During the earthly ministry of Jesus, he took time to be alone to pray to his heavenly Father. Jesus also prayed publicly to bless meals and at the tomb of Lazarus. Jesus, in his sermon on the mount, gave his followers doctrinal instructions on the topic of prayer.
Jesus’ instructions to his disciples concerning prayer were that they should not make prayer an ostentatious show as the Pharisees did. Instead, they were to keep their prayer life simple, humble and without pretense. Jesus told his followers that their heavenly Father would respond to their supplication that emanated from a heart wanting to please the Father and willing to obey his commands.
The disciples did not pray while Jesus was with them, but they noticed that the disciples of John the Baptist prayed. Inspired by the attitude of John’s disciples, Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them to pray. Jesus made it very simple for them. He gave them a prayer that was short enough to be memorized. Both Matthew and Luke record this prayer in their gospels (Matt.6:9-13 and Luke 11:1-4). Throughout the centuries after the death and resurrection of Jesus, this prayer is repeated in homes, schools, churches, workplaces by Christians all over the world.
As the Church grew in the years after Christ’s resurrection, the Holy Spirit taught and inspired the apostles to give further instructions on prayer. Paul, the most prolific writer in the New Testament, has given Christians much to digest concerning the subject of petitioning God.
Praying Should Be Habitual
When someone asked Jesus why his disciples did not pray, he said that there was no need for them to pray when he was with them, but once he departed, they would pray. Paul instructed Christians to let pray become a habit that engages our mind always. We are familiar with Paul’s injunctions for us to “pray without ceasing” and “pray always”. For the Christian, praying should not just be confined to the quiet time we set aside every day. During the course of our day, we should break out in spontaneous pray and praise to God regarding the many situations that the day may present. (1Thes.5:16-18; Col.1:9; 1Thes.1:2; 1Thes.5:7; Col.4:2).
Pray for fellow believers
The Bible makes it clear that believers are members of the household of God; we are brothers and sisters in the Lord. Our love for each other should lead us to pray for and support believers around the globe. When afflictions come on believers in one part of the world, other believers elsewhere ought to intercede on their half. We should be praying for persecuted Christians in North Korea, Iran, Pakistan and other countries. Pray that God will give them the patience to endure and remain firm in the faith. Pray that through the faithful endurance of his saints, their persecutors will become converted. Pray for the sick and for those who have fallen into sin that God will restore them. (Jas.5:16, 1Thes.1:3 Jas.5:13).
Pray for the Proclamation of the gospel
Jesus Christ gave his disciples a final command to take the gospel to all the world. All believers have accepted that each of us has a responsibility to do our part in the spread of the gospel. As part of our effort to see the world evangelized, every believer is called upon to pray that those who preach the gospel will do so boldly, honestly and faithfully. We should pray that doors will be opened for the gospel to reach those who have never heard the gospel before. (Col.4:3; 2Thes.3:1;).
Pray for our leaders
The leaders of our respective countries are faced with significant and sometimes difficult decisions as they try to determine what is best for their people. Every Christian is therefore asked to pray for their leaders, that they would provide an atmosphere where life will be pleasant for all. 1Tim.2:1-2.
Christians are encouraged to worship God and give him thanks for all that we have. Our prayers should not be a continual litany ‘Lord, give me this’ ‘Lord, give me that’. We owe much gratitude to God for all the love, care, mercies, goodness, compassion, protection, forgiveness, salvation, grace, guidance, healing, food, and clothing he daily bestows on us. Yes, we may have problems of one kind or another, but all of us have much for which we should thank God. The Psalmist says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Ps.118:1. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.1Thes.5:18 (Phil.4:6; Phil.1:3-4)
There is much around us that we can bring to our heavenly Father. The needs of our families, friends, neighbours, country and churches are so enormous that we can never run out of things to pray. Praying the Scriptures is another neat idea. For example, some people pray the Psalms. I like to pray the prayers of Paul for the Ephesians, Colossians, and Philippians, Ephesians 6:10-18; Rev.5:12; 7:12. As you grow and become more adept in your prayer life, the Holy Spirit will guide you in things and people to pray for as well as how you can incorporate more of the scriptures into your prayers.