Testaments record people praying to God as petitioning Him to help them. Authors of books in the Bible recorded twenty-four times when people “petitioned” God to help them. The New Testament records these prayers of petition nine times. Consider these verses:
· Judges 15:18,
· 2 Samuel 7:27
· 1 Kings 8:28, 8:38
· Nehemiah 4:9
· Job 21:15
· Psalm 5:2, 18:6, 35:13, 66:17
· Jeremiah 29:12
· Daniel 2:23, 9:20
· Matthew 7:11
· Mark 11:24
· Luke 11:13, 21:36
· John 16:26
· Acts 7:59, 8:24
· Philippians 4:6
· 1 Thessalonians 3:10
· 2 Thessalonians 3:1
· James 1:5-7, 4:2
· 1 John 5:14-15
Besides these verses, which in specific mention “praying for” or “petitioning” the Lord for one’s self, other verses record people “crying out to” or “pleading for” the Lord’s help in their plight. These verses include 1 Kings 8:45; Psalms 4:1, 17:1, 35:13, 66:17, 88:2, 118:5, and 143:1; and Lamentations 3:8.
Petition for Others
As mentioned in an earlier paragraph, petitioning to God for other people occurred often in the Bible. “Petitioning” God for other people occurred twenty-three times in the Bible. Sometimes “petitioning” God for one’s self happened at the same time as petitioning for other people. The verses that record these prayers are –
· 1 Samuel 7:5, 12:19
· 1 Kings 8:28
· Job 42:8
· Jeremiah 7:16, 11:14, 14:22
· Daniel 9:20
· Luke 22:32
· Acts 13:3
· 2 Corinthians 1:11
· Philippians 1:19, 4:6
· Ephesians 6:18
· Colossians 1:9, 4:3
· 1 Thessalonians 3:10, 5:25
· 2 Thessalonians 3:1
· 1 Timothy 2:1-2
· Hebrews 13:18
· James 5:16
When people petition for other people, they care enough for that person to intervene for them to God asking His help or protection for the person. Notice, when we pray to God as part of a growing relationship with Him, we do it because of love for Him. When we pray for other people, we do it because of our care/love for those people. This shows we obey what God commanded in the Old Testament with the Ten Commandments – love God (commandments 1-4) and love other people (commandments 5-10) (Deuteronomy 5:4-21). It shows, too, what Jesus taught with the Greatest Commandment – love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40). Jesus taught His followers to go a step further than this with His next teaching.
Pray for Persecutors
Jesus, in the New Testament, taught what God taught in the Old Testament, but He took it a step further. He taught the people the neighbor they were to love could be their enemy. Jesus taught His followers to love their enemies and pray for them, even those who persecute them (Matthew 5:44). To love and pray for their enemies, Christians must be in a growing relationship with God. They must become more Christlike. By becoming more Christlike, the love of God for their enemy grows in the Christian. From that growth of love, the believer can love and pray for his/her enemies. By loving and praying for one’s enemies, the believer will be like Jesus when He loved and prayed for those who persecuted Him. Remember when Jesus was on the cross and prayed to the Father saying, “Father forgive them; they know not what they do” (Luke 22:34)? When a person becomes more Christlike, loving a person no matter who they are or what they have done can occur because of God’s love for that person and all people.
You may ask, “What happened to A.C.T.S.?” The Bible writers wrote so much regarding petitioning God and asking Him to help that it appears adoration, confession, and thanks are unimportant. That is not true though. Remember, in communication we ask people to help us, and encourage them, thank them, and often confess sins/faults to them just as James taught in James 5:16. These elements of relationship must be part of our conversations, our relationship, with God, too. They are more important with our conversations with God than with people.
When we sin, we sin against God. Remember, sinning separates us from God because He will not be in the presence of sin since He is holy. God is holy and all-powerful. To be able to be in His presence, each person must be made holy again each day because each person sins daily. Because God is merciful, He will forgive our sins when we confess, repent, and ask for His forgiveness. Each person must do this to be in a relationship with Him. The blood of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who died to take the sins away from people who believe, makes the believer pure, clean, and holy. Confession is a person’s recognition of his or her sins against God and His laws. Repentance is the grief and guilt a person experiences because he or she disobeyed God and thereby, created a rift in his or her relationship with Him. Repentance brings a person to God seeking His forgiveness and causes a person to turn around to follow God once again. By confessing and repenting daily of sins, each person’s relationship with God remains unstrained and open. He created each person because of His love and wants a relationship with everyone. David, Nehemiah, Daniel, Luke, James, and John each speak on confession and repentance in these verses –
· 1 Kings 8:28
· Nehemiah 1:6
· Psalm 42:8
· Daniel 9:20
· Acts 8:22
· James 5:16
· Revelations 5:8
Throughout the Bible, individual writers of the books and Jesus taught that prayer should includes thanks to God, too. To be in a growing and strong relationship, communication must include thanking the person for caring, helping, and praying for you. A relationship with God through Jesus Christ should include thanks to Him, too. God does and has done many things for us over the years as individuals and as a group of believers from the beginning of time.
David said in his prayer only those who lived with God could thank Him (Psalm 6:5). Daniel thanked God for giving him power and wisdom (Daniel 2:23). Jesus thanked His Father for the fish and bread to feed the 5000 people (Luke 9:16-17). Paul taught people to thank God for what He would do in answer to their prayers (Philippians 4:6). He told them to devote themselves to prayer and thanksgiving to God, too (Colossians 4:2). Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 each Christian should pray and petition God for people in authority and give thanks for those leaders. Finally, in 1 Thessalonians 6:16-18, he told the people of Thessalonica to give thanks in everything. As seen, thanks to God should be part of every prayer. Believers must thank Him for what He has done and will do in their lives and the lives of other people for whom they pray. By prayer and with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Trust Him because of His love for you.
Praising and exalting God is adoration. God deserves praise because He is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (all places at once), and because He is the One true God. David, Daniel, Paul, James, and Luke praised God and taught other followers of Jesus to adore (praise and exalt) Him.
David called God His Rock and Redeemer. He was the strength upon whom David could rely (Psalm 19:14). David said God was merciful (loving-kindness) in Psalm 66:20. He called God his King and extolled (praised and exalted) Him (Psalm 5:2 & 66:17). Daniel recalled his ancestors followed Yahweh God and He carried them. He said God gave him wisdom and power (Daniel 2:23). Paul and Silas gave testimony of God’s greatness and love while they were in prison (Acts 20:26). Paul taught believers to rejoice always because the Lord was their God. He aligned this with thanking Him in all circumstances and praying continually (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). James taught people to pray with cheerful songs to God. John saw people bowing before the Lamb in a vision while on Patmos (Revelation 5:8).
Adoration - praise and exaltation - is a form of prayer/song to and about God. Adoration is different from thanks because it does not necessarily refer back to what God has done, but always to who God is. Believers learn to praise God because He is greater than anything life can throw at us and we know God – our God – conquers all things. Christians can have hope in the midst of trying times because they know they will be in heaven with Him one day. Knowing God as Lord, Redeemer, Creator, Protector, and Provider gives believers joy and hope and that should flow back to Him as praise and exaltation – adoration. Adoration and thanks to God come out of our love for God as believers.
In the first two lessons on prayer, we learned that prayer is communicating and communing with God, which requires speaking to Him and listening to what He says. For communication to be effective and growing, it must be two-way. God listens to our prayers and responds to them as David and Daniel found out. He is faithful to His children even if they are unfaithful to Him.
In the second part of the first lesson, we learned we have to recognize God for who He is and approach Him with reverence. We must recognize His mercy, existence, power, faithfulness, righteousness, and that He rules over all from heaven. Besides this, when we pray and revere God, we give a testimony regarding God through our prayers. Paul and Silas did this while in prison.
The second lesson taught us how to pray. Whether using the acronym of A.C.T.S. or remembering the specific parts from the Bible verses above, we must remember prayer – communication with God – includes each aspect as seen in the teachings of Jesus, the apostles, and other Bible writers. Besides this, for our prayers to be genuine - providing a growing relationship with God and a growing Christlikeness - we should praise and exalt God, confess and ask forgiveness, thank Him, and petition for ourselves and other people, including our leaders and enemies. By offering prayers in each of these areas, we show love for other people and for God. We will have a continual growing relationship with God for which He provided salvation for every person.
Relevance and Conclusion
How active and vibrant is your prayer life? Do you just go to God when you need help or want something? Is He your super-Santa? That should not be.
If you are a Christian, you should continue to grow in your relationship with God. This relationship occurs because He provided the cleansing from your sins that separated you from Him through the blood of His only Son, Jesus Christ, who died for each person’s sin penalty – death and eternal separation from God.
If you pray regularly, do you remember to adore, praise, and exalt Him? Do you thank Him daily? Often we have our needs supplied and we do not give a thought that God’s faithfulness to us provided what we needed before we asked. The bed you slept on last night, for example, you probably bought or received it years ago, but forget to thank Him for it and praise Him each day for knowing in advance just what you needed before you did. That is God’s omniscience. That is God’s faithful love to you, too.
Do you ask God to help you see your sins of the day so you can confess them and ask for forgiveness from Him? God’s righteousness means He will not be in the presence of sin, which means He will not be in your presence because of your sin. His righteousness has a flip side, like a coin. Because God is righteous, He must bring judgment for sin, yet because of His mercy and loving-kindness, He provided the penalty-bearer (Jesus Christ) before your birth and later sin. This action for you means He genuinely wants to be in a relationship with you. Have you confessed your sin today so God can give you His love and mercy today?
Praying for things is as natural as breathing to most of us. Want, need, and desire remind us to pray for our circumstances and ourselves. Praying for other people is not as easy to remember. Just as we breathe and petition God for ourselves, we should petition for other people, including our enemies.
What is prayer? It involves and affects our relationship with God. Prayer is two-way communication with God that brings growth in our relationship with Him and in our Christlikeness. It produces Christian virtues and leads us closer to Him and closer to perfection through salvation in Christ.
It is time to reflect upon ourselves. What are our questions today?
v Do you pray each day?
v Do you recognize God for who He is and revere Him?
v Are you in a growing relationship with the Lord so you do not have a Christmas wish list, but love and effective communication?