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Teach Us to Pray!

God wants you to come to Him through prayer. He not only invites you to do so, but also promises to hear; bless, and answer you as you respond to His invitation. In Jesus Christ, God makes that knowledge and assurance known to you in His Word. In the following Bible study, we invite you to learn God's life-transforming truths about prayer. His Word will greatly strengthen and encourage you to pray: "Lord, teach [me] to pray" (Luke 11:1).

What is Prayer?
Question: Popularly understood, prayer is an attempt, even by non-Christians, to talk to God. The Bible has many references describing prayer. What is prayer according to Genesis 4:26; Psalms 62:8, 107:6, 142:1-2; and I Chronicles 16:11? Answer: In its simplest form, prayer is "calling upon the name of the Lord" Prayer is also placing trust in God; pouring our hearts out to Him, knowing that He is able "to deliver us" in times of distress and trouble. Prayer is to seek "the Lord and His strength"
Question: According to Psalm 32:5 and Psalm 102:1-2, with what attitude and desire should we call upon God through prayer? Answer: When we call upon God in prayer, we are to confess who we are: sinners who are undeserving of His mercy. Yet, knowing His great love for us, we ask that He listen and "answer (us) speedily."
Why Pray?
Question: Why should we pray? See Psalm 50:15; Matthew 7:7-8; Isaiah 65:24. Answer: God has commanded us to pray. Thus, we pray in response to God's loving invitation, "Call upon me," "Ask and it shall be given you." According to Isaiah, we pray because God has promised to hear us.
How Do I Pray?
Question: According to Matthew 6:7, does God hear all prayers? Answer: No. Jesus said unbelievers mistakenly assume that God hears all prayers.
Question: Whose prayers are heard? See Proverbs 15:29. Next, examine 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Philippians 3:9 to understand the foundation of righteousness. Answer: God hears the prayers of the righteous. But, because of our sinful human nature, we are powerless to make ourselves righteous and acceptable to come before God in prayer. The good news is that God, because of Jesus' sinless life, death, and resurrection, declares us righteous. Jesus Christ became sin for us; His righteousness is ours by faith. Thus, we are confident that God hears and answers our prayers because of Christ, "our righteousness."
To Whom Should We Pray?
Question: Can the Virgin Mary, or departed saints or loved ones act as an intercessor between God and us? Carefully read what John 14:6, 1 Timothy 2:5, Hebrews 7:25 and 9:24 teach us about who alone intercedes for us at God's throne of grace. Answer: Neither departed saints nor the Virgin can approach God's throne for us. There is only one mediator (intercessor) between God and man: Jesus. Christ alone died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead to defeat death and the devil. Now this same Jesus appears "in the presence of God for us" (Hebrews 9:24).
Question: According to Hebrews 2:17-18 and 4:14-16, what does it mean that Jesus is our High Priest, and what assurance does that knowledge give us in prayer? Answer:As our High Priest, Jesus intimately knows our suffering, weaknesses, and temptations. When you and I come to God in prayer through Jesus' intercessory name, we have assurance that, in confidence, "we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in (our) time of need."
Question: Jesus explained THE KEY to God-pleasing prayer in John 15:7. What does it mean to "abide" in Christ? Answer: The promise Christ gives in John 15:7 is built upon His previous analogy of the vine and the branch (John 15:1-6). By itself, a branch has no power to abide or remain in the vine. Nor can it join itself to the vine-stock. Like the vine, Jesus' living Word both commands and enables us to live attached to Him. When we meditate daily on His Word, we are "abiding" or "continuing" in Christ.
Question: If Christ's words "abide" in us, what effect will His words have on the prayers we speak to God? What will we ask of God if Jesus controls our mind and life? Answer: When Christ's living words (John 6:63) "abide" in us, they take control of our thinking. Christ's Word changes our values and re-establishes our priorities. Therefore, Jesus' promise to do whatever we wish or ask in prayer (John 15:7) is true because he who "abides" in Christ through His Word will not ask for anything that is not in accord with the will of Christ.
Question: How might Jesus' words answer this often asked question: "Why do some prayers seem to be answered and others not?" Answer: Jesus answers only prayers based on His Word. He answers all prayers prompted by His Word working in us.
Learn From the Savior to Pray
Question: On the basis of Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16, and Luke 6:12 what is one example of when, where, and how should we pray? Answer: Jesus set aside quiet times and sought places of solitude to converse, sometimes all night, with His Father. God desires that we, too, continually set aside a quiet time and private place to talk with our Father in prayer.
Question: What do 1 Chronicles 16:11, Ephesians 6:18, and 1 Thessalonians 5:17 urge us to do in prayer and why? What further reason does Jesus give in Luke 18:1 and Matthew 26:41? Answer: Prayer is continuously looking to God and relying on His strength. Scripture teaches that prayer is not an option or an occasional event. We are to "pray always" so that, with God's help, we are enabled to "watch and pray" so we do "not lose heart," or "enter into temptation."
Question: In the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, recorded in Luke 18:9-14, Jesus taught an important truth about God-pleasing prayer. What is this truth? See Romans 8:30-32 to understand what it really means to be "justified" and "glorified" in God's sight. Answer: Our confidence in prayer should never be based on who we think we are or what we think we have achieved. We confidently call upon God through prayer by first knowing and confessing that we are unworthy to be heard by Him. With a humble heart, we cling to God's mercy, which "exalts," or lifts, our hearts as we call upon Him.
Scripture teaches that "God is the One who justifies." God glorifies the humble. Through this same Jesus who justified us by His death and resurrection, we are assured that God will hear us and will "freely give us all things"
Question: What does James 4:3 teach us about the consequences of a wrong motive in prayer? How does Jesus clarify that text for us in Luke 12:22-31? Answer: Prayers often go unanswered because people pray "with wrong motives," only desiring to satisfy their pleasure-seeking appetites. Most people seek and pray for the things of this world-food, clothing and shelter, even though God "already knows we need them." The abundant life God wants us to have is much more than material goods. Like a loving parent, God our heavenly Father knows our needs and what is best for us. We should seek and request from our Father spiritual fulfillment.
God's Prayer Promises for You
Question: 15. According to Matthew 21:22, what does Jesus promise to give all believers through prayer? What act of God's love assures us of His promises in Romans 8:31-32? Answer: God promises to give us all things. Because He gave His only Son's life for us, we are assured that God will keep His promise to give us all things.
Question: What gifts does the apostle Paul describe for us in Romans 8:26-28 and Philippians 4:19? Answer: Our heavenly Father understands that we are often too weak to pray and do not know how to pray "as we ought." In love, God gives us His Holy Spirit to help us in prayer. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us, but always "according to the will of God." Knowing that the Spirit Himself helps us to pray, we have the assurance that "all things will work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." God promises to "supply all [our] need."
Question: In John 14:12-14, what did Jesus teach us to expect from God through His gift of prayer? Answer: Nothing will be denied us in prayer if our desire is to do the will of our heavenly Father.
Question: What grand promise is connected to prayer in Jesus' name as revealed in John 16:24? According to John 14:25-27, through whom and how is that promise fulfilled? Answer: When we pray in Jesus' name, we can be confident that God will give us all things so that our joy "may be full" This promise is fulfilled by the Holy Spirit who "brings to remembrance all things that I (Jesus) said to you" The peace that God provides is "not as the world gives." For that reason, our hearts need never "be troubled, neither let [them] be afraid."
Question: When life's trials and temptations weigh us down, what does Jesus promise us in prayer, according to Matthew 11:28? What special help is promised to us in I Corinthians 10:13? Answer: Jesus invites us to come to Him through prayer and promises that He will give us "rest." God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our endurance because He promises to provide His heavenly help through hard times of temptation.
Question: Jesus prayed over food, even publicly (see Mark 8:7 and Matthew 14:19). According to 1 Timothy 4:4-5, what promise is attached to food blessed by prayer? Note in verse 4 the reason for prayer over food; and, in verse 5, note what accomplishes that blessing. Read also Deuteronomy 8:10, John 6:11, 23. Answer: Jesus lovingly gave us the example of always blessing our food with prayer, even in public, because food received with thanksgiving expressed by the Word of God in prayer sanctifies (makes holy and acceptable) our meals. Not to pray over our food is to rob ourselves of that special blessing God promises.
Live a Life of Prayer!
Question: The early church fervently believed the promises that Christ taught about prayer. What do Acts 1:14, 2:42, 12:1-5 and 21:5 teach you about the prayer life of the early church? Answer: With one heart, mind, and purpose, the early church continually prayed, making their petitions known to God. The church's prayer life was always inseparably connected with the Word, as "they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine," in the "fellowship" of faith, and in God's means of grace in the "breaking of bread," the Lord's Supper.
Question: Following the prayer life example of the early church, for what, whom, and how should we pray both in public worship and in private prayer? Read Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18; 1 Timothy 2:1-2, 8; and James 5:13. Also, read in Luke 6:28 what Jesus teaches about praying, even for those who mistreat us. Answer: With great joy, thanksgiving, and expectation, the early church offered up prayers to God, especially for fellow believers, "the saints." According to "the will of God in Christ" the early church "made known their requests to God," "pray[ed] without ceasing" and "in everything [gave] thanks." Prayers were "made for all men," especially for those in authority. In times of personal suffering, church members were also urged to pray.
Question: What wonderful image is given us in Psalm 141:2 and Revelation 8:3 about how the prayers of the church, both collectively and individually, are received at God's throne of grace? Answer:Under the Old Testament covenant, incense from burnt offerings rose to the heavens. The prayers now made by the church, both collectively and individually, under the New Testament covenant in Christ, are offered up "as incense" to the very throne of God's grace, "the golden altar," in heaven.

God's promise-filled Word teaches us to confidently come to our heavenly Father in prayer-at all times and under all circumstances! Through His Son Jesus Christ, our Intercessor, High Priest, and Friend, God promises to hear us, answer us, and help us. Even when we are weak and lacking the right words, God the Holy Spirit helps us to pray. Each day, read the Holy Scriptures in prayer. God promises to supply us with His heaven-sent gifts so that "our joy might be made full." Heavenly Father; through the blood of Your crucified Son, we have been washed and reconciled to You. You have given us Your Word as a lamp unto our feet and a light for our path. By Your Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with Your Word so that we may ask for all things according to Your will. In the name of Jesus, Amen

-James Francescangeli with Slavik Horpynchuk

This article was used with the permission of the copyright holder, Good News magazine. You can receive the latest edition of Good News by calling 1-800-778-1132.

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