Why Do We Pray?

We pray because God wants us to tell him what is on our minds. Even though he sees and understands our situations better than we do, he still wants to hear from us in our own words.

There are five basic types or sorts of prayer.

The first type is the prayer of praise (God may like this one best). We praise God when we tell him how wonderful he is. The simplest way of praising him is in the name we call him: Almighty God; Lord Jesus Christ; Lord of Lords; King of Kings. All these names tell God how glorious he is. Many of the psalms in the Book of Psalms are prayers of praise.

The second type is the prayer of thanksgiving, or telling God, "thank you". We thank God for all the wonderful things he does for us. He gives us life; he gives us food, clothing and shelter; he gives us good people in our lives to help us and to take care of us. The simple prayer of giving thanks for our food is called grace.

The third type is the prayer of confession, telling God that we are sorry for what we have done. We tell God we are sorry either when we have hurt one of the people God has created or when we have done some sort of damage to God's beautiful creation. We tell God what we have done and that we are sorry that we did it.

The fourth type is the prayer of supplication, or asking for help. We ask God to keep us safe, to give us courage in tough times, or to give us the things we need to be strong and healthy. God always wants to hear from us when we are afraid or in trouble and need help.

The fifth type of prayer is the intercessory prayer, where we ask God to care for another person or part of his creation. God indeed cares for other people without our prayer, but we build our Christian community by asking for God's special care for one another. Paul's prayer in Ephesians 3: 14 - 21 is a beautiful prayer for the people of faith. Moses and Abraham asked God to take special care of his people. The Prayer for the Healing of Children is an intercessory prayer.

There are also four styles of prayer, which depend on our own personalities.

The first style is devotional, or scripture-based prayer. Many people like to read a Bible verse or passage that opens a way for them to talk to God. They often begin their prayers by reading a psalm.

The second style is spontaneous prayer. This prayer comes from our hearts almost without thinking, and it is usually a prayer of thanksgiving: "Thank you, God, for the beautiful sunset"; "thank you for the kindness of my friend."

The third style is contemplative prayer. Many people have long and involved conversations with God, where they talk things over with him, always sure that he is listening.

The fourth style is the prayer of action. Some people pray best while walking or moving or doing something. Sitting still is hard for them, and they need to add movement to their prayers. For them doing something (an act of kindness, for example) can be praying. Walking the labyrinth while praying can be an extremely deep form of prayer.

And we create a sacred space for prayer by making prayer cloths.

When Jesus' disciples asked him how to pray, he replied with the prayer we call
The Lord's Prayer or the Our Father (from its first two words.)

My favorite prayer book for small children is Prayers for Little Hearts, illustrated by Elena Kucharik.

For table graces, I like Thank You for This Food, by Debbie Trafton O'Neal.

Two prayers I encourage my class to memorize are the Prayer for New Beginnings and the Prayer of St. Patrick. And each of us can learn to write and pray our own Breath Prayer.

And we always need to pray for our enemies as well as for our friends: The Intercession for Our Enemies


Please send your questions to judy@sundayschoollessons.com


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