Prayer: Our Reasonable Worship
“Dear Father, please bless this food to our bodies and help us to honor You in all that we say and do today. Amen”
This would typically be a sweet prayer from my youngest son right before a meal. However, the moment it was uttered, he was to be praying for the ambulance that just went by as we were driving to our destination. Oops!
How often do we utter words of prayer, almost out of rote performance?
According to Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary, prayer is “a solemn address to the Supreme Being, consisting of adoration, or an expression of our sense of God’s glorious perfections, confession of our sins, supplication for mercy and forgiveness, intercession for blessings on others, and thanksgiving, or an expression of gratitude to God for his mercies and benefits.”
This definition parallels so well with 1 Timothy 2:1-2. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
There have been many different acronyms written to remind and assist in how to pray. While helpful, they raise certain questions. Is there a correct order? Should we only pray for certain people or certain things? As we discern the application of the above definition, alongside 1 Timothy 2:1-2, we will have a better view of the importance of prayer.
Understanding Who God Is
Without an accurate view of God, we will never put prayer in its rightful place. Prayer is not just something we are called to do as believers. It is an act of worship to the Creator of the Universe. Prayer is an intimate conversation with our Father. It is a plea for help to the One who holds all things together.
It is nearly impossible to solemnly address a Supreme Being if we do not understand what it means to be supreme. He is not just “a supreme being” but He is THE Supreme Being. He is the King over all kings and the Lord over all lords. God is the King of the Ages, existing outside of time itself. He spoke the world into existence, and all of creation declares His glory!
If we understand this, along with the fact that He allows us to confidently approach the Throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16), we would desire to speak to Him at every moment of every day. We would adore Him and long to pour that adoration from our hearts to His ears. He alone is worthy of our praise!
Isaiah tells us that the Lord’s ways are higher than ours, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. He is glorious and perfect. There is nothing He has ever said or done that has been sinful. Even in the moments on Earth when Christ was tempted, He never sinned. These truths alone should drive us to express our sense of awe for His glorious perfections.
Confession, Supplication and Intercession
Once we understand we are addressing the highest Being in all of creation and learn to express our deepest sense of adoration and awe, we move to the next part of the definition – the confession of our sins.
In this culture, we are told it is wrong to confront and that everyone has their own definitions of Truth. This is contrary to Scripture. Many different places in the Bible remind us of the importance of confessing our sins, and even confessing them one to another. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins” (1 John 1:9). The Lord is faithful to forgive us, if we confess.
What’s the Difference?
As I began studying 1 Timothy for our Inductive Bible Study at church, this specific passage baffled me a bit (ch 2:1). Confession, supplication, and intercession all seemed to mean the same thing to me. As I began studying them more in depth, I learned they are nuanced a bit differently. While confession is admitting our sin and seeking forgiveness for reconciliation, supplication is a plea for something that is of deep need.
God created mankind in His image. Our one purpose was to reflect His image and enjoy Him through it. We failed. Adam sinned and all of humanity was broken in relation to this perfect God. We are no longer able to have any type of relationship with God (even a poor one) without the mercy and forgiveness from the Savior who bore the wrath of God on our behalf. We need mercy. We need forgiveness. Through supplication, we beg God for both.
Confession is an admission to God, supplication is a plea for His help, and intercession is a petition for a request – specifically for someone else. The church in Ephesus had lost their desire and passion to pray for others. They were listening to false teachers tell them that only Jews could be saved. Paul was urging Timothy to help the church get back to the priority of prayer.
Each of these types of prayer are very important. And we must be careful not to overemphasize the words themselves, but to stress the importance of prayer – for ourselves, our families, and others.
The final phrase of the definition of prayer says, “giving thanks, or an expression of gratitude to God for his mercies and benefits.” Every day we wake up is a gift of grace from the Lord. Each breath we breathe, each step we take, all of our possessions, are His blessings to us.
When we understand who God is and all of the ways He allows us to approach Him as our Father, Savior, Redeemer, and our Lord, the overflow of our heart should be thankfulness.
He owes me nothing. He needs me for nothing. Yet, in His mercy and grace, He calls me His child. It is my reasonable worship to respond in thanks and communication with Him.