Dear Friends in Christ,
In this 5 part series we will cover Petition, Intercession, Confession, Adoration, and Thanksgiving.
There are dozens of ways to pray. The right method for you may depend on personality, temperament, and what is going on in your life right now. But a full prayer life always includes a regular time-usually daily-reserved for prayer, just as learning to play tennis or to cook requires regular practice. Choose a time and stick with it. If words are helpful to you, by all means use them. In addition to your own words, you might find an appropriate psalm or hymn, memorize it, and say or sing it during your prayer time. But include silence in your prayer time as well. Then look for ways to build on the following five “foundation stones” of prayer:
Prayer for our own needs is called petitionary prayer. Beginners usually start here and are immediately drawn into an area of great mystery: how does prayer work? Why does God answer some prayers but not others? Can we know that a happy event is the result of prayer?
These questions do not have answers that can be proved. Petitionary prayer, like all prayer, arises from a relationship. Relationships are fluid things between living, growing persons. Think of a loving marriage. I know that my wife loves me and seeks my well-being, but I cannot prove it to a skeptic. It is only within the context of a loving relationship with God that petitionary prayer makes sense.
Jesus has given us another helpful image as well, that of a loving parent. A parent often knows a child’s needs before the child does, and sometimes the answer to a child’s request is already unfolding out of the child’s sight. But even so, when a child approaches its mother or father and says, “Please help me” or “Please fix this for me,” it gladdens the parent’s heart because it expresses total trust in the parent’s love. So is God’s heart gladdened when we appeal to him in prayer?
To pray for our own needs is not selfish or self-centered (unless that’s all we pray for), but a natural and good thing to do. Saint Paul encourages us to pray for our needs: “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).