How to Pray

Heidelberg Catechism - Question 117: How does God want us to pray so that He will listen to us?

Answer: First, we must pray from the heart to no other than the one true God, who has revealed Himself in His Word, asking for everything He has commanded us to ask for. Second, we must acknowledge our need and misery, hiding nothing, and humble ourselves in His majestic presence. Third, we must rest on this unshakable foundation: even though we do not deserve it, God will surely listen to our prayer because of Christ our Lord. That is what He promised us in His Word.


Observations: According to the Catechism Christians pray because ‘prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us, and because God gives his grace and Spirit to those who pray. (Q&A 116)’ We should pray because in Christ we have a relationship with God as our Heavenly Father, but how should we pray? The Catechism gives us three reasons. Firstly, we must ‘pray from the heart.’ Our prayers should not by ritual responses, rather they should flow from our desire to connect with God. However, that doesn’t mean that we can pray to whoever or however we want. We are to pray to ‘the one true God’ who is ‘revealed in Scripture.’ And we are to pray ‘for everything he has commanded us to ask for.’ Our prayers are to be biblical. They are to flow form the heart, but a heart that has been informed by the Scriptures. Secondly, we are to pray with humility, acknowledging our sinfulness before the majesty of God. There is no place in prayer for demanding our rights, rather we cast ourselves upon God’s grace and His love for us in Christ. Thirdly, we pray with faith that ‘God will listen to our prayer because of Christ our Lord.’ Even though we are undeserving, in Christ we have been reconciled with God, and been adopted as his children. And even as ‘our fathers do not refuse us the things of this life; God our Father will even less refuse to give us what we ask in faith. (Q&A 120)’


Application: Firstly, do you pray out of your love for God – do you pray from the heart? Secondly, do you pray out of knowledge, out of a biblical understanding of who God is and what he says in his word – do you pray from the head? Thirdly, do you pray out of faith – do you pray trusting in God’s love for you in Christ, and the promises he has made to you in his word? A prayer that neglects any of these three things will make our prayers ineffective.


Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, may my prayers flow from the reading of your word. Lord, give me Your Spirit that I might grow in my understanding of who You are, of Your glory and majesty and righteousness. But even more may I grow in the knowledge of Your great love for me in Christ Jesus displayed on the cross, that I might grow in my love for You and seek You with all my heart. And Lord, may You increase my faith, that I will pray trusting in your goodness and mercy. Lord, I come to You as a child to their father, and I ask that You will give me all that I need that I may give Youthe glory that You rightly deserve. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.


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