What is prayer?
Prayer is pouring out our hearts to God in praise, petition, confession of sin, and thanksgiving.
Proof Text: Psalm 62:8
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.
Our Great Refuge, thank you for calling us to prayer. You are not far away; you are near, and you hear us when we pray. Let us pour out our hearts to you without ceasing. Let us pray without guile, bringing our true selves before your throne of grace. Amen.
Prayer is the way you walk by the Spirit. Prayer is the way you walk by faith. In other words, it’s the breath of the Christian life all day long. Just breathe in, breathe out. It’s the way you live.
Let me illustrate for you with four elements from the catechism: confession, petition, praise, and thanks. I’m commending to you that any time you face any situation when you feel I need help here, you do it by prayer using these four elements.
Suppose I have to speak in front of a group, and I am nervous (you can pick your particular challenge). As the moment approaches, I wonder, “Am I going to be able to do this? Will I remember what I have to say? Will I make a fool of myself?” And at that moment I confess my need to God. I say, “Lord, I’m a sinner. I don’t deserve your help, but I need your help. I can’t do anything without you.” That’s the confession step of prayer.
And then I turn my confession to petition. “Lord, please help me. I need memory. I need articulation. I need the right spirit. I need humility. I need to look the people in the eye. I need all these things. I want to be helpful to my listeners. But I don’t have it in me to be all that they need. Help me.” That’s the petition step of prayer. A cry for help.
And then I need to reach out and take hold of something about God that will be worthy of my praise and worthy of my trust. Like God says, “I’ll strengthen you. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you up with my victorious right hand” (see Isa. 41:10). I take hold of that promise, that power, that love, that mercy, and I hold onto it. And I trust him and praise him. “You, oh Lord, can help me. I trust you to help me. I praise you for being the kind of God who is willing and able to help me!” That’s the trust and praise step of prayer.
Then I give my talk, trusting him. And when I am done, no matter what, I thank him. Since I trusted him for his help, I believe that he is going to use my effort, no matter how well I think I did. “Thank you, Lord!” That is the thanks step of prayer.
There they are—four key words from the catechism.
First, continually confess your need to the Lord. “I need you.”
Second, cry out in petition. “Help me.”
Third, lay hold of God’s promises with trust and praise for his ability to fulfill them.
And then when he helps you, go on your face and say, “Thank you.”
That’s the rhythm and the breath of the Christian life.
Historical Commentary by
Who is Abraham Booth?
As the enemies of your soul are inveterate, subtle, and powerful, and your spiritual frames inconstant, it is highly necessary you should live under a continual remembrance of those awakening considerations. What more advisable, what so necessary for you, as to walk circumspectly; to watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation? A sense of your own weakness and insufficiency, should ever abide on your mind and appear in your conduct. As the corruption of nature is an enemy that is always near you, and always in you, while on earth; and as it is very strongly disposed to second every temptation from without; you should “keep your heart with all diligence.” Watch, diligently watch, over all its imaginations, motions, and tendencies. Consider whence they arise and to what they incline, before you execute any of the purposes formed in it. For such is the superlative deceitfulness of the human heart, “that he who trusteth in it is a fool,” ignorant of his danger, and unmindful of his best interests. This consideration should cause every child of God to bend the suppliant knee, with the utmost frequency, humility, and fervour: to live, as it were, at the throne of grace; nor depart thence till far from the reach of danger. Certain it is, that the more we see of the strength of our adversaries and of the danger we are in from them, the more shall we exercise ourselves in fervent prayer. Can you, O Christian, be cool and indifferent, be dull and careless, when the world, the flesh, and the devil are your implacable and unwearied opposers?