How do I learn to pray and teach my children to pray.
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(All quotations from the King James Authorised translation unless stated otherwise).
Prayer must of necessity be different for different individuals. For this reason the Bible gives examples and guidelines rather than rules. Comparing the way we pray with others is not necessarily a good idea if it generates a feeling of inadequacy. Prayer should be seen as personal communication with a Father who loves us and knows our needs before we ask.
A good starting place is with the disciples. They felt the inadequacy that we all feel when we come to approach our Creator.
Luke 11:1 And it came to pass, that, as he (Jesus) was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.
Jesus gives the following advice.
- We are not to pray publically (hardly likely to be a problem for you and I)Matthew 6:5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
- We are not to be repetitious. God is not inattentive or hard of hearing. Matthew 6:7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
- We are to remember that he really does know in advance what we need. Matthew 6:8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
- We are to begin by recognising that he is our Father.Matthew 6:9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven,
1 John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
- We are to acknowledge his Holiness. Matthew 6:9 Hallowed be thy name. 1 Peter 1:16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
- We are to remember that our prime objective is to attain to eternal life in the kingdom of God; that everything else in our lives must take second place. The kingdom will not be established until Christ returns. A plea for the coming of the kingdom is a plea for Christ’s return.
Matthew 6:10 Thy kingdom come.
Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
- We are to recognise that Christ will return to rule this world in righteousness. He will sweep away the will of man that fills the earth with evil at present and replace it with the righteous will of God. Men will do the will of God on earth even as the angels do the will of God in heaven. The promised reward to the righteous is that they will be made equal to the angels and inherit the earth.
Matthew 6:10 Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Luke 20:35 But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: 36 Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.
Psalms 37:9 For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.
Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
- Having established our priorities we can request our daily food. It goes almost without saying that this includes spiritual food from the word of God that we may grow thereby.
Matthew 6:11 Give us this day our daily bread.
Matthew 4:4 ...Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
- We are to recognise that, try as we might, we do sin on a daily basis and need continual forgiveness; we will be forgiven as we forgive those that sin against us.
Matthew 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Matthew 6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
- We are to acknowledge that our Father is in control of what happens to us. God does not tempt us to sin but he does allow our faith to be tried. It is in this sense that we are to request that we might not be tested but rather be delivered from the evil that we experience in this life. The evil is not the evil ‘one’ as some translations have it; the ‘fallen angel’ of Christian mythology is a fiction. Angels cannot sin and do not tempt men to sin. We are not at the mercy of some evil supernatural being.
Matthew 6:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
2 Peter 2:9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations...
- We are to remember that the promised kingdom is God’s and has been in preparation from the beginning of the world.
Matthew 6:13 For thine is the kingdom,
Matthew 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
- We are to recognise that all power in this world is God’s. There is no supernatural power responsible for evil in opposition to God. God decides who governs countries. Moreover the exercising of this power is now in the hands of his son. Christ has been appointed the judge of this world.
Matthew 6:13 and the power,
Deuteronomy 32:39 See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.
Isaiah 45:5 I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: 6 That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. 7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
John 19:11 Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above...
Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
- We are to acknowledge that the plan and purpose of God is to fill the earth with his glory in the form of mankind made in his image and having the divine nature.
Matthew 6:13 and the glory, for ever. Amen.
Numbers 14:21 But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.
1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. 24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
From the above we see how the prayer model covers the plan and purpose of God and how we fit into it. What is missing from it is prayer for others. Into the structure of our prayers must come requests for the wellbeing (natural and spiritual) of those we know whether friends or enemies.
James 5:16 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.
Matthew 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
We should try to pray regularly
Luke 18:1 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint... 7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
We should recognise that some requests will not be in accordance with God’s will.
1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:
Luke 22:42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
The other aspect which is missing in the model prayer is the giving of thanks for the benefits that we daily receive. Thanksgiving should precede each meal. We should remember from time to time to give thanks for the wider benefits involved in living peaceable lives.
1 Timothy 2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. 7 Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. 8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
For children, some of the above aspects of prayer are not appropriate as prayer must be commensurate with understanding (forgiveness of sin is not really applicable under the age of about 12). The basic concepts of thanks for their homes, food, clothing and safety along with the request that God might soon send his son to reign on the earth and remove all sorrow and suffering should be a sufficient beginning. In addition special requests should be made for friends or relatives that are ill. It can be pointed out that ‘wants’ are not necessarily ‘needs’ and God will do what He knows is best.
Ideally days should begin and end with prayer; preferably preceded by a Bible story for the young or Bible reading for older children. We should do what is practical.
The more we read the Bible and learn about God and his purpose and understand why we suffer in this life, the more meaningful prayer becomes. Understanding should be requested in prayer.
Prayer can be made at any time and in any situation.
Daniel 6:10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.
Nehemiah 2:4 Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5 And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it.
There are no rules as to how often or how long prayers should be. We must do what we need and are able to do. The circumstances of our lives change and with them our capacity for prayer.
Ecclesiastes 5:2 Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.
What I have written may be ‘too much’ or lacking in particular areas. Feel free to ask further questions. You can email me directly if you wish at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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I hope this helps.