After eating the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve were in fear of God; not yet in conversation with God; and trying to hide away from God (Gen. 3:7-8).
While there is any number of books written on the subject of prayer, the short of it is that prayer is conversation with God. It is the act of speaking to or with God. (It is probably wiser to speak with God than to speak to God.)
The conversation God had with Adam and Eve in the Garden after the fall is the first conversation ever that was held between a sinner and a Holy God; and the principles of prayer are set during this dialogue. All meaningful prayer must follow the pattern laid out during that first conversation.
1. God initiated the conversation. He came, looking for a wretch who was cringing in the bush, and He called out to Adam (v 9). Human prayer should always be in response to God’s questions. Let God speak! Thereafter let me respond.
2. Everything Adam said to God was absolutely true (v 10 -12). Nothing in the account suggests that Adam was trying to shift the blame onto someone else. He was afraid. He was naked. He did hide. God did give the woman to him. She did give him the fruit to eat. Everything Eve said to God was equally true. It was the serpent who beguiled her. Principle no. 2 – always be absolutely truthful with God while in conversation with Him. You can’t hide anything from Him anyway.
3. Even though Satan was present throughout this conversation with God, he was not given the freedom to speak. God held no conversation with Satan. He only pronounced judgement on him. Principle no. 3 – even if Satan is present he has no part in our conversation with God.
4. Principle no. 4 – When God pronounced judgement on Adam He also provided a Saviour. There is always mercy in God’s judgements upon the sinner who is in conversation with a Holy God.
It is the intention of God to converse with us. He created us to enjoy fellowship with Him and when that fellowship was broken it was God who did what was necessary to provide renewed fellowship with Himself. He provided the necessary atonement and propitiatory sacrifice. He provided the resurrection and rebirth. He opened the door to the Throne Room and sent out the invitation to a fallen world such that to as many as receive Him, “he gave them the right to become God’s children.” (John 1:12) “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its saviour.” (John 3:16-17) If we have not grasped it yet that God yearns to converse with us we will likely never understand this fundamental fact of creation.
How then ought we to pray? While there are many different ways with which Christians approach God, it is probably wisest to follow the principles outlined above. Seeing that God has chosen to speak to us through His Word (Hebrews 1:1) it is good practice to pray in response to what we are currently reading in the Bible. This assumes that we are indeed reading our Bibles regularly. When we have read the selected passage for that day, we can safely assume that what God would like to speak with us about is what is contained in that passage. For example, let’s assume that we have just read John Chapter 1. Our prayers, of course, would be shaped by our personal responses to what we have just read but would probably be focused on thanksgiving for the life and light and hope we have because He sent us His Son. If, for example, we had just read Ephesians Chapter 5 we may find ourselves praying about and for the health of the marriages in the congregation or for our own respective marriages. Other passages may lead us to spend time in repentance while on other occasions we may be called upon by God to focus our prayers on the plight of the lost and our roles with respect to evangelism.
When we read the Bible before we pray we are allowing God to set the agenda for the prayer session and we find ourselves, quite rightly, responding to God on His terms and not our own. After all, He is God and we are His people.