Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
While God speaks to us through His word, prayer is how a Christian talks with their “Heavenly Father.” Remember, God is not a material being (i.e., flesh) like we are – for “God is Spirit,” and prayer is how He asks that we communicate with Him. Please also remember that God is not some “magic genie lantern in the sky” that you make wishes upon and expect/hope to get them granted.
Much could be said on prayer; it’s hard to know what to include in this book. We’re going to cover a lot of ground quickly; I hope to just get you started doing it and not worry about too many details at first. While there are many right ways to pray, there are also some wrong ways to pray that Scripture warns of. Those warnings should be heeded, of course.
Prayer is something a Christian does constantly, all day, every day, not just in times of duress. We see it written:
Prayer is the central element in the life of a Christian, the glue, if you will, which ties together and connects the various aspects of Christian life you have been reading about:
- Living in the Spirit: It is through prayer that one is able to “live in the Spirit” and also offer thanksgiving to God,
- The Peace of God: Prayer is how you “let your requests be made known to God” and one finds “the peace of God,”
- Godly Wisdom: It is through the study of God’s Word combined with prayer, “asking of God,” that one finds and receives the “wisdom from above,” and
- The Armor of God: It is through prayer by which a Christian engages the spiritual forces of evil and does battle with them. Always remember we are in a spiritual war, battling for the lives of eternal human souls.
Prayer today seems to have been needlessly made both mysterious and also superficial (of rite and repetition) when it is really quite simple as defined in the Bible. So, it is first instructive to say what prayer is not, since there are many preconceived notions in this area that one has learned or been taught from childhood. Christian prayer is not some mystical chanting or new age mantra involving rituals, “babbling,” incantations, repetition of “Hail Mary’s,” talking in weird “tongues,” rambling on endlessly, and other such nonsense. We see it written:
As you just read, Scripture exhorts us to be direct and to the point in our prayers, concise if you will, not rambling and droning on forever and ever (I surely have seen prayers like that!). This “babbling” doesn’t indicate that you are more pious or have a more devout prayer life; it just indicates that you are babbling. Christian prayer is supposed to be simple, open, and honest communication with God, much like a child talking with his or her father. In fact, such a relationship conveys a lot of understanding in how we are to view ourselves with respect to the Lord. This sets up a proper humble and contrite heart and a proper mentality of respect in our approaching God.
There are no specifically prescribed sets of words that you must say when you pray. You simply let Him know your feelings, desires, needs, wishes, and anything else on your mind. Remember that there is “nothing hidden” from God. Remember also that He says:
So, while God sees and knows all things at all times, He still asks us to let Him know what we need, to “make our requests known” before Him. We are doing so not for God’s benefit but for ours. It is also okay (and good) to express any hurt, anger, frustration, etc. that you are feeling; indeed, we see great examples of doing just that in the Psalms of David – but remember to do so in a respectful way.
Where possible and practical, a posture of humility before God is the most common example set before us in Scripture, which repeatedly shows prayer being done while kneeling or even prone (face down to the ground), out of respect to the Lord. However, God searches the heart, not the postures. It also doesn’t matter if your eyes are open or closed, hands clasped or not, head bowed or not, etc. You can pray kneeling, prone, standing, sitting down, in the morning, at night, during the day, while in the car at a stoplight, etc. Vain attempts to make one appear more pious before others during prayer are not valued before the Lord.
Matthew Henry writes: 
Remember that you are having a heartfelt talk with the Creator of heaven and earth, the Lord God Almighty Himself; you should therefore approach prayer with utmost reverence, honor, respect, humility, and contriteness of heart. Even Jesus humbled Himself in front of God the Father, despite being fully God Himself; how much more then should we do likewise!
PRAY WITHOUT CEASING
A Christian should “pray without ceasing” (i.e., constantly). It is also prudent for a Christian to begin and end each day in prayer with the Lord (see the chapter on Essential First 30-Days Activities for a new Christian). The revered Old Testament Daniel prayed three times per day, even if it wasn’t convenient for him, or worse, even when it would put him in mortal danger for his life. Nothing whatsoever interfered with his prayer life. This sets an outstanding example for us to follow.
Scripture shows us that even Jesus needed to pray and that He prayed often. And if Jesus, being fully God, needed to pray, how much more should we be doing the same! Now I also confess that my prayer life, even today, is nowhere near where I’d like it to be. It really takes perseverance and desire to set aside the things and activities of this world in order to spend time alone with the Lord. It is a constant struggle to do that.
THE NOISE OF THIS WORLD
It is truly staggering how much noise this world gives off; we can grow used to it and therefore barely notice it, but it is constantly there, always vying for our attention. I have also found the early morning to be a great time for prayer, the best time, in fact, before the cares, concerns, and duties of this world start to demand your attention. It is written that God communicates in a “still, small voice,” a “gentle whisper,” a “soft whisper,” or a “gentle breeze”:
We see that Jesus often prayed either early in the morning, in the stillness of the early hours of the day before the noise, clamor, and distractions of the world begin to take hold of us, or late at night when the noise of this world has died down again. It is very easy for the loud noise of this world (which is deafening at times) to drown out the voice of the Lord:
IN PRIVATEAnd when we pray, we are to do so in private, not as a public spectacle to show how pious we are in front of others. Prayer is our alone time with our “Heavenly Father.” Jesus would often withdraw to an inner room or remote location (mountaintop, wilderness, etc.) to pray:
The Bible tells us to pray in the “inner room” of our house, i.e., a place of quiet and stillness without distraction. This again helps us shut out the noise of this world and quiet our minds. But also realize that you can pray at other times and places where you find yourself alone. In fact, I’ve found that prayer spots are available all day long, nearly all the time. You can even pray while waiting in an elevator or while waiting in line somewhere.
It can also be profitable to come before God without trying to tell Him things; simply make yourself available for Him by quieting your mind. Prayer is a time of stillness and meditation. I fully realize how hard it is to take my own advice on this; truth be told, I also need to do a much better job in this area. Writing this book has been a blessing, as it has helped me realize some of the things I need to do better myself.
WE APPROACH GOD THROUGH CHRIST
While adding the words “In Jesus Name” or “In the Name of Jesus” at the end of the prayer can be used to express (and remind us) that we are approaching our Heavenly Father through His Son (the Mediator) and that we are calling on the authority of Christ, they are not required, and in fact, those who habitually and without thinking tack-on these three words at the end of each and every prayer as if they are some magical mantra are showing a superficial understanding of Christ’s instructions in this area.
In ancient times, a person’s name also conveyed an indication of their character, their nature. Praying “in the name” of someone means according to their character and also by (through) their authority; so, Scripture is telling us to pray according to Jesus’ character, which is selfless, humble, pure, noble, kind, merciful, gentle, gracious, giving, loving, etc., and by His authority as the “one [only] mediator also between God and men.” We are not to pray to Mary, the dead, or the Saints, etc.
As a reminder to you on this matter and to help break any unconscious habits, may I suggest that you try to mix in some other prayer endings at times. Here are some suggestions:
- “Through Jesus I/we pray,”
- “It is through Christ I/we pray,”
- “Through Christ as mediator I/we pray,”
- “By the blood of Christ I/we pray,”
- “It is through Jesus alone I/we approach the throne,”
- “I/we pray everything through your Son Jesus”
- “In Jesus’ Most Holy Name I/we pray”
SIMPLE, DIRECT, AND HONEST
Just be yourself and talk with God, your Heavenly Father, as if He were right there in front of you, knowing that nothing whatsoever can be hidden from Him; your deepest darkest fears, desires, failures, ill thoughts, etc.…they are all wide open to God. Do not try to hide them; in fact, confess them, and ask Him to take that burden from you! That is when prayer really becomes wonderful, knowing you can fully trust in the Lord and give your burdens to Him. We are able to come directly into His presence through the blood of Christ; we are in effect coming right into His throne room in prayer, into the equivalent today of the “holy of holies”:
If you don’t know what to pray, may I suggest this simple prayer to help you get started:
“God, thank you for the gift of today and for your Son Jesus Christ. Thank you for everything. Father, create a clean heart in me, O God, and renew a right spirit in me! Amen!”
That is a very simple but effective prayer; also, do not underestimate the power of such a simple prayer. We should remember to keep our words few and that prayer doesn’t have to “babble” and drone on forever! That simple prayer above was one that I prayed daily for months until I started to “press on to maturity” in the faith. At the time, it is what I felt I needed most, a clean (and humble) heart and a right spirit (the Holy Spirit) to help me through the day. Here are some suggestions (see also Psalm 119):
- pray for the right heart
- for godly wisdom
- for His will to be done
- for His kingdom
- for guidance
- for forgiveness and confession
- for others
- to offer worship and thanksgiving to God
- in good times and bad
It’s good to stop and reflect in awe and amazement that God, the Creator of heaven and earth and all the universe, takes time out of His busy schedule to spend time with you anytime you want! You don’t have to schedule an appointment with Him or try to fit into His schedule. He’s always there, ready and waiting for you. Imagine trying to do that with an important politician, V.I.P., or powerful CEO here in the world. And yet, God allows us to do just that through Jesus Christ. Amazing!
It is also taught in Scripture that we are to be persistent in our prayers and petitions before the Lord. This is taught in the Parable of the Lady and the Unjust Judge in the book of Luke:
PRAYING FOR OTHERS
We are to offer prayers not only for ourselves but also for others. There are many examples in Scripture of the disciples and apostles praying for others. So, brother or sister in Christ (and myself also), have you prayed for others today? Have you even prayed for your enemies today?
It’s also good to note how the Lord “restored the fortunes of Job” after he prayed for others:
Below is a prayer by Daniel, who was highly esteemed by the Lord:
That is a fantastic example of prayer; in fact, Daniel’s prayer was heard immediately, and a messenger (the angel Gabriel) was dispatched to him from the time he started praying. Now that’s one powerful prayer! Sometimes I receive an answer to a prayer almost immediately, but at other times, the answer takes quite a while, maybe even years.
Also, remember that God knows more than we do, and He sees a much bigger picture than we do, so as a result, He may not give us things we ask for; but we need to always “trust in the Lord.” Know that God hears you, and He also knows what you need (which is not always that same as what you want), and He has promised lovingkindness to those who call on His great name:
Daniel’s prayer also shows us the elements that comprise a good prayer:
- Acknowledging God as sovereign Lord and showing respect,
- Approaching the throne with boldness, but also with humility,
- Confession of sins (even for others), along with sincere repentance,
- Petitions and supplications, and
- Thankfulness and gratitude
In another powerful example of prayer, we see how the apostles prayed when they were being persecuted by the Jews:
CONFESS OUR SINS, ETC.
Remember that a Christian’s life this side of heaven, while we are still in our mortal, sinful bodies, is one of continued struggle against the flesh (and sin) and one of continued repentance. While a true Christian does not live in continued willful habitual sin once born again, you will still find that you sin at times (see the “A Christian No Longer Sins” false teaching). If a new realization or conviction of your sins (current or past) comes to you, be honest with God and confess them in prayer before Him, and “He is faithful and righteous [just] to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”:
You use prayer to confess your sins before God, and Christ as mediator intercedes for you with forgiveness. How amazing is that! However, don’t use God’s grace and mercy as justification for continuing to go on willfully sinning, as that is not abiding in Christ, nor being obedient to Him and does harm to Christ’s name instead of glorifying Him.
Also, contrary to the popular teaching out there, the “where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20) and “if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them” (Matthew 18:19) verses do not even relate to prayer, as if by magic, if two or three Christians got together and prayed for a Ferrari sports car that they would magically get one. Those verses are about Church discipline, not prayer.
And finally, quoting Scripture in your prayers is fine and, in fact, strongly encouraged. God’s Word was given to us to use, not just read. Reminding God of what He has promised in His Word is not being disrespectful; King David did that often in his psalms. Doing that serves to remind us of God’s promises, for it is we who are weak and need constant reassurance. Also, a good prayer often includes any heartfelt cries of emotion that you have. It’s fine to cry out to God in pain and anguish during trials and tribulations here on earth. The more you lean on Him in times of distress, the more He can help you.
HE HEARS US
And lastly, a Christian who prays well also has an attitude and expectation of the prayer being heard and answered. This is not presumption on our part; Scripture tells us this is proper. It demonstrates trust in the Lord and that you understand that He always does what He says He will do as recorded in His Word. We may not always get the answer we like, and the answer may come in God’s time (not our time), but our prayers are heard.
I hope this chapter has given you a brief, but solid head start on the vitally important topic of prayer.
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. – Matthew 6:9-13 (KJV)
[Side note: The verses above are often called the “Lord’s Prayer,” but in actuality, it’s not really the Lord’s Prayer, it is a prayer given to us. See John 17 for the actual Lord’s Prayer. Noting how the prayer is constructed can help us: 1) Addressed to the Father, 2) Approached with humility and respect, 3) Acknowledging Him for who He is, 4) Asking for His will to be done instead of ours, 5) Requesting that we have the right heart, and 6) Acknowledging His ultimate authority and power. Also, these verses are a sample prayer, a template if you will, that can help show you the structure for a proper prayer. They are not some magical incantation in and of themselves that we are to just blindly repeat without thinking. At the time this prayer was given to the disciples, Christ’s kingdom had not yet come in its power and glory (which happened at Pentecost), hence they were to pray for it to come. Today, we are already in Christ’s kingdom, so we aren’t to still blindly pray/repeat for “your kingdom come.” Christ is right now, this very instant, “seated at the right hand of God” the Father, ruling and reigning over His Kingdom (see the Dispensational Premillennialism false teaching). It is of course however still profitable and good to pray for God’s eternal heavenly Kingdom of Glory to be fully established and realized, which will be on the great Day of Judgment; the same words “Your kingdom come” can apply to this if your intent is clear.]
Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. – James 5:13
You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. – James 4:3
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. – Ephesians 6:18-20
For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. – Ephesians 1:15-19a
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:14-19
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners will be converted to You. – Psalm 51:10-13
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” – Matthew 5:43-45
But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. – Acts 16:25
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
But the prayer of the upright is His delight. – Proverbs 15:8
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. – Romans 12:9-13
“‘Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’” – Jeremiah 33:3
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God [through prayer], who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. – James 1:5-6
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” – Matthew 7:7-11
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. – Romans 8:26-27
For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light. – Luke 8:17 [Note: This also speaks to confessing your sins before the Lord in prayer.]
If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. – 2 Chronicles 7:13-14
“It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.” – Isaiah 65:24
“Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” – Matthew 26:41
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” – Luke 22:31-32
“I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.” – John 17:15
 Henry, Matthew. Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, London. 1706-1710/1721.