May 2022 | It Is Finished

How to Pray?
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How to Pray?

Dr. R. Stanley

Prayer is said to be the Christian’s vital breath. Prayer is not an extra-curricular activity. The men and women of God, both in Bible history and Church history, were primarily known for their prayer life. F. J. Dake, the author of the Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible, has counted 222 actual Prayers in the Bible, 176 in the Old Testament and 46 in the New. The Book of Psalms is the largest book in the Bible and it contains 72 Prayers. No wonder this was the Praise and Prayer Book of the Jews.

The first syllables in prayer were taught to me and my younger brother, Christopher, by our maternal grandmother, Mrs. Jebathai (=Mother of Prayer) Manickam (1886–1976), and our mother’s elder sister, Miss M. Mary Sundaram (1911–1989). They taught us during family prayer time in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Our beloved mother, Mrs. AnbuRajamani (1924–1981), continued this teaching during our school days. She would not give us lunch on Sundays unless we had recited one of the prayers, called Collects, from the Book of Common Prayerused regularly in the High Anglican Church in Nazareth our hometown in South Tamilnadu. This book was the first compendium of worship in English, written by Thomas Cranmer (1498–1556) The Archbishop of Canterbury, published in 1549. We of course memorized these short prayers in Tamil our mother tongue. This exercise was the launching pad for my prayer life when I was born again in 1962 at the age of 16. It is to the disadvantage of the new Churches which have set aside the above said Book of Common Prayer.

Mummy was a woman of prayer. She was one of the well-known praying women in Nazareth. I was born again in a prayer fellowship which had its daily evening gathering in the red sandy desert on the Western side of the town. The one I started in 1963 when I entered the Engineering College in Karaikudi was a Campus Prayer Fellowship. About ten of us would gather daily in the woods adjacent to the College Campus after our lecture and laboratory classes got over. This was the seedbed for the Blessing Youth Mission founded in 1971. During the 50 years of my public ministry, Prayer, besides being my lifeline, has been one of my favourite subjects in preaching. I have taught not only How to Pray, but also How not to Pray. I learnt most of the Bible truths while on knees with an open Bible. Over the years I have been strongly recommending this practice to my listeners and readers.

Jesus never taught directly “How to Preach,” but He has taught us, “How to pray” (Mt. 6:9–13). He emphasized the “manner” rather than the “matter” for prayer (v9). References to Prayer in His teaching are numerous. To me the most striking one is John 15:7. “If you abide in Me, and My WORDS abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” In other words, if our prayers are to be effective, the primary requirement is that they must be BIBLE-BASED. It is the Word of God which is the Will of God. “If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1Jn 5:14). We will pray the Bible way only to the extent our hearts are saturated with God’s Word. “The mouth speaks out of the abundance of heart” (Lk 6:45). Solomon worshipped God quoting Deuteronomy 7:9 (2 Chr 6:14). Nehemiah prayed quoting Deuteronomy 9:29 (Neh 1:100. Daniel prayed on the basis of Jermiah 25:11) Dan 9:2). The early church richly indwells our heart, praise and worship through Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs would be a spontaneous outflow (Col 3:16).

I offered an extempore Prayer following the video-recording of each of my daily devotions from my book, Better Everyday, in Tamil in 2006. Following many requests I started audio-recording these devotions in English beginning with July 2019. This time my closing prayers were not extempore but written down. I asked the Lord, “If Your Holy Spirit helps me to articulate prayer, Why should I not expect Him to do so to write down these prayers in advance?” Yes, He did it. Several listeners through daily WhatsApp started transcribing these prayers. Testimonies of its richness in content and freshness of Spirit’s anointing started flowing in. This led me to compile these Prayers in this book.

You will generally observe four vital elements in these Prayers: P-raise, R-epent, A-sk, and Y-ield. These are obvious in the Lord’s Prayer that appears on the back cover. I did not primarily keep a Concordance with me to pick up verses for these Prayers. Rather, with the subject of the day’s devotion in mind I started writing the Prayer. I thank God for the unhindered flow.

During the present stage in my life, praying is more of communing with God rather than asking for things. I delight more in who He is than what He gives. All my prayers are “heard,” and “answered” as per His will. Some delayed. Many prayers are differently answered. At the end of the day I sing. “The Lord is good and His mercy endures forever!” (I Chr. 16:34; 2 Chr. 5:13; 7:3; Ezra 3:11; Psa 100:5; 106:1; 107:1; 118:1,29; 136:1; Jer 33:11). What more do I want?

It is primarily through the Bible that God reveals Himself to us. As I mentioned earlier, it is when the Word of God abides in us, our prayers would be effectual (Jn 15:7; Col 3:160. Also most of our prayers these days are for our physical and material needs. It is this preoccupation that Jesus condemned 9Mt 6:25–34). Read the Prayer of Jesus in John 17 and that of Paul in Ephesians 1 and Colossians 1. The prayers relating to Doctrines are the maximum (29), followed by Character (27) and Suffering (24). By a regular use of this Prayer will make you heart glow before the Almighty. You would be broken and built up.

A word about the postures in prayer. Although prayer can be from any bodily position, the Bible lists six specific postures: (a) Sitting (2 Sam 7:18), (b) Standing (Mk 11:25), (c) Kneeling 92 Chr 6:13; Dan 6:10; Lk 22:41; Acts 7:60; 9:40; 20:36; 21:5; Eph 3:14), (d) Bowing (Gen 24:48; Ex 4:31; 2Chr 7:3; 20:18; 29:30), (e) Prostrating (Mt 26:39; Mk 14:35) and (f) Uplifted hands (1 Tim 2:8). Both in the Old Testament and the New Testament times, kneeling has been the most frequently assumed posture. The quality of the prayers of our forefathers, who invariably knelt down to pray, was definitely superior to ours. Bent knees! Bowed heads! Bare hands! Broken hearts! Even rejoicing before God must be with trembling (Psa 2:11). He is our Compassionate Father as well as a Consuming Fire (Heb 12:28,29).

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