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Friday, November 16, 2007

Prayers, Petitions, and Praises

By Dorette Saunders

Genesis 18:20-32 portrays a poignant glimpse of Abraham petitioning God on behalf of the good people who live in Sodom. God's plan to destroy the city because of its wickedness causes Abraham to beg God to stay his judgment if fifty good people can be found. Although the Lord agrees, Abraham courageously petitions God five more times until God consents to save the city from destruction if only ten good people can be found.

Such unabashed persistence is also found in the example Jesus gives about the man who awakens his friend at midnight seeking food for an unexpected guest (Luke 11:5-8). Despite the sleepy friend's lethargic response, Jesus suggests that the man in need will get what he wants simply because he was not ashamed to be persistent in his request.

In similar fashion, Jesus contends that we, too, need to pray and petition God for the things that we need. "So I tell you to ask and you will receive, search and you will find, knock and the door will be opened for you" (Luke 11:9, CEV). Jesus tells us that if we are capable of responding to each other's needs favorably, how much more will God, who has created all things, respond to our requests when we ask (Luke 11:13).

How then shall we ask? In what is commonly known as The Lord's Prayer (Luke 11:2-4), Jesus provides a prayer model which acknowledges God's sovereignty, puts forward a request for physical and spiritual provision, and ends by seeking forgiveness for one's self (in the same manner as we forgive those who have wronged us) and protection against temptation.

By his own example, Jesus shows us that prayer should be consistent communication with God, whatever the circumstances (Luke 9:18-21; Luke 9:28-36; Luke 22:39-46; John 17).

In addition to our petitions and prayers, we are instructed to praise God. The Scriptures say that God delights in the praises of his people. And so, we may join in the elation of the psalmist when he says: With all my heart I praise you, LORD. In the presence of angels I sing your praises. I worship at your holy temple and praise you for your love and your faithfulness (Psalm 138:1,2a, CEV).

Indeed, we serve a mighty God who hears and answers our prayers and petitions even before we utter them (Isaiah 64:24). Let us come before our God with thanksgiving and praise because he is worthy of honor and glory.

This Reflection is drawn from the Bible Resource Center's e-Bulletin Series - an online ministry of the American Bible Society. The Bible Resource Center is also home to an extensive collection of Essential Bible Study Tools.

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