Prayer – Exploring 5 Types

Prayer – Exploring 5 Types

Welcome to part two on my prayer series. You can check out the first video to hear more about my personal experience and journey with prayer, but now we will focus more on what the Bible teaches about prayer.

Even though I am far from being a Greek or Hebrew scholar, I do like to look up words while studying different topics like prayer and seeing where different words were used in scripture and what the original meaning of the word was. For example, two different words for prayers in Hebrew were ‘na’ and ‘palal’ and they have different synonyms such as: to beg, exhortation, mark entreaty; mediate, intervene, pray, make supplication, and executed judgement. In Greek we find parakaleo (par-ak-al-eh’-o) which also means words such as ask, plead, comfort, encourage, urge, and exhort.

How interesting that words like beg, plead, and intervene are some of the uses of the word prayer, they in a way seem strong, but also reflect Matthew 7:7: “Keep asking, and it will be given to you.  Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door  will be opened to you.

God wants us to pray and speak with Him, to beg him, to intervene for ourselves and others. It may seem silly to some, why would you need to plead to God if he’s the one that is omnipotent? I believe part of this is because God wants us to show our dependence and trust in Him and to ask and have the opportunity to see God move and answer our prayers. If we never asked, we’d never know we received and never know the full amount of care and power God has over the world and us. I think a real challenge is actually embracing and recognizing that God answered a prayer in our lives instead of marking it as a coincidence or something we did in our own power. Don’t discount when God shows up, Matthew 7:7-8 reminds us that when we knock the door will open and Matthew 17:20 tell us if we have the faith the size of a mustard seed we can move mountains! God wants our obedience and faith to ask and watch Him work.

Of course, petition is one of the most common types of prayer for most of, we are fragile and vulnerable humans, we often need to turn to the strength of God. Yet relationships can’t be a one way street and we all get tired of that friend who just takes and never gives. Other ways we can talk to God are through: worship & thanksgiving, intercession, lament and confession.

One of my favorite scriptures is Thessalonians 5: 16-18 “Rejoice always, pray continually,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” What a great reminder to give worship and thanks to our God always and in all circumstances. Not if we feel like it and things went well for us today, but instead adopting a posture of worshipping God. He is our Creator and Father no matter how life is going, He created us in His image, sent His Son to die for our sins, and has given us eternal life. His abounding love and grace are why we thank Him and our lives not going perfectly should not detract from remembering that. Paul was a great example of this, through prison and trials He never stopped thanking God and many of His letters opened thanking those in the churches he started and providing them encourage, try reading Philippians to see the thanksgiving he provided even while imprisoned.

Then there is intercession, Epheisans 6:8, “Pray at all times in the Spirit  with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.” Just as we petition for ourselves, we should also petition for others. I love this quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together “I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me” that’s the beauty of intercession of the saints, it takes us outside of ourselves to care and love others and their well being – it pleads on their behalf, but it also transforms our own hearts and grows our love of God and others. One of my favorite prayers in the bible is in Nehemiah 1, he is broken over other people and the Jerusalem, so he prays on their behalf and intercedes while also confessing sins, worshipping God, and asking for his appeal to be heard.

Like many prayers, even Nehemiah’s prayer began with lamenting. Even though we should pray even when things aren’t going bad, we are more inclined to come before God when we are upset, mad, sad, feeling just broken down. I love reading Lamentations, Psalms, Job, and Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite books because it just has honesty. And reading Lamentations recently there is a lot of raw emotion and honesty. And that’s the point, we can be honest with God. He already knows what we’re thinking and feeling, why do we need to pretend otherwise? He is our ultimate comfort and the only one who can give us true peace. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” As we see in Lamentations 3, we can cry out about our afflictions and remember our pain but still say: “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

We can petition, worship, thanks, lament, intercede, but we also use prayer as a time to confess. Again God already knows all your actions and thoughts. Confession isn’t about God, it’s about us. It’s us repenting of our sinful ways and redirecting our life back to Christ. As Romans 6:12-14 tell us, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey  its desires. And do not offer any parts  of it to sin  as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God,  and all the parts  of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness. For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace.” Romans is all about teaching us that we are saved by grace, but this doesn’t give us license to continue to sin. We should continually repent and focus back on the righteousness of Christ. Even in the Lord’s Prayer, or the Our Father, as I grew up calling it focuses on asking for forgiveness for our trespasses and to not be led to temptation.

All in summary, prayer is simply communication with God. He is our Father and we need to regularly talk to him. For some people this may be hours a day, for some it is dedicated time every day, some it’s periodically throughout the day, sometimes it’s scripted, sometimes its crying, sometimes it’s silence, and sometimes it’s joyful. No matter how you pray, whether you’re worshipping, lamenting, repenting, interceding, or petitioning – focus on deepening your faith in God. Like all relationships, you need to talk regularly to be close and understand each other. Get to know God through prayer, be honest and authentic with Him because he already knew you at your darkest and loved you anyway, let his faithfulness and righteousness change you and allow yourself to experience the life giving joy of intimacy with God.  

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