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James 5:13–16

‘Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you ill? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.’ (vv13–14)

Prayer is foundational in learning to live every day with Jesus successfully. Many of us find that prayer is elusive; simple to grasp the principles involved, yet difficult to execute satisfactorily. Many express concern that they do not pray enough, where a precise measure for ‘enough’ is impossible to quantify. Scripture presents countless examples of calls to prayer. The book of Psalms, often referred to as the songbook of the Bible, is essentially a prayer book.

Over this next month we shall explore the foundations for prayer throughout the Bible, as well as offer some practical guidelines and support as we each seek to nurture our personal prayer life. Whilst ‘trouble’ is a significant provocation for prayer – and the Church Times reported a survey’s findings, published by Tearfund, that one in twenty adults started praying during lockdown, despite not praying before* – trouble is not the primary reason to pray.

Prayer deepens our friendship, understanding and appreciation for God. Much like conversation strengthens relationships, so prayer is to take personal time with God. Whilst it involves thanksgiving, confession, making requests and quiet contemplation, not one of these elements constitutes prayer on its own. Prayer is something that takes a lifetime to learn, and deepens only as we invest time to discover how we may personally encounter God. Prayer is not a duty to compete or a ritual to perform; it’s a school of learning intimacy with our heavenly Father. It is the space into which we confidently carry our personal business with God.

Scripture to consider: Ps. 139:1–12; Jer. 29:11–14; Rom. 8:22–27; Rev. 3:14–22.

An action to take: Honestly consider the condition of your prayer life? Is there room for development?

A prayer to make: ‘Lord, I am excited to join You in Your school of prayer. Amen.’

Micha Jazz is Director of Resources at Waverley Abbey, UK.