How Should Christians Pray?
This article covers the basics of Christian prayer. It explains prayer's purpose, its nature, its practice, and its challenges.
The Christian Basics series covers the basics of Christianity. This article summarizes the basic truths of the prayer of Christians.
- The Purpose of Prayer
- The Nature of Prayer
- The Practice of Prayer
- The Struggle of Prayer
1. The Purpose of Prayer
The purpose of prayer is to express our submission to the sovereignty of God and our trust in His faithfulness. Prayer is the means by which we express all that is in our hearts to our loving and wise heavenly Father.
Prayer is not to give God information, because God knows everything. Prayer brings us into reverent communion with God, worshipping Him and acknowledging Him as the Giver of all things.
2. The Nature of Prayer
Prayer is a spiritual discipline that must be learned and developed.
“Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”” (Luke 11:1)
“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.” (Romans 8:26)
Prayer is an exchange of intimacy with God.
“The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.” (Psalms 34:15)
“I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him.” (Psalms 142:2)
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6–7)
One warning: “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.” (Ecclesiastes 5:1–2)
Prayer is effective. It changes circumstances and people. It has results.
“So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands.” (Acts 12:5–7)
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16)
“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.” (Philippians 4:6–7)
3. The Practice of Prayer
Persistence in prayer
“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1)
“Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
“Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,” (Ephesians 6:18)
Promises about prayer
“And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, 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 the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Luke 11:5–10)
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7)
“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” (1 John 5:14)
Jesus’ pattern for prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)
- Pray to God: “Our Father in heaven”
- Exalt God: “Hallowed be your name”
- Submit to God: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”
- Look to God: “Give us this day our daily bread”
- Confess to God: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”
- Depend on God: “Lead us not into temptation”
- Trust in God: “Deliver us from evil”
Four areas of prayer
Reflect on God. Praise Him for His attributes, His majesty, His gift of Christ.
Admit to God you have sinned. Be honest and humble. Remember He knows you and loves you.
Tell God how grateful you are for everything He has given you, even the unpleasant things. Your thankfulness will help you see His purposes.
Make specific requests. Pray for others first, then for yourself.
Hindrances to effective prayer
“If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (Psalms 66:18)
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:3)
“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7)
4. The Struggle of Prayer
“In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.” (Luke 6:12)
“And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:44)
“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 4:2)
“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalms 13:1–2)
“O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” (Psalms 22:2)
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7–9)
“And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”” (Mark 14:35–36)
Surrender your requests to God’s wise and loving plan, acknowledging your willingness to receive His answer with thankfulness.