How Should Christians Pray?
Prayer is the main way that we communicate with and contact our heavenly Father. We use it to talk to him and express our love for him and when combined with exercising faith in God's Word, prayer is the means through which God's power is released to meet our needs and the needs of others. Prayer is the cement that binds our relationship with God and strengthens the foundations for everything we build upon that relationship.
In the scriptures you will find mention of how we are to pray, so that it should not be a 'hit and miss' exercise. We would be getting answers to every prayer we pray if we pray correctly. Jesus came to show us the way. As Christians we have His faith and the same Holy Spirit that raised Him from the dead at work in us. Therefore since God shows no partiality, we can expect the same results when we do as Jesus did!
We should take the time and make the effort to know how to pray and not assume that the examples of those around us is correct. Follow those who are getting good results as they follow Jesus and the word!
When we look at the 'biblical' examples we find that answered prayers are not necessarily the long ones, or the flowery ones or the ones with the most 'religious' language. The common denominators are that the prayers were "according to God's word" and "in faith". Those are the reference points and we all have access to these keys of the kingdom.
So what kinds of prayer do we find being explained to us in the scriptures?
Prayer One - The Prayer of Thanksgiving, Praise and Worship.
It is a prayer between you and the Lord, and in it the big thing is that you are telling Him how much you love Him, appreciate Him, honor Him, and praise him for his goodness and mercy, His grace and love. You are not asking Him for anything. You are sending up a "cloud of incense" in words to Him of adoration, appreciation and thanksgiving and praise.
Psa 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
If we think of the Temple and it's layout; as we approach the Holy of Holies, we enter the gates with Thanksgiving, we enter the courts with Praise and finally the presence of God, with Worship. This could well be the prayer that we pray most times during the day. Thanksgiving reflects our appreciation that God is good. Praise reflects our appreciation that God is great. Worship reflects our appreciation that God is Holy.
This prayer comes out of our ongoing love for
God. We love Him because God IS Love and loved us first. Such
love that He did not withold from us His son, His only son. That
love causes the believer to love and to praise and worship God in
prayer. This is the main prayer for building a loving
relationship with our heavenly Father.
Prayer Two - The Prayer of Blessings.
You can see the core of this prayer outlined in 1 Chr 4:10 as Jabez asked God to bless him. In the prayer of 'Thankfulness, Praise and Worship' we bless God. In this prayer we ask God to bless us.
1 Chr 4:10 Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, "Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!" 'And God granted what he asked'.
Here we see the four blessings that we can and should request from God which can be the core petitions of the Lord's prayer from a Christian's point of view. These to me are the core blessings of a victorious life for the kingdom of God.
A. We ask God to bless us - to give us his
favour in everything we do; to enrich our lives in every way to
be a blessing to others. As with Abraham ask to be blessed to be
a blessing to others.
God granted these requests of Jabez and He will grant them to us also who love Him.
Prayer Three (A). - The Prayer of Faith.
We can see this explained in Mark 11:22-24.
Mar 11:22-24 Jesus said to them, "Have faith in God! I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
This prayer is based on the believer having the authority to command something to manifest in the physical realm that Jesus has already provided in the spiritual realm. Notice Jesus says - "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."
This prayer is all about what God has delegated into your hands. It's the 'good you', speaking out for legitimate things according to God's will and expecting them to manifest by the power in God's Grace through Jesus' Faith in us.
Mar 11:24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
This is not to diminish what God has done through Jesus, but to point out that God has delegated this job to US. We can see this by what Peter said in Acts Chapter 3, verse 6.
Act 3:6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”
What Peter had in himself he gave to the crippled man - Healing.
Now you cannot pray this prayer in an effort to change other people's attitudes or mindset. It's about needs, petitions, or favour from God.
You should be aware also that the proper translation of verse 22 is that you should, "Have the faith of God!". We should have God's kind of faith which 'speaks and it is accomplished!'.
In Matthew, Chapter 21, verses 21 and 22, we see a parallel scripture on the 'Prayer of Faith' and we notice something else about this prayer. You receive what you ask for, so you need to ask for exactly what you want! And you have to believe that you receive it.
Mat 21:21-22 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
You believe; then you receive! It's already ours, but we have to manifest it in the physical world through our faith, like the ten lepers did in the book of Luke, Chapter 17, verse 14. You have to believe you have it before you can see it.
Luk 17:14 When he (Jesus) saw them (ten lepers) he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went they were cleansed.
Let us express the same kind of faith as those lepers who set off on their way to tell the priests that they were healed before they saw any change in the symtoms of their leprosy. But it was like the fig tree that Jesus cursed, it died at the root first and only later was that death manifest in the leaves and branches.
Hebrews 11:1 says,
Heb 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
If you can see it, you don't need any faith, because faith is the evidence of things "not seen".
What is evidence or proof? Evidence or proof is confirmation of the existence of a thing through means other that the physical senses, until that thing is seen. Once that thing appears, you do not need any more evidence of it, because now you have it. Notice that faith is not evidence of things that don't exist. It has to exist for there to be evidence of it. It's in the spirit realm. Now if faith is the evidence of things not seen, that means that we cannot validate our faith by anything in the physical realm. We have to look to a source that reveals what is happening in the spirit realm - the Word of God.
Faith is based on the Word of God, which is true forever. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. It's the word of God - the bible - which gives confirmation of what God has promised. In other words it confirms God's will in your life. [ For other factors in Faith and Answered Prayer, see - Maybe It Wasn't God? ]
You cannot pray effectively or intelligently without knowing the will of God, and we know what the will of God is by knowing what the word of God says. God's will is revealed in His Word. So, study the word to find out what God's will is, then you can pray in confidence, never doubting.
For instance, God's word tells us that if we ask according to His will then he hears us and will answer with a resounding "YES" to all the petitions that we ask of Him.
1 John 5:14-15: "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
If the result is hindered from immediate manifestation we are to be persistent in prayer. This is not the same as saying you did not get it the first time you prayed, so you have to keep on asking. No, the bible tells us that if we know He hears us then we know we have the petitions that we asked of Him. But if Satan is hindering the manifestation of what you have requested either directy or through people, then by all means keep commanding that his influence be removed so that you see the manifestation, as he realises you are not giving up but will resist him till he gives up and flees from you.
So having asked for something from God, you must believe that you received it, and let God know this. You thank Him that you have the faith of Jesus to believe wholeheartedly, and you thank God that you received it, in Jesus' name.
On any subsequent days prior to it's manifesting to you, thank God for it and that you believe that you received it when you prayed initially. You do not say that you believe you will get it - you must believe that you already have it by faith. You actively, patiently and positively, with thanks to God, await it's manifestation.
When it does manifests before you, you thank God that you now have it as a physical fact as well and glorify God for his provision.
In the Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
- all the people who exhibited faith for miracles, from the
Centurion, through the Disciples, to the Woman with the issue of
blood, were non-christians. They did not have the Holy Spirit and
they did not have new spirits because Jesus had not yet died and
been resurrected. They were in this sense un-believers, and the
only two people whose faith was called great by Jesus were both
Without faith it is impossible to please God, but why should Jesus wonder about us when we have the same amount of faith as the apostle Peter had after he received the Holy Spirit? Notice what Peter said in his second letter...
2Pe 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of our God and our Savior Jesus Christ, Grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, ...
Could it be that Jesus wondered if we would be exercising it? So we must start using our faith even on the little things and build ourselves up to the point where we can believe for the bigger things. We should see it as a process of continual growth till we reach the measure of the stature of Jesus.
Prayer Three (B) - The Prayer of Agreement.
We can see this explained in Matthew 18:19 and James 5:14.
Matt 18:19 If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
According to the scripture, it is a prayer for every believer! Ideal for couples and married people and Church teams who see a need in Church, community or personal lives. What they have to do is ask. And they have to be in agreement regarding what they ask for, otherwise the prayer will not have the expected end result.
This is like an upgrade on the "Prayer of faith"! Or, a way to assist another through your faith to get their needs met! You have the same faith as the Apostle Peter (2 Pet 1:1) and God tells us that he expects us to combine our faiths; and also for those who are strong in utilising their faith to assist others and build them up to the same level.
This is a prayer where you must know what you are agreeing with and know that the person you are agreeing with has the same goal for which you are praying. Obviously you must be praying according to God's will. You and everyone else involved must know what scriptures you are standing on for the prayer to be answered (Like 1 Pet 2:24).
1 Pet 2:24 Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness — by whose stripes you were healed.
You are praying for all hindrances to be removed and for manifestation of the required result in the physical. You'll be praising God for the prayer having been answered when you prayed. And, you will be to be keeping the required result in the forefront of your minds, not the problem.
This prayer of agreement is not the result of asking the church in an announcement to 'pray for so-and-so to be healed of X'. In some of these cases, (especially in serious ones), many people will be thinking of the death of the person rather than their healing! No, I would suggest that you limit this prayer to those whom you know will have faith whether for healing or God's provision. Those who will pray unceasingly for the required result with praise and thanksgiving. Then the result will manifest as your minds and hearts are truly focussed on the result required and the Lord who has provided it.
Mar 11:24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
So, if praying for healing, you could mention that the scriptures tell us that "By Jesus' stripes we have been healed", and then command that healing to manifest as the Apostles did, in Jesus' name (Acts 3: 1- 10). It's interesting to see here that Peter says the power to heal is in us (Holy Spirit) and we have the authority to give healing to others.
Prayer Four (A) - Prayer of Intercession. (Jam 5:14)
Sometimes the person wanting prayer does not
feel capable of getting his or her prayer answered without
Jam 5:14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.
The person calling on the elders just has to want to be healed and believe that Jesus has provided the healing. That's their part in the agreement for this prayer of intercession. The elders are to provide the faith, as Jesus pointed out to His disciples when they could not heal someone (Mat 17:14-20). So ideally only ask those who have faith for healing!
Mat 17:14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
Jesus provided all the healing we can need 2000 years ago when he was tortured and beaten with stripes. The authority to call that healing into being into the physical realm has been put into every 'believer' through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. All believers have been delegated to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead and cast out demons (Mar 16:17-18). So let's be believers who actually believe, so that we can with confidence pray for healing and be people others can ask to pray in agreement with them for blessings from God!
Prayer Four (B) - Prayer of Intercession. (Heb 7:25)
Heb 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
This can be used when you are asked to pray
for people who are believers and also for people who are not yet
There are thus two types of intercessory prayer. In one case we get in agreement about somebody or something and pray for them ourselves, telling God what is required. Where a non-Christian needs assistance or wants to come to God, we intercede for them, bringing them to the one who can save them to the uttermost.
In the other case we don't know all the
details but we bring the people or incident before God and the
result one would expect to be according to their agreement.
Prayer Five - Prayer of Groanings. (Romans 8:26)
Rom 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
Sometimes you may not know why you get a strong urge in your spirit to pray for something or someone. You don't know all the details but you know that you are supposed to pray urgently. You physically don't know all things, but your spirit does and prays with Holy Spirit to take the intercession, to God.
Or, it could be that in circumstances when you are emotionally or intellectually unable to compose yourself to pray, knowing your weakness, your spirit and the Holy Spirit pray for you and make intercession to God. These seem to be the sorts of situation to which Rom 8:26 above may well be referring. We don't know what or how to pray, and so the Holy Spirit prays for us.
Prayer Six - Meditation.
Meditation is actually prayer! This is pointed out in the book of Psalms, Chapter 5, verses 1-2.
Psa 5:1-2 Give ear to my words, O Lord. Consider my meditation. Listen to the voice of my cry, my King and my God; for to you do I pray.
As originally done, meditation is speaking the word of God softly to yourself as you think it through and let the word sink into your heart.
Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God... When you speak the word of God to yourself you are fulfilling what that statement in the word of God says!
Rom 10:17 So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
So meditating on the word of God, as done in the bible, is prayer and is a builder of faith. The meaning of the original Hebrew word is 'to mutter' or speak softly.
The modern usage of the word meditation is to think and consider mentally about something. This is useful when applied to the word of God and you will have help from Holy Spirit and God because you are reading and inwardly digesting the word of God. But, you may not be having the full effect that you would have with biblical meditation which pushes the understanding down to your heart and builds up your faith more quickly as you 'Hear' the word.
I was told that originally all people muttered (moved their lips in soft speech) when they read. But in the middle ages this stopped as some monks realised they did not have to do that and others followed. As children we are told not to do it, although for many if not most it was the natural way to read! From the bible's point of view this may well be a better way to meditate and plant God's word in our hearts.
But whatever you prefer - Meditation on God's word is an essential part of our prayer life. This could well be the second candidate for 'most used prayer during a day'!
Building up one faith and edifying oneself is not the only benefit though. In Joshua, Chapter 1, verse 8, God says this to Joshua and by extension to us...
Jos 1:8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
Meditation on the word of God takes us way beyond edification. It's key to being prosperous and successful in THIS world. Just check out the results in Joshua's life (Jos 24:29-30). He left an inheritance of abundance and his wise (through God) decisions brought success and deliverance to Israel all through his lifetime as the successor to Moses, and extended as a legacy through those elders who learned from/under him.
Joshua and David only had the first five books
of the Law while we have the whole bible and especially the
revelation that came through Jesus and His apostles.
Prayer Seven - Petition.
A petition is a written document formally setting out the legitimate requirements that you want someone with higher authority than yourself to grant on your behalf.
So based on this, 'The prayer of petition' is a formal prayer written out with your request to God for something that you require for yourself, your ministry or someone else and then it's put before God with our words. The requirements for the need should be set out in detail so that the prayer would be like incense beaten fine as it is brought before God.
Given that this is a situation, where what is being prayed for is set out so that people can come into agreement with the petition, then this prayer of petition can be effectively combined with the prayer of agreement to get the results that God wants in the originators life manifested.
The basic prayer though is one where what is being prayed for is known and set out in a formal request so that the mind can focus in detail on the request being placed before God.
IN THIS AND ALL PRAYER, ONE THING YOU MUST NOT DO!
DO NOT PRAY - "If the Lord wills!
This is not a biblical prayer and you will not find Jesus or the disciples praying in doubt like this; so we should not do it either!
On one occasion, when asked to deliver a young boy from oppression, Jesus asked the boy's father this ...
9:21-24 And Jesus asked his father, "How long has this been
happening to him?"
You can see for yourself that Jesus says "If you can!" is not to be part of our prayer vocabulary! ALL things are possible for one who believes.
On a couple of occasions Paul uses the term "If the Lord wills" but it's not in a prayer. Paul is telling us that we should not be presumptious about "our" abilities and that we should include God in our business ventures, but it's not a prayer.
1 Cor 4:19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and .....
Jesus also always knew and prayed in the will of His Father and so on the night that he agonised in the garden before being betrayed and killed he said to God in prayer...
Mat 26:39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will."
Jesus is not saying "If it's your will". He knew God's will and said "If there's another way let's do it, but nevertheless, Your will be done!"
So, what we see is that it's not scriptural to say in prayer, "If it's God's will". We should NOT tack this on to our prayers to make ourselves seem humble.
You should definitely not put this on
the end when you are praying for healing for instance. If you
add, "If God wills", when you are making a prayer of
petition, then like the father in Mark, Chapter 9, verses 21-24,
you are praying in doubt and unbelief, not in faith.
* * *
So those are the main prayer types that you can use.
The foundation for your prayer must be the clearly revealed Word of God. If you are praying outside the will of God, then God will not answer! And, you find out whether it is outside God's will by finding out what the Word of God says. It's pointless to pray for something that God does not say He will do for His people either directly, or in principle, in His word.
We know though that God wants us well; that He wants us to prosper even as our soul prospers, and that He only wants our good. Our God is a GOOD God.
Also, if it's important to you, expect at some
time to be attacked by Satan trying to stop you getting it.
When you ask God for the things that you want,
believe that you have them. It's not what the natural man/woman
would confess, but it's what faith confesses (Mar 11:22-24).
You must ask! You must "SAY" to the mountain, "Be removed and cast into the sea"!
Do not let your speech afterwards counteract or negate what you said in your prayer. Life and death are in the power of the tongue. Don't kill your own dreams or destroy your own petitions. Keep confessing that what you have requested has been received and thank God for it. Do not let Satan, people, or things, move you away from that affirmation.
Keep yourself steeped in the word and the promises on which you have based your prayer. Be fully persuaded of the true will of God for you, as shown in His word. And, Never, Never give up!
Stay close to God. Pray - thank God, praise, worship and meditate - without ceasing!
Psa 37:4 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.