This week we being with Question 40 of the New City Catechism, found in Part 3 (questions 36-52), which focuses on the Spirit, restoration, and growing in grace.
Question 40: What should we pray?
Answer: The whole Word of God directs and inspires us in what we should pray, including the prayer Jesus himself taught us.
As limited, created beings, we face challenges when it comes to prayer. One challenge is our lack of knowledge, wisdom, and perspective that would lead us to know exactly how we should petition God. Another challenge is the feeling that we keep praying the same things over and over, which could have a tendency to take the life out of our prayers. A third challenge is the spiritual laziness of our own hearts, giving us little motivation to pursue what honors God through prayer.
One practice that can help us overcome all three challenges is that of praying as we are prompted and informed by Scripture. Any portion of Scripture tells us something about God and about ourselves, and thus any portion of Scripture can be oriented toward prayer. For example, if you read the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal, as well as its aftermath (1 Kings 17-19), it may prompt you to pray that God's Spirit would move in your church to promote true and pure worship of him, in contrast to Israel under King Ahab. You might pray that God would raise up prophetic voices in our culture to counteract the godless leaders and institutions who promote wickedness. You might pray in thanksgiving, knowing that, just as God kept seven thousand pure worshipers for himself in Elijah's day, so will he always have his faithful remnant on the earth. And you might pray that God would quiet your heart before him so that, like Elijah on the mountain, you may truly hear his voice. Biblical narratives can prompt us toward God-honoring prayers.
But in addition to that, there are numerous parts of Scripture that model for us how to pray directly. Most of the Psalms are written as prayers to God. For example, meditation on Psalm 3 would be a good exercise in learning how to lament to the Lord. Meditation on Psalm 145 would teach you well how to praise and thank God. The Psalms run the gamut of human emotion and expression of the heart to God. Use them often in the school of prayer.
Suggested passage for personal or family reading: Psalm 3. Have you ever prayed in lament to the Lord? What does this psalm teach you about prayer?