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Understanding Prayer

Prayer is any form of communication with God on the part of believing people in response to situations that may arise in life. Prayer is marked, therefore, by variety and encompasses petition (including intercession for others), complaint, praise, thanksgiving, confession, imprecation (Ps. 69:22–28), nonverbal communication (Rom. 8:26), and glossolalia (1 Cor. 14:14–15). As speaking to God rather than about God, prayer expresses most clearly what is believed about God and serves to effect the personal relationship that exists between God and his people. The two poles around which all forms of prayer turn are praise and petition. Petition assumes that God hears requests made, that he cares, and that he is able to act in accord with the petition...

It is prayer made in submission to God’s will (Luke 22:42; Rom. 8:26–27; 1 John 5:14) that is efficacious; it is within this framework of acceptance of God’s will as the primary goal of prayer and life that the promises are to be read. To pray “in my [Jesus’] name” is, in intention, to accept the same condition. On the same basis, faith (Matt. 21:22) and righteousness (John 9:31) are cited as conditions that precede prayer. The question of how prayer can be considered efficacious in view of the foreknowledge of God is not discussed in the Bible (though it quickly comes to mind from Matt. 6:8). But God’s knowledge of the needs of his people is taken as an encouragement to pray, not as a reason to refrain from so doing (7:7–11).

Even if God does good things for the person who does not ask, that person cannot receive those good things as an answer to prayer, i.e., as a result or evidence of an intimate relationship between himself and God. To not pray, even out of respect for the foreknowledge of God, is to remove oneself from that relationship. Indeed, prayer can be taken seriously only where the covenant relationship between free human beings and the powerful God is fundamental in the understanding of the faith.

That God’s power is without limit means that his love for his people is unfailing.

Myers, A. C. (1987). In The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (p. 846). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

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