By Bob Thiel
This is the third part of a multi-part series on prayer.
It has been said that, “The Church of God goes forward on its knees.” This has basically been used as an admonition to tell Christians that they need to pray. But how?
In the previous articles, prayer was defined, and nine tips were discussed. In this article, four additional tips, starting with what we will call tip ten are covered.
Tip Number 10: Remember God’s Will and Have Your Priorities in Order
You need to have the right priorities when you pray. Jesus laid out an outline of prayer as He taught:
9 In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your
kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13)
I personally try to keep that outline in mind when I pray. Not that I simply repeat the above words vainly, but I add details. Details about doing the work of God (the Kingdom, for example, will not come until Matthew 24:14 is fulfilled), details about the daily needs of others, forgiveness, details of the daily needs for myself and family, details about my own sins/debts and sins/debts of others.
We truly are to want God’s will to be done. Furthermore, Jesus specifically taught that His faithful followers should have the right priorities. Notice some of what He taught after teaching His disciples how to pray:
25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:25-34)
38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. (Matthew 9:38)
Your prayers and entire approach to life need to have the correct focus, including God’s kingdom and work. The spiritual needs of others and yourself are more important than your physical needs. Yet, few truly have faith.
Notice also what the Apostle John wrote:
14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. (1 John 5:14-15)
We need to accept God’s will and align our priorities with Him.
Tip Number 11: Praying Positions from the Bible
Some have said that “the Church of God goes forward on its knees.” This basically means that prayer, whether or not on the knees, is an important factor in doing God’s work. And those that wish to support the end time Philadelphian work of God (Revelation 3:7-13) should be praying.
The Bible shows that Solomon and others prayed on their knees and/or with their arms spread towards the heavens:
54 And so it was, when Solomon had finished praying all this prayer and supplication to the Lord, that he arose from before the altar of the Lord, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven. (1 Kings 8:54)
10 Daniel…with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days. (Daniel 6:10)
11 For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” (Romans 14:11)
8 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; (1 Timothy 2:8)
Now, I should add that this does not mean that Christians are to be bouncing/dancing around in public with their arms raised and/or with their palms up as many evangelicals and others do.
Nor do these scriptures mean that all prayers need to be done on the knees or with arms raised (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Luke 18:13-14). Praying on the knees shows humility and can help one focus when praying. Looking up can also help with focus.
Yet it should be mentioned that Jesus, and apparently Jehoshaphat, also sometimes prayed looking down:
39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, (Matthew 26:39)
18 And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem bowed before the Lord, worshiping the Lord. (2 Chronicles 20:18)
Jesus did not, however, always pray looking down. He also prayed looking up to the heavens (Luke 9:28-29). You do not always need to pray on your knees, facing down, or looking up.
Notice also that sometimes God expects more than just oral/silent requests. Notice what happened with Moses:
11 And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. (Exodus 17:11-12)
While you do not have to have your arms raised every time you pray, some matters take more effort than simply asking.
Related to instructions for the first Passover, the Bible says, “the people bowed their heads and worshiped” (Exodus 12:27), so praying with one’s head bowed would seem consistent with that. But God does not want you to bow down before statues or similar icons (Deuteronomy 5:8-9).
The Bible describes prayers given while standing, kneeling, bowing down, or prostrate with the head touching the ground. Sometimes the Bible shows hands are lifted, though not always. Yet nowhere in the Bible is there any mention of holding the hands with palms together with the fingers pointed upward as is shown on so many religious pictures or artifacts, like one for the Babylonian priests praying to the sun god Shamash c. 888 B.C.
Priests praying before sun symbol and Shamash
Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and others follow practices similar to the ancient Babylonians. Since God does not want to be worshiped as the pagan gods were worshiped (Deuteronomy 12:29-31), clasped hands would not seem to be appropriate for Christians.
Hindus praying to goddess Durga (by Hasan Iqbal Wamy)
As far as other positions go, some people, because of physical infirmity, can’t kneel or even stand. God’s ability to hear and to answer prayers isn’t limited by such circumstances.
Tip Number 12: Pray Every Day
Christians should pray regularly, and preferably at least daily:
17 pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
12 continuing steadfastly in prayer (Romans 12:12)
36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:36)
The prophet Daniel prayed three times per day (Daniel 6:11), so did King David:
17 Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, And He shall hear my voice. (Psalms 55:17)
Notice also that David knew that God heard him. He believed that God was there and was listening.
Jesus prayed early in the day:
35 Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. (Mark 1:35)
Normally “I rise before the dawning of the morning” (Psalms 119:147) and pray for about forty-five minutes. Immediately afterwards, about four days a week, I jog, and tend to meditate and sometimes pray while doing so. I will also pray other times throughout the day.
It is too easy to get busy during the day, so many find it is good to start your day off with prayer.
The Bible does not specify any amount of time for you to pray, but encourages daily prayer. The late evangelist Leroy Neff wrote:
Some people in their zeal and enthusiasm pray more than they should. They become practically prayer-and-Bible-study hermits! Children and spouses are neglected while they spend long hours “getting in their prayer time.” They are not giving as they should in outgoing concern for their family and the rest of the world. On the other hand, take heed to this appropriate saying: Seven days without prayer makes one weak!
The Bible nowhere states how long we should pray each day — just like the financial offerings we give and the frequency or length of our fasting. God leaves it to us to decide, and watches to see what we will do.
Jesus, when He knew He was going to be crucified within 24 hours, prayed for a solid hour, then went back to continue twice more (Matt. 26:38 and following verses).
On another occasion, when Jesus was about to make the important decision of selecting the 12 apostles, He prayed all night (Luke 6:12). So it should seem obvious that five, 10 or 20 minutes a day before our Creator God is insufficient. (Effectiveness in Prayer. Good News, May 1979)
So days five, ten, or twenty minutes might be fine. Yet, as he properly wrote, God leaves the amount to us to decide.
Tip Number 13: Forgiveness
One reason that people do not get their prayers answered is that they have failed to truly forgive others. Many feel that “those that did them wrong” do not deserve to be forgiven.
After giving an outline of prayer, Jesus said:
14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15)
Yet, many seem to think that their relationship with God is sufficiently close that they do not really need to forgive others. This is wrong.
Most people have not forgiven someone from what they perceive someone did to them.
Jesus taught that forgiveness needed to be done before worship:
23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)
Forgiveness is a two-way street. In the above account, it appears that perhaps the worshiper needed forgiveness and apparently needed to ask for it. Forgiveness is important. More important than simply showing up somewhere to worship.
More information on prayer can be found in our booklet Prayer: What Does the Bible Teach?