Day 291

How to Pray

Wisdom Psalm 119:49-55
New Testament 1 Timothy 2:1-6
Old Testament Jeremiah 35:12-15, 37:1-3


Prayer is the most important activity of your life. It is the main way in which you develop a relationship with your Father in heaven. If you love someone, naturally you will want to spend time in their presence communicating with them. Like any relationship, communication can take many different forms.

Lancelot Andrewes (1555–1626), was one of the great theologians and preachers of his day. After he died, his private notebook on prayer was discovered and published. In it he had written two lists:

First, he wrote a list of times of prayer in the Bible:

Without ceasing...
At all times...
Three times a day...
Evening, and morning, and at noon...
Seven times a day...
In the morning, a great while before day...
At daybreak...
The third hour of the day...
About the sixth hour...
The hour of prayer, the ninth...
The evening...
By night...
At midnight...’

Next, he wrote a list of places of prayer in the Bible:

‘In the assembly... and in the congregation...
Your closet...
An upper room...
A housetop...
The temple...
On the shore...
A garden...
On their beds...
A desert place...
In every place...’

There is no limit to the times, places and different ways in which you can pray.


Psalm 119:49-55

49 Remember your word to your servant,
   for you have given me hope.
50 My comfort in my suffering is this:
   your promise preserves my life.
51 The arrogant mock me unmercifully,
   but I do not turn from your law.
52 I remember, Lord, your ancient laws,
   and I find comfort in them.
53 Indignation grips me because of the wicked,
   who have forsaken your law.
54 Your decrees are the theme of my song
   wherever I lodge.
55 In the night, Lord, I remember your name,
   that I may keep your law.


The word of God, song and prayer in the night

Prayer is two-way communication. Prayer involves listening to God as well as speaking to him. The main way in which we hear God today is through his word. Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1) and the Bible is all about him. As you study the Bible, pray that God will speak to you through it.

This will give you ‘hope’ (Psalm 119:49) in the midst of all the difficulties of life: ‘These words held me up in bad times; yes, your promises rejuvenate me’ (v.50, MSG). You will find comfort in God’s words to you (v.52).

These words also inspire our worship of God: ‘Your decrees are the theme of my song’ (v.54). So many of the greatest hymns and worship songs are based on the words of the Bible.

You do not need to confine your prayers to daytime. ‘In the night I remember your name, O Lord’ (v.55a): this is one of the best ways to use times of wakefulness in the night. It may even be a way to cure insomnia!


Lord, please speak to me through your word and bring me hope and comfort. Help me to pray.

New Testament

1 Timothy 2:1-6

1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and humankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people.


Requests, prayers, intercession, thanksgiving and raising hands

What is your first priority? Paul writes, ‘The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know’ (v.1, MSG).

Do you ever complain about your government or your politicians? If you want good government you must pray for it. Paul prioritises prayer ‘for kings and for those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness’ (v.2).

If you live in a country with relatively stable government, thank God and pray for continued stability. In much of the world, people suffer due to unstable governments and tyranny. The rule of law was a high priority in the prayers of the apostle Paul.

When there is good and peaceful government it can make it easier to spread the gospel and for as many people as possible to hear the message. ‘This is good and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth’ (vv.3–4). God loves every human being. No one is destined by God to be lost. He wants everyone to be saved.

Jesus died for us all. He ‘gave himself as a ransom for all’ (v.6). This is a beautiful summary of the work of Jesus. Through his mediation and the ransom he paid, it is possible for everyone to experience an intimate relationship with the Father.

Pray ‘for everyone you know’ (v.1, MSG). This will include your family, friends, neighbours and anyone for whom the Holy Spirit is prompting you to pray.

It is interesting to note in passing that there was an expectation that people would lift up their hands in prayer. ‘Not shaking angry fists at enemies but raising holy hands to God’ (v.8, MSG). It was taken for granted that Christians, like Jews, would lift up their hands in prayer (v.8).

This was the traditional form of prayer. I often jest that ‘if you go into a church and see everyone with their hands in the air say, “This is a traditional church practising ancient forms of worship.” If they all have their hands down by their sides that is fine also. Just say, “This is a modern, trendy church experimenting with new forms of worship!”’

There is a difficult section to expound at the end of today’s passage (vv.9–15). Many of the interpretations of this passage do not really fit with the rest of the New Testament where it is clear that women had roles of leadership within the church. Paul speaks of women as apostles and deacons (Romans 16). He expects them to be praying and prophesying in the assembly (1 Corinthians 11).

Paul also wrote that Christ has brought an end to disunity and prejudice on the basis of gender – in Christ ‘there is neither... male nor female’ (Galatians 3:28). In Jesus’ ministry, we read of Mary of Bethany sitting at Jesus’ feet. In other words, she joined the men in becoming a disciple and a learner (Luke 10:38–42).

Paul’s basic point is to insist that women too must be allowed to learn (1 Timothy 2:11) and study as Christians. In order to do that they needed to exercise humility and not dominate proceedings. The word Paul uses here for ‘authority’ (authentein) is used elsewhere for brutal or domineering forms of leadership – so this probably refers to particular issues in this congregation, rather than being a more general comment on the leadership of women.

As The Message translation puts it, ‘I want women to get in there with the men in humility before God... doing something beautiful for God and becoming beautiful doing it’ (vv.9–10, MSG).


Lord, I pray especially today for those in authority, that the rule of law may be established and that people will be able to live peacefully in all godliness and holiness.

Old Testament

Jeremiah 35:12-15, 37:1-3

12 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying: 13 “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go and tell the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘Will you not learn a lesson and obey my words?’ declares the Lord.

14 ...I have spoken to you again and again...
15 But you have not paid attention or listened to me.

1 Zedekiah son of Josiah was made king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; he reigned in place of Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim. 2 Neither he nor his attendants nor the people of the land paid any attention to the words the Lord had spoken through Jeremiah the prophet.

3 King Zedekiah, however, sent Jehukal son of Shelemiah with the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah to Jeremiah the prophet with this message: “Please pray to the Lord our God for us.”


Listening to God and praying for others

Do you ever get discouraged by the fact that many people do not seem to be interested in listening to God’s words and obeying them?

God spoke to Jeremiah. Jeremiah said that God, ‘began speaking to \[him\] in the reign of Josiah’ (36:2). Jeremiah dictated to Baruch, ‘all the words the Lord had spoken to him’ (v.4).

Over and over again ‘the word came to Jeremiah from the Lord’ (for example, in today’s passage 35:1,12; 36:1,27; 37:6). Presumably, Jeremiah heard the word of the Lord as he was praying.

Jeremiah urged the people to listen to God. God had spoken ‘again and again’ (35:14). He said, ‘Listen!... I spoke to them and they did not listen’ (v.17).

In spite of the fact that the Lord was speaking through his prophet Jeremiah, King Jehoiakim refused to listen to his advisers’ warnings (36:25). Jeremiah had had the words of God painstakingly written on a scroll with quill and ink. But Jehoiakim, who was sitting in front of a charcoal fire warming himself, cut up the entire scroll and burned it piece by piece (v.23).

Jeremiah must have been devastated to hear what the king had done with all his hard work. God tells Jeremiah to ‘do it all over again’ (v.28, MSG). He was not put off by personal rejection. Like Jeremiah, we must be willing to keep going even if our message is rejected: ‘do it all over again.’

Disaster came, ‘Because they have not listened’ (v.31). When Zedekiah was made king, ‘Neither he nor his attendants nor the people of the land paid any attention to the words the Lord had spoken through Jeremiah the prophet’ (37:2). They ill-treated Jeremiah and rejected his word. Yet, despite this refusal to listen, the authorities recognised the power of Jeremiah’s prayers. King Zedekiah sent a message to Jeremiah the prophet: ‘Please pray to the Lord our God for us’ (v.3).

Later he was arrested, beaten and imprisoned (vv.14–15). He ‘was put into a vaulted cell in a dungeon, where he remained a long time’ (v.16). Yet when he was taken from his high-security cell in a dungeon to see the king and was asked, ‘Is there any word from the Lord?’ (v.17), he had the courage to speak out again. He was at the king’s mercy and yet he was completely fearless.


Lord, help me in my prayers to listen attentively to your words and to have the courage to speak them regardless of the consequences.

Pippa adds

Jeremiah 37:15 it says:

‘They were angry with Jeremiah and had him beaten and imprisoned in the house of Jonathan the secretary, which they had made into a prison.’

Jeremiah didn’t have an easy job – he was called to warn the Jewish nation of the coming destruction. It was not popular.

It is not easy to go against the tide. Jeremiah is an example and an encouragement to us to keep going even when things are tough.

Thought for the Day

Prayer is the most important activity of your life. It is the main way in which you develop a relationship with your Father in heaven.



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Alexander Whyte (ed), Lancelot Andrewes and His Private Devotions (Apocryphile Press, 2008)

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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