How to Pray
“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 is basic to Christian piety and a means for progressing in our sanctification (growth in holiness). Before we continue our look at the Heidelberg Catechism’s examination of Christian prayer, however, we do well to consider the other fundamental means by which we grow in Christ. Dr. R.C. Sproul will help us in this study through his teaching series Five Things Every Christian Should Know.
Today we will look at certain aspects of prayer that we will not cover in our upcoming studies. First, let us note how important prayer should be in our lives. The Apostle Paul, for instance, says that one of the main blessings of being counted righteous in Christ is that we have “obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand” (Rom. 5:2). In other words, our justification means that we may enter the most holy place in heaven and enjoy intimate fellowship with our Creator (Heb. 6:19–20). Prayer is the way in which we regularly enjoy this privilege.
Regrettably, prayer does not always come easily to us. We start out with good intentions, but when we take time to pray, our minds often wander. Moreover, we begin to sense that our prayers are too self-centered. It is not that God does not care about our needs, of course, for they are among the things we should pray for (Matt. 6:30). Nevertheless, we understand something is amiss if all we ever do in prayer is tell the Lord our personal needs and desires.
Understanding how to pray is the best way to address these difficulties. God has not left us without guidance. Jesus Himself gave us the Lord’s Prayer, which we will consider as our model for God-honoring prayer in the days ahead (Luke 11:1–13). This prayer includes the expression of our daily needs, but it is kingdom-focused, instructing us to ask for the name of the Lord to be hallowed in order that His kingdom may come and His will be done in gladness.
Church history also gives us guidance in prayer. Martin Luther said we should pray through the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Apostles’ Creed in a way that uses each line as a springboard for worshiping God, thanking Him, confessing our sin, asking Him to supply our needs, and so on. Such tools make it much easier for us to focus on those things that our Father prizes most highly.
Martin Luther’s advice on prayer is found in the handy booklet titled A Simple Way to Pray. Many people, including Dr. Sproul, have found this work to be very helpful for their prayer lives, but even if you do not use it, you would be wise to consider resources from the best Christian thinkers in history to help you learn how to pray. Leaning on the wisdom of our fathers and mothers in the faith assists us greatly in knowing how to honor the Lord.
Passages for Further Study
1 Thessalonians 5:17