By Revd. Dr. Idowu Ibitoye
Prayer is one of the powerful weapons God gave to the church. Prayer is a way by which man communicates and commune with God. It is a channel of communication with the heavenly father that is available 24hours, its network never fails, interrupted nor disrupted, it is a time of fellowship with one’s maker. Prayer is so much important to the Christian faith and Jesus Christ taught His disciples how to pray. “This, then, is how you should pray: our father in heaven may your holy name be honoured; may your kingdom come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need. Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done us. Do not bring us to hard testing but keep us safe from the evil one” Matt. 6:9-13 GNT.
Biblical foundation for Prayer
As far as the Bible is concerned, prayer is worship that includes all the attitude of the human spirit in its approach to God. It is the attitude of communing with God through adorations, confession, praises and supplication. Prayer is calling upon the name of the Lord by involving His sacred names.
During pre-exilic times, prayers of intercession took a larger prominence such as Moses (Ex. 32:11-13; 33:12-16; 34:9; Num. 11:11-15; 14:13-19; 21:7; Deut. 9:18-21), Samuel also offered it (I Sam. 7:5-13; 12:19, 23) likewise Solomon (I Kings 8:22-53). It seems during pre-exilic age important personalities offered intercession on behalf of their people, such as prophets, priests and kings, they have peculiar mandate in prayer as mediators between God and man.
On the other hand prayer is an indispensable ministry of the priests; his revelatory knowledge depends on how he engaged himself in prayer with God. However, prayer is very essential to the prophets in receiving the message from God (Isa. 6:5; 37:1-4; Jer. 11:20-23; 12:1-6). Daniel received vision while he was in prayer (Dan. 9:20).
There are a lot of prayer psalms found in the book of Psalms, such as: personal prayers for pardon (Ps. 51), communion (Ps. 63), protection (Ps. 57), healing (Ps. 6), vindication (Ps. 109) and prayer psalms that are full of praise and thanksgiving (Ps. 103).
During the exilic period, the centre of the religious community was in the synagogue, fasting and prayer was important as part of the religious obligations. After the exile, there were emphasis on spiritual devotion through prayer and the temple worship through praise, prayer, circumcision, Sabbath observance, tithes and fasting took a center stage.
The teaching of Jesus Christ on prayer was found mostly in some of His parables, such as the parable of the unjust judge (Lk. 18:1-8) which calls for tenacity in prayer, persistence as well as continuity in prayer. Christ insists on humility and persistence in prayer. Also, Jesus taught simplicity in prayer (Matt. 6:5; 23:14). Whenever a group of Christians are praying, there should be unity of mind through the Holy Spirit. Believers should not allow doubt in their prayers.
Prayer should be offered to Christ and through His name (Jn. 14:13; 15:16; 16:23) and through Him believers has access to the father. To pray in the name of Christ is to pray as Christ Himself prayed, it is access to the father which Jesus opened for believers. Jesus Christ prayed in secret lonely places (Lk. 5:15; 6:12); in time of spiritual warfare and conflict (Jn. 12:20-28; Lk. 22:39-40) and even when he was on the cross (Matt. 27:46; Lk. 23:46). In His prayer He offered thanksgiving (Lk. 10:21; Jn. 6:21; Matt. 26:27), He sought guidance (Lk. 6:12), He interceded for others (Jn. 17:6-19; Lk. 22:31-34) and He communed with the father (Lk. 9:28).
During the early church, prayer was significant to the early Christians, Infact the church was born in the atmosphere of prayer (Acts. 1:4) and in answer to prayer the spirit was poured upon the church (2:4) this is known as the day of Pentecost. The early church believed that there are connections between prayer, Holy Spirit presence and power of God (Acts 4:31), in several times of crisis the church always gathered to pray and victory always followed (4:23; 12:5, 12). To the early apostles prayer was thanksgiving, intercession and manifestation of God’s presence (I Thes. 1:2; Eph. 1:16) and prayer was absolutely essential for the Christian, it is indispensable (Rom. 12:12) and it is Christian armour (Eph. 6:13-17).
The components of Prayer
The components mean that all the important parts that make up a prayer, which must be systematically and holistically observed during prayer.
- Praises: This is to express love and respect to God. It is to ascribe majesty and adoration to God; this is usually done through songs of praises. “Sing to the Lord, all the world, worship the Lord with joy; come before him with happy songs. Enter the temple gates with thanksgiving; go into its courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise him” Ps. 100:1 NLT. Believers should not just jump into prayers; they must first sing songs of praises to the Lord because God inhabits the praises of His people, Ps. 22:3. There is power in praise, Jehoshaphat recorded victory at war through praise, “after consulting with the people, the king ordered some musicians to put on the robes they wore on sacred occasions and to march ahead of the army, praise the Lord His love is eternal” II Chr. 20:21 GNT. Likewise, the wall of Jericho fell down through the weapon of praise, “when the people heard the sound of the rams’ horn, they shouted as loud as they could, suddenly, the walls of Jericho collapsed and the Israelites charged straight into the town and captured it” Josh. 6:20 NLT. Even in heaven, the twenty-four elders always sing songs of praise and adoration to God in worship (Rev. 4:8-11). Praises should be number one in your prayer items, and always approach God’s throne through praises.
- Thanksgiving: It is to publicly acknowledge and celebrate the goodness of God. The act of giving thanks to God, inform of adoration, praise. Thanksgiving is derived from the Hebrew word “Yadah” mean to give thanks, to praise God. This can be done by speaking words of appreciation of what God has done, what He is doing and what He will do,“Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms” Ps. 95:2. One should not forget to offer thanksgiving to God, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving…” Ps. 100:4.
Believers should not be like the nine ungrateful lepers that after their healing, they never came back to give thanks, only the foreigner among them came to appreciate Christ in return. “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned and with a loud voice glorified God. And fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was Samaritan” Lk.17:15-16. The best thing a believer can do is to give thanks to God (Ps. 103:2-5).
The benefits of thanksgiving include:
* It helps you to count your blessings.
* It draws you closer to God.
* It helps you to see God as a loving and caring father.
* You get more blessings without asking.
* It helps you in prayer as you lay your request through it.
* Long life and prosperity is always accorded to those who give thanks to God.