What is prayer? Prayer is calling upon God.

Isaac Watts (1674–1748) was an English hymn writer who described a method of prayer with this poem:

Call upon God, adore, confess,
Petition, plead, and then declare
You are the Lord’s; give thanks and bless,
And let the Amen confirm the prayer.

Watts’ wit in poetry captured many aspects of how the Bible teaches us to pray.1 Over the next few weeks, we will use each phrase from Watts’ poem to instruct us as to how we can better pray to God on behalf of ourselves, others, and our church.

When we pray, first of all, we should “call upon God.” This simply means that we begin our prayer by addressing God. We say His name to let Him know that we are about to give Him our prayers. Addressing God in prayer also helps to call our own attention to the fact that we are speaking directly to God. We could address Him as “God,” or we could recall any name given to Him in Scripture that brings our focus to the emphasis of that name.2 For example, when Jesus told his disciples how to pray, his model prayer began with an address to God as Father: “Our Father in heaven” (Matt 6:9). By calling upon Him as Father, we acknowledge we are His children. By noting He is in heaven, we acknowledge His sovereignty over all. Having reaffirmed our relationship and standing with Him, we are ready to approach Him in prayer.

Part of calling upon God could include declaring our desire and intent to worship God in prayer. King David gives us an example declaring his desire to pray in Psalm 5:1, 3: “Give ear to my words, O Lord, Consider my groaning. . . . In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.”

Part of calling upon God could even include telling God we simply do not know how to pray as we should. The disciples requested of Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1), and He did (Luke 11:2–4). We should ask God to teach us how to pray, and we learn how to do so from Scripture itself. Jesus taught the disciples how to pray in Matthew 6:9–13 and Luke 11:2–4. These passages teach us how to pray today as well.

Isaac Watts explains this method in A Guide to Prayer, a book that may be purchased by itself from many bookstores online. A free PDF file of A Guide to Prayer may be found within the book Aids to Devotion, in Three Parts, available at https://archive.org/details/aidstodevotioni00socigoog.

For a list of God’s many names, see the post “The Names and Titles of God.”

Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes a short article each week for the church’s Sunday bulletin. For more articles by Pastor Huffstutler, go to his blog, ProclaimChrist.org.