What is Prayer?

Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (ESV)

Beloved Congregation, we are blessed to now be with you in Australia, after what seems to us a long wait (almost six months!), but in the Lord’s timing, absolutely on schedule. If He wills, I will be taking up pulpit duties the first Lord’s Day in July, with a new series on the Lord’s Prayer during Third Term.

Why this series? If we are honest in evaluating our individual and corporate prayer lives, I imagine what we all admit that we fall way short of where we know we should and where we would like to be. I think that is the honest confession of all the saints through the ages. The petition of the Twelve is ours as well, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

What is prayer? In the broad sense, prayer includes “adoration, or a devout celebration of the perfections of God, and of his works, in which they are displayed; confession of our sins to God; thanksgiving for the favours which we have received from him; and petition for the blessings of which we stand in need” (Shaw, The Reformed Faith, 218). But prayer, in the narrower sense of the word, is petitioning God, or more simply,  asking from God for what He tells us in His Word we may ask.

Prayer, in this sense, takes God at His Word. It believes and trusts Him, in His truthfulness, almighty power, wisdom, and gracious provision.

I got my first personal computer in 1992. It is hard to believe that was twenty-five years ago. It boasted a whopping 4 megabytes of RAM and had a 105 megabyte hard drive. It ran the Windows 3.0 operating system. Windows is a WYSIWYG system (pronounced Whizzy-Whig): What You See Is What You Get — what you typed on the screen in composing a document was what you would see when you printed out that document.

Beloved congregation: what we see in Scripture in what God tells us as to Who He is, what He does, and what He promises is exactly that. What we see in the Word is exactly what we may expect of Him. If God tells us in His Word that we may ask Him for something, we may absolutely believe Him. We may trust Him that the offer is valid, good, in effect, and true. And for us in Christ Jesus, “…all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory” (2 Corinthians 1:20, ESV).

Admittedly, this seems too good to be true. In our lives, in which we are surrounded by lies from the world and the devil, and in our flesh the lies we tell ourselves that we are learning to die to and learning to trust God, we want to look for the “fine print” that would tell us that this offer isn’t what it really seems. But it is true!

We must pray in faith in this God Who promises. Hebrews 11:6 instructs us that “…for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (ESV). We must believe that He is Who He says He is, that His promises are indeed all “Yes” and “Amen” for us through Christ.

Let us, then, learn to pray “…with understanding, faith, sincerity, fervency, love, and perseverance….”(Larger Catechism, Q&A 185).


Blessings to you in Him,

John Butler