If we are honest, most of us would admit that we don't give prayer the importance that it is due. There are a number of possible reasons for this. Perhaps we doubt that God is interested in our prayers or that they carry weight. We may feel that we can manage our circumstances without recourse to prayer. Or perhaps we simply don't know how we are supposed to pray.
But the Bible teaches that all of us can, and should, regularly come to God in prayer. It notes in Luke 5:16 that "Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed". And it says, in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, to "pray without ceasing".
During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught his followers how to pray. He said: "When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." (Matthew 6:5-8)
Amazingly, Jesus taught us to approach God as a father, not as an aloof and wrathful deity to be appeased with animal sacrifices and incense offerings. This teaching was radical and would have offended the religious establishment of that time. The implications are profound for, as Jesus stated in the same sermon, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?" (Matthew 7:9-11)
The Bible records the prayers of numerous men and women from different walks of life and different eras. All of them have something to teach us, but Pastor Ryan Waters, in his recent two-part message on prayer, chose to focus on the prayer lives of two well-known Old Testament figures, Daniel and Solomon.
Daniel was a member of the Jewish nobility who was taken into captivity by the Babylonians and forced to serve in the court of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. Daniel understood the power of prayer. When he found out that he and his friends were to be executed along with all the wise men of Babylon at the behest of the king, he didn't panic. Instead, he urged his friends to "plead for mercy from the God of heaven" (Daniel 2:18). God heard the prayers of Daniel and his friends and not only were their lives spared, but they were honoured by Nebuchadnezzar and put in positions of authority. The king was even moved to declare: "Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings."
Solomon also had the right attitude to prayer. Following the death of his father David, Solomon became the king of Israel. He felt he lacked the discernment needed to govern and he confessed his weakness to God. In response, God gave him a "wise and discerning heart" as well as wealth and honour (1 Kings 3:10-13). Eventually, people came from all over the world to listen to Solomon's wisdom (1 Kings 4:34).
We can learn a lot from Daniel and Solomon about how to have an effective prayer life. They show us that prayer involves humbly acknowledging our limitations before God, our Father, and inviting Him to take control. They also remind us that prayer should be our first response to adversity, not our last resort.
If you want to explore the subject of prayer in more depth, I encourage you to head to C3 Mumbai's YouTube or SoundCloud page and listen to the sermons "Prayer: In the Transition" and "The Test is in the Transfer".