Afternoon Sermon: What Is Prayer?, Baptist Catechism 105, Philippians 4:4–9

Baptist Catechism 105

Q. 105. What is Prayer?

A. Prayer is an offering up of our desires to God, by the assistance of the Holy Spirit, for things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ, believing, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of His mercies. 

Scripture Reading: Philippians 4:4–9

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:4–9, ESV)


Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.



I should probably begin by reminding you that we are considering the outward and ordinary means of grace that God has given to his people through which he distributes the benefits of the redemption that Christ has earned to his elect in every place and age. 

Does God work inwardly upon the hearts of his people to bring them to faith and to sanctify them further? Yes, works upon our hearts by his Spirit. But we are here considering the outward means of grace, that is to say, things external to us that God uses to bring his people to faith and to grow them up in it. 

And does God work in the lives of his people in unique and unusual ways? Of course! He uses many things that are unique to each one of us to bring us to faith and to grow us up in it. He uses other people and life circumstances to shape us and to refine us. But here we are talking about the ordinary means of grace. There are the things that God ordinarily uses to save and to sanctify his people. These are things that God has ordered or ordained us to partake in. 

Question 93 of  Baptist Catechism asks, What are the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption? A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption are His ordinances, especially the Word, baptism, the Lord’s Supper and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.  So, we have learned about the Word and how God uses it to save and to sanctify his people. We have also learned about baptism and the Lord’s Supper. And now, in question  105, we begin to learn about prayer. Prayer is the fourth and final external and ordinary means of grace mentioned in our catechism.

Before we get into the details of Q 105, I think it would be good to observe that our catechism concludes with teaching on prayer. Questions 105 through 114 (which is the last question in our catechism) are all about prayer. I think this is wonderful, and let me tell you why. 

Way back in Baptist Catechism question 22 the question was asked, “What is the misery of that estate whereunto man fell?” Questions 16-22 tell us about sin, and again, question 22 asks, “What is the misery of that estate whereunto man fell?” A. “All mankind, by their fall lost communion with God, are under His wrath and curse, and so made liable to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever.” What was the very first misery mentioned? The loss of communion with God? And where does our catechism take us? Through the gospel of Jesus Christ, our catechism takes us back to communion with God. Through faith in Christ (as he is offered to us in the Word) we are washed and renewed. Baptism is a symbol of this. Through faith in Christ, we are reconciled to God. The Lord’s Supper is a symbol of this. And through faith in Christ were granted bold access to the Father. Stated differently, through faith in Christ our communion with God is restored. Now granted, we will enjoy the fullness of this communion in the new heavens and earth after Christ returns. But it is a benefit of our salvation that we enjoy even now. Even now we are invited to come boldly in to the presence of the Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit. And how do we do this except through prayer? I say it is fitting and beautiful that our catechism concludes with teaching on prayer because it is, in a sense, the high point of our salvation in Christ Jesus. Through faith in him, we are granted access to the Father. The communion with God that was lost when man fell into sin has been restored. We are invited to enter boldly into his presence through prayer. 

What is prayer? It is important to know, don’t you think? I doubt we will pray well or often if we don’t know what prayer is. 

Some have wondered about the purpose of prayer. They ask, doesn’t God already know what we need? Doesn’t he already know what will happen in the future? Why pray then? Well, prayer would be pointless if its purpose was to inform God about what we need. Indeed, he knows what we need. Jesus reminds us of this in the middle of his teaching on prayer, saying, “Do not be like them [those who heap up empty phrases], for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8, ESV). And yes, God knows the future. More than this, he has decreed it (Isaiah 46:10)! So, the purpose of prayer is not to tell God things that he is unaware of. And neither is the purpose of prayer to change the course of history. 

What is prayer then? Answer: It is a means of grace for us. It is one of the ordinary and external means by which we enjoy communion with God through faith in Christ. It is one of the ordinary and external means through which God works in our lives and in the lives of others. How are sinners saved and then sanctified further? Through the means of the word of God read and preached, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. And the same may be said of prayer. Prayer is a means of grace for us.

What is prayer? Our catechism is right to teach that prayer:

  • Is an offering up of our desires to God… 
  • By the assistance of the Holy Spirit…
  • For things agreeable to His will…
  • In the name of Christ… 
  • Believing… 
  • With confession of our sins…
  • And thankful acknowledgment of His mercies.  

Yes, prayer changes things. Not the decree of God, of course. But you and me! It is a means of grace for us.

And we know that God has determined to accomplish his decree through means, and prayer is a means of grace. 



Comments are closed.

"Him we proclaim,
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

© 2011-2022 Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church