Questions 118, 119, & 120


What is prayer?


Prayer is when we talk to God. We thank Him for His goodness. We confess our sin*. We ask for things that please Him.


 Matthew 6:6Philippians 4:61 John 5:14



In whose name should we pray?


We should pray in the name of Jesus.


John 14:13-14John 16:23



When and where should we pray?


We can pray to God anywhere, anytime.

All people who go to a place of worship*, pray. Muslims* pray. Jewish* people pray. Buddhists pray. People who believe in one God pray. People who believe in many gods pray. Some people pray to the spirits of animals. Some people pray to the spirits of their ancestors.* Some pray and believe that God is listening. Some pray but do not believe that anyone is listening.


Christians believe in a God who speaks. From the very beginning, he put a man and a woman in a garden and walked and talked with them. Ever since, people who know the Creator* have talked with him. And talking to God is called prayer.


Prayer has always been important to the people of God. In the Old Testament*, God spoke to Abraham* and gave him a promise. And Abraham built an altar* in that place and called on the name of the Lord.* Prayer was so important to the children of Abraham, that they offered prayers to God, just as Abraham did.


Many years after Abraham, his family went to Egypt* to find food. They stayed there for a long time because the leader of Egypt made them his slaves. Life was hard for them, so they cried out to God. And God answered their prayers and sent Moses* to bring them out of Egypt.


Part of the covenant*, the promises that God made with Abraham and Moses, told the people that they should pray. They should pray only to him and to no other God. Prayer was so important to them that the largest part of the Old Testament scriptures* is a book of songs and prayers. Many of the times that the children of Abraham worshipped, they used the words of these prayers to call on God and honor* him. Even Jesus grew up in a home where he would have known the prayers and heard them. He learned to pray as other children in Jewish homes did.


There are many ways that we may pray. We pray as we praise* God for who he is and what he has done. We pray when we give thanks to God. We admit that everything we have comes from him, and without him we have no good thing. Since God sees our hearts* as they really are, we pray when we confess. We speak to God of things that we see in our lives that do not please him. We pray when we ask him to meet the needs that we have. And we ask him to meet the needs of other men and women.


We can pray at any time from wherever we are. And it does not matter if we sit and pray, or stand and pray lift our hands to pray, or bow with our face to the ground. God hears us when we pray.[1]


When we pray, we come to God knowing that we can come to him only because of Jesus. We can talk to God only because Jesus gave himself for us. That is why we should pray ‘in Jesus’ name’. God wants us to come to him as a child who comes to a father. He wants to give us good gifts, but he wants us to ask. God is pleased when his children come to him.


When we pray, we are to pray in the will of God. And we are to pray with faith.* We do not pray for what we know will not please God or honor him. And we know what pleases and honors God from what the scriptures tell us. If we believe that our prayer is in God’s will, then we must trust* that he will answer our prayer.[2] The Holy Spirit will help us know how to pray as we should. And when we do not know what to pray for, the Holy Spirit* brings his own prayers to the Father for us.[3]


But if God already knows what we need, why should we pray? We may not understand how prayer works. But we should pray because our Father in heaven* tells us to pray. We should pray because prayer is a way that we can be close to God. God has decided to use our prayers as a part of his plans to change history. God uses our prayers to do his work in the world. There are things that happen because of prayer. And there are things that do not happen because no one prayed.


Jesus told a story about a man who had a friend come to visit. But he had no food to feed his friend. So, the man went to his neighbor* and started to knock on his door. But it was midnight and the neighbor and his family were already in bed. But the man kept on knocking until his neighbor gave him what he wanted. Then Jesus said to his disciples* that they should pray like this man.[4] When they pray, they should not give up. If God does not answer, we should ask again. Sometimes, God asks us to wait. We may not always know why, but we do know that God has his reasons. God’s answers always come at the right time.

[1] 2 Samuel 7:18; Mark 11:25; 1 Chronicles 6:13; Daniel 6:10; Luke 22:41; Acts 7:60; Ephesians 3:14; Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:35; 1 Timothy 2:8
[2] Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:24; James 1:6
[3] Romans 8:26-27
[4] Luke 11:5-10