Jonathan Edwards wrote, “Prayer is as natural an expression of faith as breathing is of life.” He couldn’t be more right. But what if we pushed a little bit on Edwards’ metaphor?
You breathe every day. In fact, the equation is rather simple: If you don’t breathe, you don’t live. Breath in our lungs is almost a casual reality. However, there are also regular times in life when we need to stop, concentrate, and catch our breath. While prayer ought to be a daily, normal, and natural thing that infiltrates all of the Christian life, we also need focused and intentional times of prayer. Catching our spiritual breath, if you will. That’s what this resource is about.
Broadly speaking, prayer is a gift. It is honest, open, and humble communing with God. It isn’t presumptuously asking God to do certain things, in certain ways, and at certain times. True prayer gives voice to our dependence on God in all things — in our requests, our gratitude, our listening, our questions, our defeats, and even our victories. Because a healthy life of prayer ought to be this thorough, God has given us different kinds of prayer suitable for the different situations in which we find ourselves.
Throughout Scripture, we see God’s people trusting him through various kinds of prayer. For example,
- A prayer of thanksgiving expresses gratitude to God for who he is and/or what he has done.
- A prayer of petition (also known as supplication) brings requests and needs before God.
- A prayer of lament takes one’s own confusion, frustrations, or even anger directly to God while still trusting him through them.
- A prayer of confession admits one’s sin against God, and seeks to continue in repentance from that sin.
- A prayer of intercession goes to God on behalf of other people and their needs.
- A prayer of praise joyfully declares God’s worth by speaking highly of who he is and/or what he has done.
A mature life of prayer will include a variety of prayers like these. Imagine that your only communication with your spouse was asking him or her to do the dishes or cut the grass. The narrowness of that communication likely indicates that there is greater intimacy to be experienced. The same is true of the marriage between God and his covenant people.
If we go to God in both joy and sorrow, gratitude and frustration, and humility and confidence, there is maturity in that prayerful diversity. There is a deeper intimacy to be enjoyed when we embrace these distinct ways of communing with him. So, the prayers that follow seek to guide us through these different kinds of prayer.