All through the ages and generations of the Homo sapiens in the Cosmos, supplications are made to invisible and supernatural powers to intervene in the ever increasing and complex system of things which bedevil the social structures that have unpalatable consequences.
The outcome of policies, and strategies which are geared towards obtaining the optimum results for the improvement of lives in the society leaves much to be desired. Thus, the need for extra terrestrial forces to wade into human affairs in order to bring sanity to this natural phenomenal ought not be overemphasized.
Prayers are poured on God to obtain graces and favors in dealing with these prevalent burning issues. Other religious sects pray to gods and goddesses, even ancestors.
Some of these problems are created by man in his negative behavior out of greed and avarice. Others are beyond human control such as drought and insufficient rainfall which occasion famine. It is because of the need to solve these puzzles that prayers are offered to celestial beings to mediate in these circumstances.
How then do we pray?
Prayers that are effective are of great interest. Jesus often went up the mountain in the evening to pray. At times, he prayed all night. John the Baptist was a man of prayer while in the wilderness of Judaea and when preaching along River Jordan. This need necessitated the request made by the disciples of Jesus to teach them how to pray just as John taught his disciples (Luke 11:1).
Diligent prayers are answered by God. “The prayer of the upright is a pleasure to him” (Proverbs 15:8). On another occasion, the bible assures us that “He (God) will surely show you favor at the sound of your cry for help, he will answer you as soon as he hears it” (Isaiah 30:19) [New world translation of the Holy Scripture].
Based on the importance of prayer to all mankind. It is proper to analyze the conceptual context of the methodology of carrying out this onerous yet edifying task. Prayer in a Layman’s Language is “word that are said to God giving thanks or asking for help” (OALD international students edition). This entails lifting up spirit on the same level with God who is a spirit for effective communication to take place.
Praying physically is not only cumbersome and energy sapping but is riddled with lack of concentration and more often snoring. It is then irksome to some individuals whenever prayer is suggested. But a spiritual person is ever eager to enter the spirit world because of the ecstasy experienced while discussing with God.
However, one should be in state of grace before praying for his request to be granted. He must shun all forms of evil like oppression of widows, denying orphans their rights, maltreating the poor, and injustice of all kinds, shedding human blood, adultery, fornication, robbery, lying and all vices for “When you lift your hands in prayer, I will not look at you. No matter how much you pray. I will not listen, for your hands are covered with blood” (Isaiah 1:15). Again, “Let the wicked leave their way of life and change their way of thinking. Let them turn to the LORD, our God; he is merciful and quick to forgive” (Isaiah 55:7).
Many references to the state of mind before embarking on answerable prayers abound in the bible. For the right atmosphere to enable spiritual upliftment and intimate discussions with almighty God be created, intensive preparations should be made and right things put in the appropriate places. Confession of sins is of utmost importance.
Having dealt with the basic requirements necessary for prayers to be answered, what forms should they take?
Four Ingredients that facilitate acceptable praying exercise are suggested. They are coined into an acronym known as ACTS which are broken down as follows:
Adoration: This entails worshipping God by pouring praises on him. His mighty deeds and magnificent powers are appreciated through words and glorious songs. His wisdom and foresight which cannot be equaled are evident in what he created or brought into being. That is why the Psalmist would never cease from extolling His exceptional abilities and precision in the works of his hand (Psalm 148:1-24).
Contrition: We should be conscious of our sins and be sorry for them. The bible makes it clear that sin is inherent in human nature. “I have been evil from the day I was born; from the time I was conceived, I have been sinful (Psalm 51:5). Jesus Christ confirmed this for He said “Whichever one of you has committed no sin may throw the first stone at her (John 8:7). We have all sinned both knowingly and unknowingly thereby fallen short of God’s glory. Therefore, confessions should be made because the prayer of a sinful man is like a filthy rag before the Lord and cannot be answered.(Pro 15:29)
Thanksgiving: Thanks, should be given to God for the benevolence and protection made available to His creation. For being alive to see today, the free sunshine and air we breathe, providing our daily bread, the necessities of life, security of life and material possessions and so on, are what we should pray to Him for (Psalm 34:1-22).
Supplications: Our needs are presented to God. Care should be taken to differentiate between needs and wants. It is not everything wanted that is needed. Those things absolutely necessary for the sustenance and maintenance of life are what are needed. We are encouraged to trust in God at all times and tell him all our troubles for He is our refuge (Psalm 62:8).
All prayers to God should be channeled through Jesus Christ because he died for our sins (John 14:6). He is the mediator between God and Man while Mary is the mediatrix between us and Christ. ( John2:3-10, Acts 1:14).
Having explored prayer in its ramifications, it is important to consider the manner acceptable for offering our petitions. Should recitation and repetitions of written or memorized prayers be adopted?
Before this can be fully analyzed, Let’s go back to the request made to Jesus by his disciples through one of them on the methodology of prayer (Luke 11:1) Jesus replied “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites!… do not use a lot of meaningless words, as the pagans do, who think that their gods will hear them because their prayers are long…This, then, is how you should pray: Our father in Heaven… (Matthew 6:5-9). The emphasis here is the use of meaningless words or repeating empty phrases.
Most of the devotional petitions are full of meaning and are inspired by the Holy spirit. The Psalms written by the Patriarch King David are Powerful prayers highly after the heart of God and are repeated for countless times by the Christians faithful. Jesus Christ who gave us the model for praying wishes the Lord’s prayer to be said frequently. The mother of Jesus Christ Blessed Virgin Mary who composed Holy Rosary otherwise known as the chaplet through St. Louis De Manfort wants it to be said as often as possible. Divine Mercy prayers dictated to St. Maria Faustina Kowalska by Jesus Himself wishes it be repeated at every 3:00pm. Of course, these prayers are rich in content and do not contain meaningless words. They contain attributes of a valid prayer after our Lord’s model.
A prayer may contain one or more of the qualities of a good orison. This explains why a whole session may comprise of worship or songs of praise and adoration as obtainable during Benediction. The hymns were composed by renowned men of God under the influence of the Holy spirit in likes of St. Augustine of Hippo who opined that “He who sings well prays twice”. Of course the artistry manifested in his compositions is repeatedly employed by countless generations of human race during the worship of God.
Moreover, the various songs used during service are the works of others which were handed down to us in written forms and are often committed to heart. Therefore, it is needless to condemn people that recite or repeat memorized or written prayers.
God knows our needs much more than we do. We only need to mention the few we know and leave the rest to Him. These needs are contained in the well thought out model, written prayers put together by servant of God who understood him more than we do.
We can pray using our own words but the problem arises as we often cross the red line and offend God instead of worshipping Him.
Mankind is imperfect (Romans3:12). Therefore, this means that no acceptable self-made prayer can be said except by the grace of God. It is a well-known fact that not everyone receives this favor. “we do not know how we ought to pray” (Romans 8:26). This emphasizes the importance of adopting the prayers of the saints who prayed and God answered. Jesus and some men of God in the bible were among those who called so to speak and they were heard. “The spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the spirit is, because the spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will” (Romans 8:26-27).
Many devout men act in accordance with the will of God promoting peace because of their love for God and fellow human beings. They carry out works of charity sympathizing with the less fortunate. They live pious lives endeavoring to hurt no one. When such people pray, the spirit presents their requests to God in the language He understands. Such people leave their prayers approved by the spirit in the written forms for us to use.
CREDIT : This article is composed
By E.S.OFOMAH CPA. MBA.
E S Ofomah writes from St. David’s Catholic Parish, Azigbo. Reactions are welcome and should be channelled through the above address or via mobile phone number 08101327059.