The Biblical Background of Prayer

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William Brownson

Abstract

What is prayer in the thought-world of the Bible? How do the saints, seers, and singers of Israel pray? What do we learn about prayer from the life and teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ? How does the gift of the Holy Spirit shape the praying of the early church? What convictions about prayer seem constant amid the rich diversity of the biblical witness?

These are large questions, and the task of addressing them is daunting. But the effort to do so is surely worthwhile. If prayer is what our Heidelberg Catechism understands it to be, "the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us," if Luther was right in calling it "the life-breath" of genuine religion, and if Calvin was on the mark in saying that "the principal exercise which the children of God have is to pray; for in this way they give a true proof of their faith" (sermon on 1 Tim. 2:1ff.), then reexamining its biblical roots is a task always vital to the life and ministry of the church. Especially in our contemporary religious culture, with its new openness to prayer and meditation, with its burgeoning interest in spiritual formation, we do well to ask which flowers in this freshly blooming garden seem to have their roots in biblical faith and which may arise from other sources.

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Keywords
Prayer -- Christianity; Spiritual life -- Christianity; Jesus Christ -- Prayers; Holy Spirit
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