Many people believe that prayer is useful, especially in times of trouble and sorrow. Is it really beneficial? What is the importance of prayer? But first…
What is Prayer?
In times of crisis, we often hear people say, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.” Assemblies such as government legislatures, sporting and entertainment events might commence with an invocation, irrespective of differences in beliefs or religion.
Prayer is the simplest yet most-effective method of communication with God.
Through devotion we acknowledge the power of a supreme being, God the Creator and Saviour of humanity.
Put simply, prayer is talking to a divine being whom we respect.
What People Think about the Importance of Prayer
Some perceive this solemn practice as a one-sided conversation. Others regard it as a desperate measure in difficult times.
Still, many people pray as part of their lifestyle. For them, devotion maintains a close relationship with the deity they serve. Most of them have experienced a complete transformation in their lives because of invocation.
People have different ways of praying. The methods used are aligned to the individual’s level of devotion.
Importance of Prayer in Religion
Ancient to modern. Eastern to western. Every religion considers prayer to be an integral part of worship. It comes in many forms but has the same purpose.
For Hindus it requires the chanting of mantras. Names of deities are invoked according to human aspiration. It’s interesting to note that yoga and meditation, a part of Hindu worship, has been adopted worldwide although, to non-Hindus, it is taken as a form of exercise for the mind.
For Muslims, the solemn practice is more systematic, a part of the five pillars of their faith. They pray five times daily, facing towards the Kaaba in Mecca.
Catholics repetitively recite pleadings for the intercession of Mary and other saints.
Protestant Christians direct their devotions to Jesus Christ.
Importance of Prayer to Culture
In some regions, prayer aligns with cultural traditions, creating a uniqueness in style of their religion.
There are tribal communities around the world who pray using rituals, dance, loud music or burnt offerings.
Others conduct prayers whilst standing, kneeling or falling prostrate to the ground.
But overall, despite cultural diversity, the context remains the same. Praying is communication with a deity.
The fact remains: humanity needs a powerful God, and the only way to access Him is through prayer.
Ways of Communing with God
The good news is, it only requires faith and humility for a spiritual plea to be valid regardless of the method. Some common ways of worship include:
Every individual has a perception of the importance of prayer to their life. Private prayer is the most recommended, especially among Christians. It may be done in secret, being more focused. It is just between you and God alone. This allows an environment free of distraction in which to release all one’s emotions to God.
Communal intercession is practiced by a congregation or at public meetings. It is an important part of the worship service, drawing people near to the heart of God, thus creating a faith community. The beauty of congregational invocation is that it allows the sharing of burdens with each other.
- Spiritual Meditation
Meditation is the best avenue in which to unwind our troubled minds and refresh our thoughts. It is also the right way to recalibrate our thinking. Meditation allows us to let the Almighty speak to us. We feel His presence by reflecting on a Bible passage or the beauty of His creation—nature.
Informal supplications use simple everyday language. Informal prayer overlaps with personal devotion, such as before eating a meal, going on a journey or simply making a choice over what to wear. This kind of worship can act as a means of boosting confidence on a daily basis.
- Set Prayers
These are litanies, well-known and learnt by heart. A good example is the Lord’s Prayer. Children are first taught to say this as a guide to prayer.
How to Pray the Right Way
The tricky question is, does God require a particular method or format of prayer? Are there any specific requirements in worship?
Praying means submission. Thus, anyone who approaches God must first humble himself. Coming before Him in humility means submitting ourselves and surrendering to His will.
The Best Example of Prayer
There is an ultimate devotion that even innocent minds can comprehend.
Let’s dissect the Lord’s Prayer and see why this basic model is as good as any other petition.
- Our Father in heaven,
This line is the most outstanding part. It addresses a specific living Deity, who sits on the throne in heaven.
- Hallowed be Your Name.
Hallowed means “made holy”. This line sanctifies the Lord’s name, giving Him the utmost respect and reverence due to Him alone.
- Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
When we believe in God, we trust that He only wants what’s best for us. Thus, we claim His heavenly will to be fulfilled in our earthly lives. We claim the power to reflect His will or kingdom here on earth in order to be a blessing to others.
- Give us this day our daily bread.
Believing in His providence, we entrust our needs to His care. We may also petition safety, healing or a request such as help with an exam or a successful job application.
- And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
To humble ourselves is to confess and forsake our sins before the Almighty. But His mercy should also extend to those who need our forgiveness. It’s the only condition God requires for the forgiveness of our sins.
- And do not lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
This sounds tricky. Does the Creator lead people to temptation? No. Rather it means we are asking Him for the strength to overcome the yielding power of temptation. We recognize that only heavenly power can deliver us from evil.
- For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
This reaffirms and gives back all the power, authority and worthiness of worship to God.
"Do Not Pray Like the Pagans"
Who are the pagans? Why are their incantations an abomination?
Pagans also pray. The thing is, their god is unknown. They really do not know to whom they are calling. These are pagan practices that we shouldn’t follow:
- Babbling prayers
These are vain repetitive chants. Pagans believe that more words equals a better chance of having prayer answered. Remember that a person’s heart and reverent attitude to God are what matters. He hears even a short, “Save me!”
This is magic with the help of evil spirits. Their “power” serves as a message to their followers for continuous patronage. The only power that we should seek and believe is that which comes from God in heaven, and we ask for this by faith.
- Idol worship/Graven image
There is no need for tangible “representations”. This is idolatry. All we need is to go to the Almighty in faith.
- Burnt human sacrifice
What good and loving God would require human sacrifice? He created man to live, not die. He is not happy with killing, especially fellow human beings. Burnt animal sacrifices were only used as a foreshadow of the ultimate sacrifice of God’s Son. He received the worst death penalty to pay the price for everyone’s sins, so they could receive eternal life. That’s how much He loves us!
- Communicating with dead or unfamiliar spirits
When a person dies, their flesh returns to dust and their breath returns to the Creator. Nobody is immortal except the Almighty. When a person dies, that is precisely what they are—dead. No ghosting. The dead can’t talk nor even think, meaning we can’t communicate with them. If we think we are in touch with the dead, understand this, it is the deceiver we are talking to and receiving messages from. The deceiver wants us to be lost and not receive the eternal life God has promised.
How Often Should I Pray?
Many people pray five times a day. Some more, some less. Others even wake at midnight or dawn ensuring they follow a strict routine.
How are people able to make a habit of their devotions? How do they find time for a moment of worship in their busy lives?
Genuine prayer does not stop. What does this mean?
The frequency of orison depends on our level of faith and how close our relationship is to God.
When we trust Him completely, our prayers become countless; we don’t count at all. This is how we communicate with our loved ones, right? We don’t count or limit the number of our conversations with them. If we love God we will love to talk to Him throughout our waking, conscious moments.
We ask for safety when we travel and wisdom when faced with simple or difficult choices. We ask for confidence when troubled or understanding when our requests don’t seem to be granted. Consistent devotion draws us closer to Him.
As long as we live in this world full of uncertainties, our faith in the Almighty must be certain. Our petitions should be like our breath. Yes, the importance of prayer should be like life and death!
What is the Best Prayer Method?
God looks at the heart, our thoughts and intentions, when we pray, irrespective of the manner in which we pray. Physical posture doesn’t matter so much as devotion. Take a position in accordance with the circumstances of your surroundings. Here are some prayer positions:
- Praying by thought
The Holy One is all powerful; He can read our thoughts. Devotion of the mind is the most convenient of all prayer methods. We can pray regardless of our activity or environment. Exhortation of the mind helps eliminate worldly imaginations.
- Mumbling lips
A quiet prayer offered from a stationary position of standing, sitting or lying down. It may be accompanied by closed eyes and bowed heads, such as when thanking God for a meal. It’s also common for church-goers to offer silent prayers.
Kneeling is most frequently used when alone or sometimes it is requested during a congregational service. It is a sign of humility.
This posture acknowledges the superiority of the one we approach, e.g. royalty in some cultures. It’s a position of complete surrender to the Almighty. It denotes a firm conviction recognizing God as the ruler and creator of the universe.
- Reciting/Singing Hymns
Prayers can be in the form of songs or hymns. Singing uses both sides of the brain and, in the theological context, devotion sinks deeper into the mind. Prayer songs invite positive responses from others, especially when the music and lyrics are praising the Holy One. Singing can also be evangelistic, through the message of the song.
Posture is not accounted for when God hears our singing. He sees and knows the merit of a person’s sincerity.
The following points are examples of why praying alone is necessary:
- Focus and emphasis
When we pray in private, solitude provides an opportuntiy for our thoughts to flow without any distractions. We can fully express our emotions if a burden becomes unbearable. Private prayer creates a more intimate space for conversation with our Saviour.
- Luxury of time
In private we can control the length of our devotions. We can say all we want to our Heavenly Father without time restriction, as in communal prayers.
- Open secrets to the Almighty
Privacy is a perfect avenue for us to reveal to Him our deepest secrets that we would never entrust to anyone. It might be some lifelong sin that we need to surrender. Time alone with God is the perfect opportunity in which to draw into a closer relationship with Him.
- For our battles
We are in a constant war against principalities and powers and our minds are the battlefield. This personal warfare requires unceasing devotion. We cannot fight evil on our own, that’s for sure. We need divine intervention to help us. This is a major importance of prayer.
It is a beautiful sight when people form circles and hold hands, unified in exhortation. This is what happens when we unite in prayer:
- Shared burdens
Communal devotion offers comfort for everyone. Members can feel sympathy for others while carrying the weight and sorrow of each other’s burdens. In some cases, help becomes immediate when the answer to a prayer might be received from within the congregation.
When we pray as a congregation, we also take responsibility for caring for each other. This leads to a path of selflessness. When we intercede for others, we invite a positive transformation of character within us through divine power. Selfishness, greed, ill-temper and self-centeredness are replaced by compassion for our neighbour.
- More contagious faith
By congregating, we can inspire others. Through divine intervention, the group will become more faithful.
- Closer relationships and unity in the church
Community invocation touches the hearts of those involved. In sharing the burdens of each other, the bond grows tighter. Individuals can be the answer to another’s prayer request. Helping one another creates closer, healthy relationships among the church members.
Do you see the tremendous importance of prayer? The above methods are all subject to human convenience or level of devotion. Whatever manner of worship we choose, God will surely hear our prayers. What matters to Him is the heart. All we need to do is approach Him in full humility to seek His glory and will.
Do I Need Someone to Pray on My Behalf?
It’s OK to ask others to intercede on our behalf in some circumstances. It is true that more prayers equals more power. But “relying” too much upon others without doing our part is never a good idea, and praying to certain dead saints to intercede will do no good either. Why?
- It speaks of our little faith
We pray because we have faith in God. But when we pray less, our faith in Him decreases. Lack of trust, due to an overreliance on others, will result in our failure to comprehend the Almighty’s plan.
- Pride and ignorance
As the saying goes, pride goes before destruction. Solely relying on others’ invocation deviates from the essential prayer requirement, humility. When we become too proud to talk to God, we ignore His work in us.
- Hiding from our sins
When we pray personally, we confess our sins to God. If we let others intercede on our behalf, we lose the opportunity to receive His saving grace. It also admits a reluctance to acknowledge and forsake our sins.
- A distant relationship with the heavenly Father
In order to have a closer relationship with God, we must communicate with Him regularly. We talk to Him in prayer and listen to Him by studying His Word. The only bridge we need for a trusting relationship with God is provided through prayer.
When we rely on others to intercede for us, we fail to understand God’s will. The result is discontent at every perceived “answer” to our pleas. We may even be blinded to God’s blessings. But when we pray directly to Him, we will receive the full extent of His providence. The benefits of prayer are thus maximised.
More Reasons for the Importance of Prayer
Prayer may be simple, but it provides more than we ask. Try praying and see for yourselves:
- Full Transformation
Praying invites the Almighty to dwell in our hearts. It’s a simple invitation. But it creates a domino effect that leads to the transformation of our lives. Constant communication with Him helps us to filter our thoughts, words and actions to become better in our dealings with people. Praying to our heavenly Father helps us leave behind our sinful ways.
- Sense of direction
Devotion acknowledges God’s guidance in directing everything we do. When we make prayer a compass for our lives, we can overcome obstructions like procrastination, idleness and excuses.
- Heavenly wisdom
Wisdom from heaven will help us to understand the answers to our supplications. We learn patience when the answers make us wait. Heavenly wisdom also gives us understanding when our pleas are not answered in the way we hope. It helps us to focus on seeking His glory before our own satisfaction.
Prayer boosts our confidence when the cloud of doubt is thickening. When we kneel before God, we know we can stand without fear of intimidation. We trust that He stands beside us.
Can you imagine life without prayer to a living, heavenly Father? I’m glad we have open access to our Father in heaven at any time, anywhere, no matter who we are, or whatever we do. Yes, prayer is free. Whenever you don’t know what to think, say or do, just PRAY!