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Spending Time With God in Prayer
Bible study on spending time with God (prayer).

This series of articles has been devoted to examining Biblical ways of spending time with God. In this article, we will consider spending time with God in prayer. But first let us define the word prayer since it is a word not generally used in casual conversation.

Prayer is a word that cannot be exhaustively defined in a few words because there are eight greek words translated into a form of the word prayer. This is further complicated by english translations which translate a particular greek word differently in a particular passage of Scripture. In general, to pray is to address another in order to praise, give thanks, or ask favors.

Several years ago my wife and I were in a court room. We watched case after case go before the judge. After one attorney had made his remarks, the judge said: "I have heard your prayer ..." This story exemplifies the meaning of prayer. In the most general sense, a prayer is an address or plea to anyone. For example, if I ask a neighbor for a cup of sugar, it is a prayer (plea, request) from me to the neighbor.

In respect to God, most prayers will include one or a combination of the following:

1. praise

2. ask favors and make requests

3. entreat/beseech (to call to our aid)

4. make supplication (express a wanting or need) for self and others

5. give thanks

6. confess sins, faults, weaknesses

7. ask forgiveness

Although some of the above listed items may be similar, I have incorporated words which are often synonymous with "prayer."

The religious community is divided on certain aspects of prayer. Although we cannot review each of these in this article, I have selected three and listed them below.

On these matters I will attempt to omit my "opinions" and "prejudices" and simply refer to the passages which teach on these subjects. Since I am only human and far from perfect, I invite you to study these questions and write the editor with your thoughts - especially if you believe I have left out pertinent Scripture that may shed light on the subject. The matters of controversy I wish to briefly touch upon are:

1. In whose name should we pray?

2. Does God hear the prayers of sinners?

3. What confidence do we have in prayer?

In whose name should we pray? Some teach that we do not have to pray in any name while others teach that we should pray in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus teaches his disciples saying: "And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:23-24). Throughout John chapters 14-16 the disciples are repeatedly instructed to pray in the name of Jesus. Furthermore, the Bible does not authorize prayer in any other name than Jesus.

Does God hear the prayers of sinners? I have heard some people say that all a person has to do is believe in Jesus - nothing else matters. Well, if this is the case, then the demons who believe in Jesus will be saved with the righteous (James 2:19). Moreover, if this is true then anyone who believes that Jesus is the Son of God can be a thief, murderer, pedophile, or anything else that is sinful and expect God to hear and subsequently answer their prayers. Concerning this question we learn in John 9:31: "Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him." So, if God does not hear the prayers of sinners, then we must conclude that sinners will not have their prayers answered by God. But this does not negate the fact that God created the inner man to seek (grope) after Him; therefore, all men can come to the knowledge of God to salvation (Acts 17:26-28; I Tim. 2:4; Rom. 1:16).

What confidence do we have in prayer? Some folks hold the position that as long as we pray to God and believe that we already have that for which we ask, He will answer our prayer per our request. If this were so, a righteous man praying that he would never die would be immortal upon this earth. Not even the apostles had every prayer answered as they wished. Paul prayed that his thorn in the flesh be removed, but it was not. Concerning prayer, we are instructed to have full confidence without doubting when we pray for wisdom. God has promised that He will give Christians wisdom if they ask, have faith, and do not doubt (James 1:3-8). For the other things we ask of God in prayer, our confidence is that He hears us. John says in I John 5:14: "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." So we have a two fold confidence in prayer. First, if we ask for wisdom in faith without doubting, God will give us wisdom. Second, if we ask for anything according to His will, we are confident that He hears our prayer. With this two fold confidence from the Father of lights who desires only good for His children, who or what can separate us from the love of Christ? Nothing (Rom. 8:18-39).

Now let us briefly consider the benefits and results of thoughtful and sincere prayer. Of course these are more numerous than we could list here, but below are a few found in the Bible. Men have attempted to obtain some of these blessings through philosophical humanistic life styles, psychiatry, and drugs. But notice that they come through prayer.

1. acknowledgement and praise of One greater than man (Matt. 6:9)

2. necessities of life are supplied (Matt. 5:11, 33)

3. forgiveness of sin (Matt. 6:12; Acts 8:22; I John 2:1)

4. overcoming temptation (6:13; I Cor. 10:13)

5. freedom from worry and worldly care (Matt. 6:24-34; I Pet. 5:7)

6. freedom from anxiety (Phil. 4:6)

7. the peace of God (Phil. 4:6-7)

8. rejoicing (I Thess. 5:16-17)

9. a thankful heart (I Thess. 5:17-18)

10. wisdom (James 1:5)

11. confidence that all prayers are heard by God (I John 5:14)

How do Christians spend time with God? They spend time with Him by praying about everything and anything - by praying without ceasing (I Thess. 5:16-18). Think about this: If Jesus needed prayer to maintain a spiritual relationship with God, to what extent should I be compelled to pray?