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New City Catechism Question 40

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Question 40
What should we pray?

The whole Word of God directs and inspires us in what we should pray, including the prayer Jesus himself taught us.

Consider John Bunyan's defintion of true prayer:

"Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to his Word, for the good of the church, with submission in faith to the will of God."

Bunyan expounds each part of this definition. In considering the fact that true prayer is "according to [God's word]," he goes on to say, "Prayer is only true when it is within the compass of God's Word; it is blasphemy, or at best vain babbling, when the petition is unrelated to the Book."

The tinker-preacher from Bedford then shows how David prayed with "his eye on the Word of God." He shows how Daniel prayed according to the word of God to Jeremiah the prophet (see Daniel 9:2-3). Then Bunyan points to Jesus himself at his arrest in the Garden (see Matthew 26:53-54). Jesus' obedience and prayers were governed and guided by Scripture. 

Bunyan concludes, "It is a praying then according to the Word and promise. The Spirit by the Word must direct, in the manner, as well as in the matter of prayer." In other words, the Spirit supernaturally works by the Scriptures so that you please God in how you pray and what you pray.

What then shall we do?

1. Rely upon the Spirit of God and the word of God in prayer.

We need help to pray. We need help in prayer. We have a helper, the Spirit of God. Is your heart cold towards God? Indifferent to prayer? Ask the helper to help you!

We need guidance to pray. We need direction to pray according to God's truth and will. We have the word of God. Do you struggle to know how and what to pray? Longing for variety, freshness, depth in your prayers? Let the word be your teacher and guide. 

2. Connect your intake of the word and prayer.

In private worship, family worship, and congregational worship our praying should be tied to the word. Our prayers should lead to, flow from, and respond to the Bible. Start praying in light of what you've just read, studied, or heard from Scripture. Taking this simple step will revolutionize your prayer life. 


Quotations are from John Bunyan, Prayer (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2005).