Heidelberg Catechism Q116

Q. 116. Why do Christians need to pray?

Aš Because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us.  And also because God gives his grace and Holy Spirit only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly, asking God for these gifts and thanking him for them.


In order to understand the need for prayer, a Christian must first understand what prayer is and is not.  Prayer is not a ritual or magical spell we can use to control God.  Nor is prayer a quick fix for the troubles in which we find ourselves.  On the contrary, prayer is a conversation with a loving Father.  Prayer is a form of communication where a believer or group of believers talk to and listen to the Lord God Almighty.  In fact, 375 times the English Bible speaks of or makes references to prayer(s), praying or the fact that prayer occurred.  This makes prayer one of the most important topics for a believer to understand and practice.  Read Matthew 6:7.


Read 1Samuel 3:1-15.  Eli communicates some wonderful advice to the young boy Samuel; he tells him to listen to the Lord.  Many of us are very good at talking.  We can talk to friends, strangers and co-workers, but not so many of us are good at listening.  The same is true of prayer many of our prayer lives.  Learning to listen is the first step in truly learning to pray.  When we listen to God we learn what he desires to give us, and what we ought to ask for personally and corporately.  Practice developing a time of listening prayer at the beginning and end of each conversation you have with God.  Ask him to speak and take a few moments to sit quietly expecting to hear his voice.


Since God is truly the giver of all good things, a natural part of our prayer life must be thankfulness.  God provides us with many things every day – the ability to rise, the ability to sleep, the strength to work and the strength to rest.  There is plenty of food, and even if there isn’t the food we have has come from God’s gracious governing of the world and the natural cycles or sun, rain and wind.  But the Lord provides more than just physical blessings, he blesses us richly with Christ and the Holy Spirit.  He has literally given himself to us.  What greater gift could we receive?  Because of these realities, our natural response should be to say thank you to our gracious Father.  Read Colossians 4:2 and Hebrews 12:28.


The psalmist makes an interesting request of the Lord.  Read Psalm 27:4.  What a request to make?  To ask God to dwell with him and see him.  It almost sounds like a prayer, which is unanswerable, but we know that the Lord grants his spirit to those who ask.  Read Luke 11:9-13.  We are urged to ask God for his presence to dwell within us and if God has instructed us to ask, will he not fulfill the request when it is made?  Of course he will.  Our Father has many gifts awaiting his people, if they but ask him for the grace and wisdom to seek them and use them.  If however they never ask, our Lord will not give them.


How often should we pray- Daily, Weekly, more or less? We must pray as often as we can.  Our Father wants to speak with us, listen to use and instruct us every moment of every day.  We ought to strive to pray continually, in every act and every situation.  This may sound burdensome, or cumbersome, but truly it is a liberating adventure that I am but a babe.  That said, Brother Lawrence, in the 1600’s penned a document entitled Practicing the Presence of God in which he instructed believers to constantly refocus their thoughts upon the Lord and his goodness as often as they could- whether cooking dinner or carving wood, our actions should proceed from fellowship with God.  I have found that simply refocusing my thoughts on God through the day brings me to a greater sense of his presence and awareness.  I hope you will too.  Read 1Thessalonians 5:16-18 and 1Timothy 2:8.


Let me provide one more reason, or impetus to why we need to pray – Our Lord expected it.  Jesus expected many things of his disciples – he expected obedience, that they would love one another, fast, and also that they would pray.  Read Luke 11:2-4.  Those words, when you pray are not a suggestion, but an expectation.  Jesus expected us to talk with our heavenly father, to ask for his kingdom to grow and for the things we need to live spiritually and physically.  Prayer is the very thing that sustained Jesus in his most pressing ministry situations, from choosing the twelve apostles, to the sweat-filled blood expelled in Gethsemane that led him to the cross.  Each of these actions and countless others were sustained by the sweet communion of talking with His Father.  May we experience the same strengthening and encouragement as we walk in the footsteps of Christ.


About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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