130. How do we know how to pray and what to pray?

Jesus taught His disciples to pray in Luke 11:2-4: ‘Father, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. Give us each day the food we need, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us, and don’t let us yield to temptation.’ Jesus also taught his disciples to pray for those who persecute you (Matt 5:44), pray in private (Matt 6:6), don’t use meaningless repetition (Matt 6:7), pray for all things ask and believe that you will receive them (Mark 11:24), to pray at all times and not lose heart (Luke 18:1). Despite this instruction on prayer, the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:26- 28: ‘And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words, and the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will, and we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.’

It seems that we cannot pray as we should unless we rely on the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit in our prayers. So prayer is not something we do in our own strength, but in the power of the Holy Spirit relying on God to pray through us according to His will and purposes. This submission to the Spirit of God makes our prayers powerful and meaningful. God lives in us to work out His good pleasure.

The Bible is full of scriptures that reveal to us the word and will of God. Praying scripture is a sure way to ensure that we pray according to the will of God. For example a person troubled by past sins can pray Ezekiel 16:62-63 as follows: ‘And I will reaffirm my covenant with you, and you will know that I am the Lord. You will remember your sins and cover your mouth in silent shame when I forgive you of all that you have done. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!’ And in 1 John 1:9 it says: ‘But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.’ This is praying according to the will of God.

Surah 62 Al Jumu’ah ayat 9-11 describes the Friday prayers and the need to put aside thinking about any worldly pleasures to pray sincerely. Surah 17 Al Isra’ ayat 78-87 describes attitudes that need to be set aside, overcome or suppressed to engage in effective prayer and receive the favours of Allâh. Surah 1 contains the prayer of supplication and worship. The importance of engaging in prayer is emphasised in Surah 2 Al Baqarah ayat 238-239. Surah 3 Ali ‘Imrans ayah 147 is a prayer of repentance asking Allâh to forgive us our sins. In the same Surah ayat 191-194 the servant of Allâh is guided in praise of Allâh and appreciation of His greatness. The habit of prayer is encouraged in Surah 11 Hud ayah 114.