The Underground Church



“Prayer is where the action is”, stated John Wesley. Centuries earlier St. John Chrysostom called it “the root, the fountain, the mother of a thousand blessings." Christians pray, because we want to, because we need to, and because God commands it of us. It is our side of a friendship with God.

Christians do not merely pray in order to get something, though this is a part of the experience. Prayer is more prominantly about bringing ourselves into God’s presence. As stated by Soren Kierkegaard, “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”

Why Pray?

God actually commands His people to pray. Even more, Jesus modeled it. This isn’t because God needs our prayers. Our prayers, or lack of prayers, do not change God, but rather change us. “A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.” (C. S. Lewis)

Types of Prayer

Prayers can be thought of in some general categories. When I was a boy in Sunday School, we learned the following categorization (As a way of remembering this, the initial letters spell spell out the word “ACTS”):

  • Adoration: When we understand God’s nature, his awe inspiring power, and his incredible love, then this is simply a natural response. Even agnostics get a sense of wonder at times when staring at the stars at night, or encountering a mountain splendor. What if there is a Being responsible? One might respond as St. Therese of Lisieux did: “Prayer is a surge of the heart.”
  • Confession: Penitance is a precondition for forgiveness and renewal. Rebels must throw down their arms. Like addicts in a 12 step program, we have to face facts and admit that we need help. God won’t invade a heart that doesn’t want Him. St. John the Apostle lays out a central promise of the Faith, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, NIV version)
  • Thanksgiving: This isn’t just a U.S. holiday in November. As the apostle Paul directs us, “with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phillipians 4:5)
  • Supplications or requests. We are told to make requests of God. We ask for our own needs, as well as for those of others (this is known as “intercession”). Jesus himself has said, “ask and ye shall receive.” (Matthew 7:7) James stated, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16). John Calvin once stated, "Our prayer must not be self-centered. It must arise not only because we feel our own need as a burden we must lay upon God, but also because we are so bound up in love for our fellow men that we feel their need as acutely as our own. To make intercession for men is the most powerful and practical way in which we can express our love for them."

To look for examples of prayer, a good starting point is the Bible itself. Nearly every book of the Bible contains examples of prayer. The Psalms were (and are) corporate prayers of the people of God. In the New Testament, Jesus taught his disciples an example prayer, which we call “The Lord’s Prayer.” [link]

Here are others:


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