Today is the National Day of Prayer. Recognition of prayer by the United States has been a part of our history, with various presidents calling on citizens of the United States to set aside time to fast and pray for our nation. It was 1952 that Congress passed a designation as the first Thursday in May as the National Day of Prayer. Years later, other groups organized “See You at the Pole” events, gathering at flag poles all around the country to pray for schools and America.
We think we know about prayer, but how much we do know? To the secular world, prayer is synonymous with meditation. A quick Google search will find psychological arguments about the physical and mental benefits of praying, but they are mostly bound up in the idea that prayer is just a silencing of the soul for a moment. Is this prayer? What does the Bible have to say about prayer?
An examination of the word “prayer” shows us that the word means “to ask.” It is even used in that capacity in various places in Scripture. In Genesis 24:17, when Abraham’s servant says to Rebekah: “Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher,” he wasn’t taking a moment of silence, or worshipping her. He was simply asking for a drink of water. So prayer is simply asking.
Building on this, we recognize that there are many things for which we can ask God. We can ask God for ourselves. We can bring our petitions for ourselves before Him. Jesus prayed all the time for Himself. Paul prayed that he would have the strength to continue. He invited others to pray for him, which brings us to the second category of requests, which is prayer for others. Sometimes this is called “intercession,” especially when you pray for those who cannot or do not pray for themselves. Jesus prayed for his disciples, and in John 17:20 even prayed for us! He said “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.” James 5:16 tells us plainly: “Pray one for another.”
In this way, prayer is more than just talking to God. That is a part of meditation. When I speak with God, I praise Him for being such a good God to me. I thank Him for all the blessings he’s given me. I confess my sins to him, agreeing with Him that I have done wrong. But prayer is asking God for things. You may be reading this article and thinking: “Well, I have prayed for things and not gotten them.” Why is this? What is secret to prayer, and getting your requests answered?
First, there must be a relationship with God. The Bible is clear that sin separates us from God, and so makes it so that He does not hear when sinners pray, asking for things they want. Psalm 66:18 says: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Proverbs 28:9 says: “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” Your greatest need to enter into a personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ. Place your faith in the Promise He made about Jesus on the cross, and you will be born again. Then you, as God’s son, will have access to God’s throne.
Second, you must pray according to God’s Will. The promise of God is not just to get whatever you want, no matter what. Do we as good parents give everything our children ask for, even if they want something harmful? Of course not! When my three-year-old wants to play with a pocket knife, I do not allow him to, because it’s not safe. In the same way, God doesn’t grant every request, because some things He knows, in His wisdom, will not be good for us. He says in 1 John 5:14: “This is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.” Get to know God, and He will show you what His will is. Then you can pray, and you will receive.
Third, you must pray in faith. What is faith? Faith is believing a promise that someone made. Faith is not something you do without evidence. It is believing that a person, in this case God, is telling the truth, and that what He says will come to pass. When you pray and find out God’s Will, the only thing left to do is pray, believing that God will then answer the prayer, because He has promised to do so. We are called on to pray in faith. The Bible even warns us in James 1:6 “Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”
Fourth, prayer is something that should be done often. Luke 18:1 says that Jesus “spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says simply: “Pray without ceasing.” We ought to spend time every day praying to God.
I want to encourage you, not just to pray on the National Day of Prayer, but to make prolonged prayer a daily part of your life. When you do, you will see the vibrancy that comes from walking with God and getting your requests answered!