Prayer is one characteristics that is shared among many world religions and philosophies. In the end, the key difference is the recipient of the prayer. But what is prayer? Why is prayer important? Why do speakers, teachers, and religious leaders emphasize the importance of prayer? Books have been written on prayer. Even Jesus gave a model prayer by which we should pray. Prayer is emphasized because prayer is a very important practice. Not only can prayer bring spiritual support, prayer can also benefit a person mentally and physically. In this article, seven reasons will be listed in why prayer is an important practice, beginning with the most obvious reason.
1. Prayer is Important Because it is Communication with God.
Many religious leaders spoke of prayer, but Jesus not only spoke of prayer, He prayed regularly. The example of Jesus’ prayer life is seen in Luke, “It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12, NASB). Jesus was about to select 12 men to be His disciples. Before He made this decision, He consulted with the Father. Jesus did so because prayer is communication.
When many couples attend marriage counseling, one of the key areas that is promoted is communication. How well do the individuals in marriage communicate with one another? Communication is vital to the Christian, as well. This is our time with God. Recent studies have shown that most American pastors only spend about 7 minutes in prayer a day (Dave Earley Video, Liberty University, 2011). This is not enough. It can only be assumed that the average congregant spends less time with God. No wonder we feel as if we do not feel the presence of God. It is not because God moved. It is because you did. Prayer in its purest form is communication with God. Just as you speak to a parent or a friend, you can communicate with God. God hears and will respond according to God’s will. Are you communicating with God the way you should? There is another reason why prayer is important.
2. Prayer is Important Because it is the Way to Give Thanks.
Before Jesus fed the 5,000 (more like 20,000 as only the men were counted), Jesus gave thanks. Matthew, an eyewitness to the event, recorded, “He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people” (Matthew 15:36, NASB). Later, John records boats coming from the place where the Lord had given thanks, referring to the place where Jesus performed the miracle. John writes, “There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks” (John 6:23, NASB).
In our time, one is hard-pressed to find anyone truly thankful for anything. It seems that individuals are more concentrated on what they do not have rather than what they do have. There can be found no rest nor contentment for such a person. However, if we really concentrate on what we have been given, we all have a reason to give God thanks. Yes life is not perfect. But, God has given us life. He has revealed Himself to us through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. He has given us food to eat, water to drink, clothing for our backs, and a place to call home. David Platt writes, “If we make $10,000 a year, we are wealthier than 84% of the world, and if we make $50,000 a year, we are wealthier than 99% of the world.” (David Platt, “Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream”, 194). So, look around you. You have something for which to be thankful. Use prayer as a means to express your thankfulness to God. Just as a person likes to hear thanks for something that one has done, I feel that God appreciates our giving thanks unto Him for the blessings that God has bestowed upon us. But, there are other areas in which prayer is important.
3. Prayer is Important Because it is the Way to Intercede.
As prayer is communication, prayer is an important means to intercede for another. What is intercession? Intercession means that we speak on behalf of another. We keep a prayer list at church in which we pray for the needs of others. I also have a personal prayer list in which I pray on behalf of another. This is a very biblical practice. Paul writes to Timothy, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men” (1 Timothy 2:1, NASB). Some wonder, “How do you pray for an hour?” I wondered the same time until I understood how many people need prayer. Do we pray for our world? Do we pray for the gospel to be spread? Do we pray for our nation and our national leaders? Even if you have an evil leader, you should still pray for him/her. It may be through intercessory prayers that one is changed. Do you pray for the sick? Do you pray for travelers? Do you pray for your police officers? Do you pray for medical staffs? Do you pray for those in the military? Do you pray for theologians? Do you pray for your neighbors? Do you pray for your family? The list could go on and on and on. Yet another element of importance is found in prayer.
4. Prayer is Important Because it is the Way to Give Praise.
The psalmist writes,
Praise the LORD!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
2 Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
3 Praise Him with trumpet sound; Praise Him with harp and lyre.
4 Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
5 Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD! (Psalm 150, NASB).
Now even though this is a psalm, most, if not all, of the psalms are in fact prayers put to music. We should praise God. What is the difference between giving thanks and giving praise? Giving thanks is thanking God for what He has done. Giving praise is thanking God for Who He is. When one understands the greatness, the power, the glory, the love, the compassion, and the grandeur of God, how could one not praise God? Yet, another importance is found in prayer.
5. Prayer is Important Because it is the Way to Confess Sin.
The psalmist writes, “O God, it is You who knows my folly, and my wrongs are not hidden from You” (Psalm 69:5, NASB). God knows our faults and wrongdoings already. Some would ask, “If God knows all about it, why do we need to confess our sins?” This is a good question. Our confession of sins is admission. Through the admission of our wrongdoing, we are able to ask for forgiveness from God and also to allow God to direct us on how to correct the mistakes. Confession also brings freedom. Confession which leads to forgiveness allows one to live life without the burden of past failures. The confessor can be like the quarterback who messes up on one play, shakes it off, and goes out looking to play better the next time around. Also, with God, one does not have to worry about one’s faults being blabbered around to others. God, who is the essence of holiness and perfection, forgives, corrects, and frees. A sixth importance exists in prayer.
6. Prayer is Important Because it is the Way to Ask for Help.
Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8, NASB). Who does one ask? The person asks God, seeks God, and knocks to have God’s truth opened unto them. We all need help. My wife says I need mental help many times…just kidding. To ask for help, one must lower one’s pride and admit that he or she cannot do something by themselves. This may be a shock to learn especially in our individualistic society, but you were not meant to live this life alone. God in His essence is an eternal relationship: Father, Son, and Spirit. You, therefore, were created for relationships: relationship with God and a relationship with others. That is why it is laughable to hear people speak of loving God and not desiring to be in church. Do you really think you can go this without the help of other Christians? Do you really think that you do not need to be serving God in a capacity at a local church.
Prayer allows one to go to God in asking for help. God may give help in a variety of means. We were praying for a newer vehicle because my truck was getting ragged and my wife’s vehicle was becoming undependable. God opened the doors for us both to get a new vehicle. We were not planning to do so, but God worked out a way in that we could while only spending out a little more a month than we had for my wife’s previous vehicle. This is small potatoes in relation to those who are praying for health issues and the like. But God is still in the miracle business. God can give you help in your time of need. Will you recognize your need for God’s help and ask? Finally, a seventh area of importance exists for prayer.
7. Prayer is Important Because it is the Way to Receive Salvation.
Paul writes, “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9, NASB). Although, magic prayers do not exist. When one recognizes one’s need for God and the salvation that God offers, it is through prayer that salvation comes. Admittedly, many have promoted the recitation of a prayer and that one can go on living just as one has always done. This is not the case. Salvation requires one to turn his/her life over to God, receiving the work that God has and will do in the person’s life, and trusting in and depending on God. But the means of getting the ball rolling is prayer. Southern Baptists, the denomination to which I belong, have given a sample prayer in which one can pray. This is not a magic prayer. But, it lists the elements that need to be in one’s commitment in order to receive Christ as Savior. Such a prayer goes like this:
“Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and I do not deserve eternal life. But, I believe You died and rose from the grave to make me a new creation and to prepare me to dwell in your presence forever. Jesus, come into my life, take control of my life, forgive my sins and save me. I am now placing my trust in You alone for my salvation and I accept your free gift of eternal life” (SBC.net).
If one prays and really allows God through Christ to become one’s Lord, it is our belief that you have received salvation from Christ. This, however, is just the beginning. If you prayed this prayer, you need to find a Bible-believing church and get involved. You also need to obtain a copy of God’s Word–the Bible–and begin reading it. It is recommended that one begins with the Gospel of John and the Gospel of Mark. Would you receive Christ today?
As we have seen, prayer is extremely important. It is important for you to spend time with God in prayer every day. Do not think that 5 minutes a day is enough. Consider this chart below which was given to me by Pastor David Kiser and comes from ShareLife Ministries in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. All rights reserved. This chart shows how you can easily pray an hour a day. The only difficulty is finding a time and sticking with it. If your relationship with God matters to you, spend more time with God in prayer every day. It could be one of the most important things you ever do.
How to Spend Time in Prayer
I. PRAISE Start your prayer hour by praising the Lord. Praise Him for things
that are on your mind right now. Praise Him for one special thing He has
done in your life in the past week. Praise Him for His goodness to your family.
2. WAITING Spend this time waiting on the Lord. Let Him pull together
reflections for you.Think about the hour before you and the things you want
the Lord to do in your life. Psalm 27: 14
3. CONFESSION Ask the Holy Spirit to show you anything in your life
which might be displeasing to Him.Ask Him to point out attitudes that are
wrong. as well as specific acts for which you have not yet made a prayer of
confession. Now confess that to the Lord and claim IJohn 1:9 so that you
might be cleansed for the remainder of the hour before you and then pick
up and read the Word. Psalm 51: 1-19
4. READ THE WORD Spend time reading promises of God in the Psalms.
in the prophets and passages on prayer located in the New Testament. Check
your concordance. Psalm I 19:97
5. PETITION This is general request for others. praying through the prayer
list. the prayer cards. or personal prayer interest on behalf of yourself and
others. Hebrews 4: 16
6. INTERCESSION Specific prayer on the behalf of others. Pray specifically
for those requests of which you are aware. Romans 15:30-33
7. PRAYTHEWORD Now take the Scriptures and start praying the
Scriptures as certain sections of Psalm I 19 lend themselves beautifully to
prayer expression. Psalm 119:38-46
a.THANKSGIVING Spend these minutes giving thanks to the Lord for
things in your life. things on behalf of the church. things on behalf of your
family. Philippians 4:6
9. SINGING Take your hymnal and sing a prayer song. sing a praise song.
sing a song regarding soul winning or witnessing. Let it be a time of praise.
10. MEDITATE Ask the Lord to speak back to you and keep a paper and
pen handy. ready to relate the impressions that He makes upon your life.
I I. LISTEN Spend time merging the things you have read from the Word.
the things you have prayed. the things you have thanked the Lord for. the
things that you have been singing. and see how the Lord brings them all
together to speak to you. ISamuel 3:9-10
12. END WITH PRAISE Praise the Lord for the time you have had to
spend with Him. Praise Him for the impressions that He has given you. Praise
Him for the prayer requests He raised up in you mind. Psalm 145: 1-13 (From SharingLife Ministries)
All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).
Copyright June 24, 2013. Brian Chilton.