A Short Catechism on Prayer

None of the catechisms I recently examined contain a section on prayer that highlights all of the things that I think ought to be highlighted. So, with a great sense of inadequacy and a certain amount of fear and trembling, I decided to write something myself.

Q1 What is Prayer?
A conversation with God about what is important to him and to us. More than that, it is working together with God to accomplish those things.

Q2 What are those things which are important to God and to you?
First, the increase of God’s rule in the world. And secondly, everything that we need both spiritually and physically.[1]

Q3 Are these two things or one thing?
One thing! God created us for Himself, so our best and perfect good is only in Him. But because of our sin and blindness, they look like two things.

Q4 If your sin keeps you from seeing what you truly need, how can you pray the right way?
By myself, I can’t. But Christ teaches me to pray and helps me to value what He values[2]. Also the Holy Spirit, who lives inside me, prays to God for me when I don’t know what to say[3].

Q5 Why is prayer a conversation with God?
Because the Bible encourages us, by many examples and by Jesus himself, to be active in prayer. We should argue our case[4] and not give up[5], reminding God of his character and promises.

Q6 Can we improve God’s plans or change His eternal decrees?
Certainly not!

Q7 Then why do we pray?
Because God as he reveals himself to us does indeed change his mind[6]. The examples of prayer in the Bible teach us to contend with God for the sake of his revealed will, working hard for God to grant our request[7].

Q8 Why is prayer a working-together with God?
Because when we pray we participate with God and his plans for the world. As a loving Father he lets us in on what he is doing. By praying we work alongside God’s will toward the same goal.

Q9 What is the benefit of prayer?
God lets us help him in a real way with his plans for the world. As we pray we grow closer to Jesus, and as we grow closer to Jesus the gap between our will and God’s will narrows. This happens not because God’s will changes to conform to us, but because our will changes to conform to God’s.

[1] Matt. 6:8-13
[2] Matt. 6:8-13
[3] Rom. 8:26-27
[4] Gen. 18:22-33, Ex. 32:9-14
[5] Luke 11:5-13, Luke 18:1-8
[6] Ex. 32:15, Isaiah 38:1-5
[7] Col. 4:12-13, Gen. 32:24-30

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