How is prayer practiced in Christianity? --C.S., Syria

My friend in Syria, you have asked an important question. First, let me say that I have always admired the Muslim commitment to prayer. True Christians are also indeed people of prayer.

One of the most remarkable things the Injil records about Isa was His prayer life. He often spent long periods of time alone with Allah in prayer. The disciples saw this. Wanting to follow his example, one day they said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray."

Isa then proceeded to give them the pattern of true prayer. He said, "This, then, is how you should pray:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the Evil One."

Injil according to Matthew, 6:9-13

The most distinguishing mark of true believers today is the great emphasis they place on spending time in daily prayer and living a holy life.

Prayer can be both ritualistic (memorized) or conversational (speaking out of the heart). Memorized prayers can be beneficial if one can concentrate on the words. But most Christians practice conversational praying.

The prophet Moses practiced this kind of praying. We read in the Tawrat that, "The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend" (Exodus 33:11).

If we have a true friend, we speak directly to that friend, expressing the inmost thoughts of our hearts. Then we also listen to what our friend says to us.

In the same way, Allah calls us His friends and invites us to speak to Him in prayer the inmost thoughts of our hearts and bring our every need to Him. Whatever the need, Allah is great and merciful and is ready to help us in our need. He also wants to speak to us in our minds through visions and dreams. We should always be ready to listen.

I believe Allah invites all true worshipers to move beyond the mystery of the forms of prayer into an actual encounter with Allah, a personal relationship with the One whom we worship. The forms and practices of our prayer are less important than the spirit in which we pray. The Injil invites us to approach our heavenly Father in spirit and in truth.

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