Today, May 5, 2022, is the National Day of Prayer here in America. “According to Wikipedia Source, on April 17, 1952, President Harry Truman signed a bill proclaiming the National Day of Prayer into law in the United States. President Reagan amended the law in 1988, designating the first Thursday of May each year as the National Day of Prayer. We know the National Prayer Committee was formed in the United States in 1972.” (Quote source here.)
The following information is taken from Wikipedia:
The National Day of Prayer is an annual day of observance held on the first Thursday of May, designated by the United States Congress, when people are asked “to turn to God in prayer and meditation”. The president is required by law to sign a proclamation each year, encouraging all Americans to pray on this day. [Note: The 2022 Presidential Proclamation signed by President Joe Biden is available at this link.]
The modern law formalizing its annual observance was enacted in 1952, although earlier days of fasting and prayer had been established by the Second Continental Congress from 1775 until 1783, and by President John Adams in 1798 and 1799. Thomas Jefferson established a day of prayer and thanksgiving, but this occurred while he served as governor of Virginia.
The constitutionality of the National Day of Prayer was unsuccessfully challenged in court by the Freedom From Religion Foundation after their attempt was unanimously dismissed by a panel of a federal appellate court in April 2011. (Additional information and quote source are available at this link.)
While the National Day of Prayer is a day set aside for united, national prayer for our nation and our communities, praying is something we can do at any time, anywhere, 24/7, and we can even pray silently. So what is prayer? GotQuestions.org provides us with the following information:
The most basic definition of prayer is “talking to God.” Prayer is not meditation or passive reflection; it is direct address to God. It is the communication of the human soul with the Lord who created the soul. Prayer is the primary way for the believer in Jesus Christ to communicate his emotions and desires with God and to fellowship with God.
Prayer can be audible or silent, private or public, formal or informal. All prayer must be offered in faith (James 1:6), in the name of the Lord Jesus (John 16:23), and in the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26). As the “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia” puts it, “Christian prayer in its full New Testament meaning is prayer addressed to God as Father, in the name of Christ as Mediator, and through the enabling grace of the indwelling Spirit” (“Prayer” by J. C. Lambert). The wicked have no desire to pray (Psalm 10:4), but the children of God have a natural desire to pray (Luke 11:1).
Prayer is described in the Bible as seeking God’s favor (Exodus 32:11), pouring out one’s soul to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:15), crying out to heaven (2 Chronicles 32:20), drawing near to God (Psalm 73:28, KJV), and kneeling before the Father (Ephesians 3:14).
Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7). Worry about nothing; pray about everything.
Everything? Yes, God wants us to talk with Him about everything. How often should we pray? The biblical answer is “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We should keep a running conversation going with God all day long. Some find the ACTS formula of prayer helpful, but there is really no special formula for how to pray in the Bible. We should just do it. We can pray under any and all circumstances. Prayer develops our relationship with God and demonstrates our trust and utter dependence upon Him.
Prayer is the Christian’s way of communicating with God. We pray to praise God and thank Him and tell Him how much we love Him. We pray to enjoy His presence and tell Him what is going on in our lives. We pray to make requests and seek guidance and ask for wisdom. God loves this exchange with His children, just as we love the exchange we have with our children. Fellowship with God is the heart of prayer. Too often we lose sight of how simple prayer is really supposed to be.
When we make petitions to God, we let God know exactly where we stand and what we would like to see happen. In our prayers, we must admit that God is greater than we are and ultimately knows what is best in any given situation (Romans 11:33–36). God is good and asks us to trust Him. In prayer, we say, essentially, “Not my will, but your will be done.” The key to answered prayer is praying according to the will of God and in accordance with His Word. Prayer is not seeking our own will but seeking to align ourselves with the will of God more fully (1 John 5:14–15; James 4:3).
The Bible contains many examples of prayer and plenty of exhortations to pray (see Luke 18:1; Romans 12:12; and Ephesians 6:18). God’s house is to be a house of prayer (Mark 11:17), and God’s people are to be people of prayer: “Dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love” (Jude 1:20–21).(Quote source here.)
This leads us to the next question, “What is the purpose of prayer?” GotQuestions.org states:
Prayer is an important part of the Christian life. It is the way we communicate with the Lord and praise Him. To understand the purpose of prayer, it is important to first understand what prayer is not. There are many wrong views in the world and culture about prayer, even among Christians, and these should be addressed first. Prayer is not:
• bargaining with God.
• making demands of God.
• only asking God for things.
• a therapeutic, meditation-type exercise.
• bothering God and taking up His time.
• a way to control the Lord.
• a way to show off one’s spirituality before others.
Many people believe that prayer is only about asking God for things. Although supplication is a part of prayer (Philippians 4:6), it is not the sole purpose of prayer. Praying for the needs of ourselves and others is needed and beneficial, but there is so much more to prayer. A. W. Tozer warned, “Prayer among evangelical Christians is always in danger of degenerating into a glorified ‘gold rush’” (“Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings,” compiled by Gerald Smith, Moody Publishers, 2008, entry for Feb. 26). But God is not a magical genie who answers our every wish, nor is He a weak God who can be controlled by our prayers.
The best way to learn about the purpose of prayer is studying the example of Jesus during His earthly ministry. Jesus prayed for Himself and for others, and He prayed to commune with the Father. John 17 is a great place to see Jesus’ use of prayer. He not only prays that the Father be glorified but also prays for His disciples and “for those who will believe in me through their message” (John 17:20). Submitting to the Father’s will was another aspect to Jesus’ prayer life, highlighted in His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). With any request we have, we must submit to God’s will.
In addition to interceding for others, prayer is also a way to strengthen our relationship with God. Jesus set the example, as He prayed to the Father throughout His earthly ministry (Luke 6:12; Matthew 14:23). Those in relationships will naturally seek to communicate with each other, and prayer is our communication with God. Other good examples in the Bible of those who spent time in prayer are David, Hezekiah, and Paul.
Ultimately, the main purpose of prayer is worship. When we pray to the Lord, recognizing Him for who He is and what He has done, it is an act of worship. There are many examples of prayer being an act of worship in the Bible, including 2 Kings 19:15, 1 Chronicles 17:20, Psalm 86:12–13, John 12:28, and Romans 11:33–36. How we pray should reflect this purpose; our focus should be on who God is, not on ourselves.
Interestingly, the model of prayer that Jesus gave the disciples in Matthew 6:9–13, known as the Lord’s Prayer, has all these elements. The first part includes praise and worship of God (Matthew 6:9), and then the second part moves on to praying for God’s will to be done (Matthew 6:10). After this, there is supplication for ourselves and others (Matthew 6:11–12), as well as asking for strength to deal with temptation (Matthew 6:13). Jesus modeled this prayer for His disciples, and it shows all the reasons for prayer with the central focus of worship.
Prayer is an important part of the Christian life, and one’s prayer life should be developed. Not only does prayer affect our lives and the lives of others, but it is also a way to communicate with the Lord and grow in our relationship with Him. At the heart of prayer is an act of worship to the Lord. God’s Word places an emphasis on the power and purpose of prayer, and, therefore, it should not be neglected.
Author Warren Wiersbe sums up the purpose of prayer well: “The immediate purpose of prayer is the accomplishing of God’s will on earth; the ultimate purpose of prayer is the eternal glory of God” (from “On Earth as It Is in Heaven: How the Lord’s Prayer Teaches Us to Pray More Effectively,” Baker Books, 2010, p. 78). (Quote source here.)
And this leads us to the final question in this post regarding prayer, “What are the different types of prayer?” Again, GotQuestions.org gives us this answer:
The Bible reveals many types of prayers and employs a variety of words to describe the practice. For example, 1 Timothy 2:1 says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” Here, all four of the main Greek words used for prayer are mentioned in one verse.
Here are the main types of prayers in the Bible:
The prayer of faith: James 5:15 says, “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” In this context, prayer is offered in faith for someone who is sick, asking God to heal. When we pray, we are to believe in the power and goodness of God (Mark 9:23).
The prayer of agreement (also known as corporate prayer): After Jesus’ ascension, the disciples “all joined together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14). Later, after Pentecost, the early church “devoted themselves” to prayer (Acts 2:42). Their example encourages us to pray with others.
The prayer of request (or supplication): We are to take our requests to God. Philippians 4:6 teaches, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Part of winning the spiritual battle is to be “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:18).
The prayer of thanksgiving: We see another type of prayer in Philippians 4:6: thanksgiving or thanks to God. “With thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Many examples of thanksgiving prayers can be found in the Psalms.
The prayer of worship: The prayer of worship is similar to the prayer of thanksgiving. The difference is that worship focuses on who God is; thanksgiving focuses on what God has done. Church leaders in Antioch prayed in this manner with fasting: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:2-3).
The prayer of consecration: Sometimes, prayer is a time of setting ourselves apart to follow God’s will. Jesus made such a prayer the night before His crucifixion: “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will’” (Matthew 26:39).
The prayer of intercession: Many times, our prayers include requests for others as we intercede for them. We are told to make intercession “for everyone” in 1 Timothy 2:1. Jesus serves as our example in this area. The whole of John 17 is a prayer of Jesus on behalf of His disciples and all believers.
The prayer of imprecation: Imprecatory prayers are found in the Psalms (e.g., 7, 55, 69). They are used to invoke God’s judgment on the wicked and thereby avenge the righteous. The psalmists use this type of appeal to emphasize the holiness of God and the surety of His judgment. Jesus teaches us to pray for blessing on our enemies, not cursing (Matthew 5:44-48).
The Bible also speaks of praying in the Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:14-15) and prayers when we are unable to think of adequate words (Romans 8:26-27). In those times, the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us.
GotQuestion.org has answers to 119 specific questions on the topic of prayer, and all of those questions and links to the answers are available at this link. It is a great resource for any questions you have regarding prayer. Do check it out.
As we pray for our nation on this National Day of Prayer, let us not forget that God is always available 24/7, any day, anywhere, in any place or any situation or circumstance that we find ourselves in. Our help is only prayer away, so remember the words from Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV) that I will end this post with–Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding…
Will guard your hearts . . .
And minds . . .
Through Christ Jesus . . . .
YouTube Video: “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” sung by Austin Stone Worship: