Summary: A short talk for an early morning Communion service presenting 4 principles for prayer from verse one of this Bible Reading. They are not exhaustive by any means.
What needs do you have? To whom do you go to lay bare your needs? What needs do you have?
Some Bible commentators suggest that the words used in verse one simply mean ‘bring all sorts of different prayers’ for those in authority; and whilst that is absolutely true, I do believe that Paul chose his words carefully. I know he couldn’t keep editing his sermon on the computer like I can, but I do believe he chose his words carefully; and I believe the four words used for prayer are important for us whenever we pray. There are 4 principles here for us:
1: Make your needs known. The NIV says ‘requests’ but St. Paul means this: Make your needs known. When we pray for our Queen, our government, our Church leaders, our family and friends and neighbours, we must begin with a sense of need. What is it that we need, or want to happen?
Someone coined the phrase ‘vague prayers receive vague answers, whereas specific prayers receive specific answers’. I don’t entirely go along with that, but I do believe that God answers prayer most often with either “Yes”, or “No”, or “Not yet”.
When we pray, let’s make our needs known.
2: Make them known to God. It may be obvious, but we can simply go about making our needs known to people, and there are those that do that. Paul wants us to make our needs known not only to each other, but most importantly to God. The Greek scriptures use a word that can only mean presenting needs to God. Prayers are directed to God not to people. When we are praying let’s take care not to preach a sermon. I’ve sat in prayer meetings and in Church services where the prayers are more like another sermon. Our prayers are to God, not to each other. Yes, we can make our needs known to each other, but the second principle is to bring our needs to God.
If I had 45 minutes I would expand in more detail but as I’ve only got 10 minutes I’ll leave you with some questions hanging; but that’s OK because Jesus often left people to think it through for themselves!
3: Bring them to the King. Surely that’s obvious. Bring them to the King. Sometimes when we pray we are praying to ourselves. Sometimes we’re praying to a god of our own creation. How do we know we’re praying to the God and Father of Jesus? Bring them to the King! The NIV says ‘intercession’ but ‘petition’ is probably better, and the word means to bring a petition into the presence of a King. He alone has the power to grant the request in the petition. He alone can grant it. He is the ruler; he has the power - no-one else. Only in His presence can the petition be heard. Just as a court needs its officials to hear a case, so our petition can only be heard and only be granted by the King. We can freely enter his presence because of Jesus. Bring our need to the King.
4: Be thankful. The attitude of gratitude for what we have will help us to only bring needs to God rather than wants. He knows what we need and longs to hear us tell him; but let’s not think that prayer is all about a shopping list of what we need. Be thankful. Be thankful for what we have, not desperate to have what we do not have.