Questions About Prayer People are Really Asking: The TOP Most Frequently Asked Questions About Prayer
Have Questions, Find Answers on Otakada.org – About Prayer people are really asking – Daily, people turn to the Internet to find answers to their questions about spiritual matters. Topics related to spirituality are the second-most searched subjects online. Sadly, websites that present false teachings far outnumber those that proclaim the truth of God’s Word. We will provide answers as the Holy Spirit leads us from a biblical perspective. You will also need to pray to secure answers to any question you may have because one of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to lead us into all truth – John 16:13. Today, we look at Questions About Prayer people are really asking and questions that relate to this with biblical answers.. Enjoy
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But before we answer questions about prayer, hereunder is the most important question that has to do with your eternal destiny with answer for your necessary action:
Question: What does it mean to accept Jesus as your personal Savior?
Answer: Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior? To properly understand this question, you must first understand the terms “Jesus Christ,” “personal,” and “Savior.”
Who is Jesus Christ? Many people will acknowledge Jesus Christ as a good man, a great teacher, or even a prophet of God. These things are definitely true of Jesus, but they do not fully define who He truly is. The Bible tells us that Jesus is God in the flesh, God in human form (see John 1:1, 14). God came to earth to teach us, heal us, correct us, forgive us—and die for us! Jesus Christ is God, the Creator, the sovereign Lord. Have you accepted this Jesus?
What is a Savior, and why do we need a Savior? The Bible tells us that we have all sinned; we have all committed evil acts (Romans 3:10-18). As a result of our sin, we deserve God’s anger and judgment. The only just punishment for sins committed against an infinite and eternal God is an infinite punishment (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:11-15). That is why we need a Savior!
Jesus Christ came to earth and died in our place. Jesus’ death was an infinite payment for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins (Romans 5:8). Jesus paid the price so that we would not have to. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead proved that His death was sufficient to pay the penalty for our sins. That is why Jesus is the one and only Savior (John 14:6; Acts 4:12)! Are you trusting in Jesus as your Savior?
Is Jesus your “personal” Savior? Many people view Christianity as attending church, performing rituals, and/or not committing certain sins. That is not Christianity. True Christianity is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Accepting Jesus as your personal Savior means placing your own personal faith and trust in Him. No one is saved by the faith of others. No one is forgiven by doing certain deeds. The only way to be saved is to personally accept Jesus as your Savior, trusting in His death as the payment for your sins and His resurrection as your guarantee of eternal life (John 3:16). Is Jesus personally your Savior?
If you want to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, say the following words to God. Remember, saying this prayer or any other prayer will not save you. Only believing in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross for you can save you from sin. This prayer is simply a way to express to God your faith
in Him and thank Him for providing for your salvation. “God, I know that I have sinned against You and deserve punishment. But I believe Jesus Christ took the punishment I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. I receive Your offer of forgiveness and place my trust in You for salvation. I accept Jesus as my personal Savior! Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness— the gift of eternal life! Amen!”
Now, Top Questions About Prayer People are Really Asking:
What is the prayer of salvation?
What is the Lord’s Prayer, and should we pray it?
What does it mean to pray in Jesus’ name?
How can I have my prayers answered by God?
Is it acceptable to repeatedly pray for the same thing?
Is corporate prayer important? Is corporate prayer more powerful than an individual praying alone?
Whom are we to pray to—the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit?
What is the power of prayer?
How can I be sure I am praying according to the will of God?
Silent prayer—is it biblical?
What is the proper way to pray?
What is praying in the Spirit?
What is the connection between prayer and fasting?
What does it mean to pray without ceasing?
What is prayer walking? Is it biblical to go on a prayer walk?
What are some hindrances to effective prayer?
What is intercessory prayer?
Question: What is the prayer of salvation?
Answer: Many people ask, “Is there a prayer I can pray that will guarantee my salvation?” It is important to remember that salvation is not received by reciting a prayer or uttering certain words. The Bible nowhere records a person’s receiving salvation by a prayer. Saying a prayer is not the biblical way of salvation.
The biblical method of salvation is faith in Jesus Christ. John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Salvation is gained by faith (Ephesians 2:8), by receiving Jesus as Savior (John 1:12), and by fully trusting Jesus alone (John 14:6; Acts 4:12), not by reciting a prayer.
The biblical message of salvation is simple and clear and amazing at the same time. We have all committed sin against God (Romans 3:23). Other than Jesus Christ, there is no one who has lived an entire life without sinning (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Because of our sin, we have earned judgment from God (Romans 6:23), and that judgment is physical death followed by spiritual death. Because of our sin and its deserved punishment, there is nothing we can do on our own to make ourselves right with God. As a result of His love for us, God became a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a perfect life and always taught the truth. However, humanity rejected Jesus and put Him to death by crucifying Him. Through that horrible act, though, Jesus died in our place. Jesus took the burden and judgment of sin on Himself, and He died in our place (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus was then resurrected (1 Corinthians 15), proving that His payment for sin was sufficient and that He had overcome sin and death. As a result of Jesus’ sacrifice, God offers us salvation as a gift. God calls us all to change our minds about Jesus (Acts 17:30) and to receive Him as the full payment of our sins (1 John 2:2). Salvation is gained by receiving the gift God offers us, not by praying a prayer.
Now, that does not mean prayer cannot be involved in receiving salvation. If you understand the gospel, believe it to be true, and have accepted Jesus as your salvation, it is good and appropriate to express that faith to God in prayer. Communicating with God through prayer can be a way to progress from accepting facts about Jesus to fully trusting in Him as Savior. Prayer can be connected to the act of placing your faith in Jesus alone for salvation.
Again, though, it is crucially important that you do not base your salvation on having said a prayer. Reciting a prayer cannot save you! If you want to receive the salvation that is available through Jesus, place your faith in Him. Fully trust
His death as the sufficient sacrifice for your sins. Completely rely on Him alone as your Savior. That is the biblical method of salvation. If you have received Jesus as your Savior, by all means, say a prayer to God. Tell God how thankful you are for Jesus. Offer praise to God for His love and sacrifice. Thank Jesus for dying for your sins and providing salvation for you. That is the biblical connection between salvation and prayer.
Question: Why pray?
Answer: For the Christian, praying is like breathing. It is easier to do it than to not do it. We pray for a variety of reasons. For one thing, prayer is a form of serving God (Luke 2:36-38) and obeying Him. We pray because God commands us to pray (Philippians 4:6-7). Prayer is exemplified for us by Christ and the early church (Mark 1:35; Acts 1:14; 2:42; 3:1; 4:23-31; 6:4; 13:1-3). If Jesus thought it was worthwhile to pray, we should also. If He needed to pray to remain in the Father’s will, how much more do we need to pray?
Another reason to pray is that God intends prayer to be the means of obtaining His solutions in a number of situations. We pray in preparation for major decisions (Luke 6:12-13); to overcome demonic barriers (Matthew 17:14-21); to gather workers for the spiritual harvest (Luke 10:2); to gain strength to overcome temptation (Matthew 26:41); and to obtain the means of strengthening others spiritually (Ephesians 6:18-19).
We come to God with our specific requests, and we have God’s promise that our prayers are not in vain, even if we do not receive specifically what we asked for (Matthew 6:6; Romans 8:26-27). He has promised that when we ask for things that are in accordance with His will, He will give us what we ask for (1 John 5:14-15). Sometimes He delays His answers according to His wisdom and for our benefit. In these situations, we are to be diligent and persistent in prayer (Matthew 7:7; Luke 18:1-8). Prayer should not be seen as our means of getting God to do our will on earth, but rather as a means of getting God’s will done on earth. God’s wisdom far exceeds our own.
For situations in which we do not know God’s will specifically, prayer is a means of discerning His will. If the Syrian woman with the demon-influenced daughter had not prayed to Christ, her daughter would not have been made whole (Mark 7:26-30). If the blind man outside Jericho had not called out to Christ, he would have remained blind (Luke 18:35-43). God has said that we often go without because we do not ask (James 4:2). In one sense, prayer is like sharing the gospel with people. We do not know who will respond to the message of the gospel until we share it. In the same way, we will never see the results of answered prayer unless we pray.
A lack of prayer demonstrates a lack of faith and a lack of trust in God’s Word. We pray to demonstrate our faith in God, that He will do as He has promised in His Word and bless our lives abundantly more than we could ask or hope for (Ephesians 3:20). Prayer is our primary means of seeing God work in others’ lives. Because it is our means of “plugging into” God’s power, it is our means of defeating Satan and his army that we are powerless to overcome by ourselves. Therefore, may God find us often before His throne, for we have a high priest in heaven who can identify with all that we go through (Hebrews 4:15-16). We have His promise that the fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much (James 5:16-18). May God glorify His name in our lives as we believe in Him enough to come to Him often in prayer.
Question: What is the Lord’s Prayer, and should we pray it?
Answer: The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer the Lord Jesus taught His disciples in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. Matthew 6:9-13 says, “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.’“ Many people misunderstand the Lord’s Prayer to be a prayer we are supposed to recite word for word. Some people treat the Lord’s Prayer as a magic formula, as if the words themselves have some specific power or influence with God.
The Bible teaches the opposite. God is far more interested in our hearts when we pray than He is in our words. “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matthew 6:6-7). In prayer, we are to pour out our hearts to God (Philippians 4:6-7), not simply recite memorized words to God.
The Lord’s Prayer should be understood as an example, a pattern, of how to pray. It gives us the “ingredients” that should go into prayer. Here is how it breaks down. “Our Father in heaven” is teaching us whom to address our prayers to—the Father. “Hallowed be your name” is telling us to worship God, and to praise Him for who He is. The phrase “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” is a reminder to us that we are to pray for God’s plan in our lives and the world, not our own plan. We are to pray for God’s will to be done, not for our desires. We are encouraged to ask God for the things we need in “give us today our daily bread.” “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” reminds us to confess our sins to God and to turn from them, and also to forgive others as God has forgiven us. The conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” is a plea for help in achieving victory over sin and a request for protection from the attacks of the devil.
So, again, the Lord’s Prayer is not a prayer we are to memorize and recite back to God. It is only an example of how we should be praying. Is there anything wrong with memorizing the Lord’s Prayer? Of course not! Is there anything wrong with praying the Lord’s Prayer back to God? Not if your heart is in it and you truly mean the words you say. Remember, in prayer, God is far more interested in our communicating with Him and speaking from our hearts than He is in the specific words we use. Philippians 4:6-7 declares, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Question: What does it mean to pray in Jesus’ name?
Answer: Prayer in Jesus’ name is taught in John 14:13-14, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Some misapply this verse, thinking that saying “in Jesus’ name” at the end of a prayer results in God’s always granting what is asked for. This is essentially treating the words “in Jesus’ name” as a magic formula. This is absolutely unbiblical.
Praying in Jesus’ name means praying with His authority and asking God the Father to act upon our prayers because we come in the name of His Son, Jesus. Praying in Jesus’ name means the same thing as praying according to the will of God, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: 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 what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14- 15). Praying in Jesus’ name is praying for things that will honor and glorify Jesus.
Saying “in Jesus’ name” at the end of a prayer is not a magic formula. If what we ask for or say in prayer is not for God’s glory and according to His will, saying “in Jesus’ name” is meaningless. Genuinely praying in Jesus’ name and for His glory is what is important, not attaching certain words to the end of a prayer. It is not the words in the prayer that matter, but the purpose behind the prayer. Praying for things that are in agreement with God’s will is the essence of praying in Jesus’ name.
Question: How can I have my prayers answered by God?
Answer: Many people believe answered prayer is God granting a prayer request that is offered to Him. If a prayer request is not granted, it is understood as an “unanswered” prayer. However, this is an incorrect understanding of prayer. God answers every prayer that is lifted to Him. Sometimes God answers “no” or “wait.” God only promises to grant our prayers when we ask according to His will. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: 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 what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14- 15).
What does it mean to pray according to God’s will? Praying according to God’s will is praying for things that honor and glorify God and/or praying for what the Bible clearly reveals God’s will to be. If we pray for something that is not honoring to God or not God’s will for our lives, God will not give what we ask for. How can we know what God’s will is? God promises to give us wisdom when we ask for it. James 1:5 proclaims, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” A good place to start is 1 Thessalonians 5:12-24, which outlines many things that are God’s will for us. The better we understand God’s Word, the better we will know what to pray for (John 15:7). The better we know what to pray for, the more often God will answer “yes” to our requests.
Question: Is it acceptable to repeatedly pray for the same thing?
Answer: In Luke 18:1-7, Jesus uses a parable to illustrate the importance of persevering in prayer. He tells the story of a widow who came to an unjust judge seeking justice against her adversary. Because of her persistence in prayer, the judge relented. Jesus’ point is that if an unjust judge will grant the petition of someone who perseveres in a request for justice, how much more will the God who loves us—“his chosen ones” (v. 7)—answer our prayer when we keep praying? The parable does not teach, as is mistakenly thought, that if we pray for something over and over, God is obligated to give it to us. Rather, God promises to avenge His own, to vindicate them, right their wrongs, do them justice, and deliver them from their adversaries. He does this because of His justice, His holiness, and His hatred of sin; in answering prayer, He keeps His promises and displays His power.
Jesus gives another illustration of prayer in Luke 11:5-12. Similar to the parable of the unjust judge, Jesus’ message in this passage is that if a man will inconvenience himself to provide for a needy friend, God will provide for our needs far more, since no request is an inconvenience to Him. Here again, the promise is not that we will receive whatever we ask if we just keep asking. God’s promise to His children is a promise to meet our needs, not our wants. And He knows our needs better than we do. The same promise is reiterated in Matthew 7:7-11 and in Luke 11:13, where the “good gift” is further explained to be the Holy Spirit.
Both of these passages encourage us to pray and to keep praying. There is nothing wrong with repeatedly asking for the same thing. As long as what you are praying for is within the will of God (1 John 5:14-15), keep asking until God grants your request or removes the desire from your heart. Sometimes God forces us to wait for an answer to our prayers in order to teach us patience and perseverance. Sometimes we ask for something when granting it is not yet in God’s timing for our lives. Sometimes we ask for something that is not God’s will for us, and He says “no.” Prayer is not only our presenting requests to God; it is God’s presenting His will to our hearts. Keep on asking, keep on knocking, and keep on seeking until God grants your request or convinces you that your request is not His will for you.
Question: Is corporate prayer important? Is corporate prayer more powerful than an individual praying alone?
Answer: Corporate prayer is an important part of the life of the church, along with worship, sound doctrine, communion, and fellowship. The early church met regularly to learn the doctrine of the apostles, break bread, and pray together (Acts 2:42). When we pray together with other believers, the effects can be very positive. Corporate prayer edifies and unifies us as we share our common faith. The same Holy Spirit who dwells within each believer causes our hearts to rejoice as we hear praises to our Lord and Savior, knitting us together in a unique bond of fellowship found nowhere else in life.
To those who may be alone and struggling with life’s burdens, hearing others lift them up to the throne of grace can be a great encouragement. It also builds in us love and concern for others as we intercede for them. At the same time, corporate prayer will only be a reflection of the hearts of the individuals who participate. We are to come to God in humility (James 4:10), truth (Psalm 145:18), obedience (1 John 3:21-22), with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6) and confidence (Hebrews 4:16). Sadly, corporate prayer can also become a platform for those whose words are directed not to God, but to their hearers. Jesus warned against such behavior in Matthew 6:5-8 where he exhorts us not to be showy, long-winded, or hypocritical in our prayers, but to pray secretly in our own rooms in order to avoid the temptation of using prayer hypocritically.
There is nothing in Scripture to suggest that corporate prayers are “more powerful” than individual prayers in the sense of moving the hand of God. Far too many Christians equate prayer with “getting things from God,” and group prayer becomes mainly an occasion to recite a list of our wants. Biblical prayers, however, are multifaceted, encompassing the whole of the desire to enter into conscious and intimate communion with our holy, perfect, and righteous God. That such a God would bend an ear to His creatures causes praise and adoration to pour forth in abundance (Psalm 27:4; 63:1-8), produces heartfelt repentance and confession (Psalm 51; Luke 18:9-14), generates an outpouring of gratitude and thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6; Colossians 1:12), and creates sincere intercessory pleas on behalf of others (2 Thessalonians 1:11; 2:16).
Prayer, then, is cooperating with God to bring about His plan, not trying to bend Him to our will. As we abandon our own desires in submission to the One who knows our circumstances far better than we ever could and who “knows what you need before you ask” (Matthew 6:8), our prayers reach their highest level. Prayers offered in submission to the Divine will, therefore, are always answered positively, whether offered by one person or a thousand.
The idea that corporate prayers are more likely to move the hand of God comes largely from a misinterpretation of Matthew 18:19-20, “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” These verses come from a larger passage which addresses the procedures to be followed in the case of church discipline of a sinning member. To interpret them as promising believers a blank check for anything they might agree to ask God for, no matter how sinful or foolish, not only does not fit the context of church discipline, but it denies the rest of Scripture, especially the sovereignty of God.
In addition, to believe that when “two or three are gathered” to pray, some kind of magical power boost is automatically applied to our prayers is not biblically supportable. Of course Jesus is present when two or three pray, but He is equally present when one believer prays alone, even if that person is separated from others by thousands of miles. Corporate prayer is important because it creates unity (John 17:22-23), and is a key aspect of believers’ encouraging one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11) and spurring one another on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).
Question: Whom are we to pray to—the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit?
Answer: All prayer should be directed to our triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches that we can pray to one or all three, because all three are one. To the Father we pray with the psalmist, “Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray” (Psalm 5:2). To the Lord Jesus, we pray as to the Father because they are equal. Prayer to one member of the Trinity is prayer to all. Stephen, as he was being martyred, prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). We are also to pray in the name of Christ. Paul exhorted the Ephesian believers to always give “thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). Jesus assured His disciples that whatever they asked in His name—meaning in His will—would be granted (John 15:16; 16:23). Similarly, we are told to pray to the Holy Spirit and in His power. The Spirit helps us to pray, even when we do not know how or what to ask for (Romans 8:26; Jude 20). Perhaps the best way to understand the role of the Trinity in prayer is that we pray to the Father, through (or in the name of) the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. All three are active participants in the believer’s prayer.
Equally important is whom we are not to pray to. Some non-Christian religions encourage their adherents to pray to a pantheon of gods, dead relatives, saints, and spirits. Roman Catholics are taught to pray to Mary and various saints. Such prayers are not scriptural and are, in fact, an insult to our heavenly Father. To understand why, we need only look at the nature of prayer. Prayer has several elements, and if we look at just two of them—praise and thanksgiving— we can see that prayer is, at its very core, worship. When we praise God, we are worshipping Him for His attributes and His work in our lives. When we offer prayers of thanksgiving, we are worshipping His goodness, mercy, and loving- kindness to us. Worship gives glory to God, the only One who deserves to be glorified. The problem with praying to anyone other than God is that He will not share His glory. In fact, praying to anyone or anything other than God is idolatry. “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols” (Isaiah 42:8).
Other elements of prayer such as repentance, confession, and petition are also forms of worship. We repent knowing that God is a forgiving and loving God and He has provided a means of forgiveness in the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. We confess our sins because we know “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9) and we worship Him for it. We come to Him with our petitions and intercessions because we know He loves us and hears us, and we worship Him for His mercy and kindness in being willing to hear and answer. When we consider all this, it is easy to see that praying to someone other than our triune God is unthinkable because prayer is a form of worship, and worship is reserved for God and God alone. Who are we to pray to? The answer is God. Praying to God, and God alone, is far more important than to which Person of the Trinity we address our prayers.
Question: What is the power of prayer?
Answer: The idea that power is inherent in prayer is a very popular one. According to the Bible, the power of prayer is, quite simply, the power of God, who hears and answers prayer. Consider the following:
1. The Lord God Almighty can do all things; there is nothing impossible
for Him (Luke 1:37).
2. The Lord God Almighty invites His people to pray to Him. Prayer to God should be made persistently (Luke 18:1), with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6), in faith (James 1:5), within the will of God (Matthew 6:10), for the glory of God (John 14:13-14), and from a heart right with God (James 5:16).
3. The Lord God Almighty hears the prayers of His children. He commands us to pray, and He promises to listen when we do. “In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears” (Psalm 18:6).
4. The Lord God Almighty answers prayer. “I call on you, O God, for you will answer me” (Psalm 17:6). “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17).
Another popular idea is that the amount of faith we have determines whether or not God will answer our prayers. However, sometimes the Lord answers our prayers in spite of our own lack of faith. In Acts 12, the church prays for Peter’s release from prison (v. 5), and God answers their prayer (vv. 7-11). Peter goes to the door of the prayer meeting and knocks, but those who are praying refuse at first to believe that it is really Peter. They prayed he would be released, but they failed to expect an answer to their prayers.
The power of prayer does not flow from us; it is not special words we say or the special way we say them or even how often we say them. The power of prayer is not based on a certain direction we face or a certain position of our bodies. The power of prayer does not come from the use of artifacts or icons or candles or beads. The power of prayer comes from the omnipotent One who hears our prayers and answers them. Prayer places us in contact with Almighty God, and we should expect almighty results, whether or not He chooses to grant our petitions or deny our requests. Whatever the answer to our prayers, the God to whom we pray is the source of the power of prayer, and He can and will answer us, according to His perfect will and timing.
Question: How can I be sure I am praying according to the will of God?
Answer: Man’s highest aim should be to bring glory to God (1 Corinthians 10:31), and this includes praying according to His will. First, we must ask for wisdom. “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). In asking for wisdom, we must also trust that God is gracious and willing to answer our prayers: “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt” (James 1:6; see also Mark 11:24). So, praying according to the will of God includes asking for wisdom (to know the will of God) and asking in faith (to trust the will of God).
Here are seven biblical instructions that will guide the believer in praying according to God’s will:
1. Pray for the things for which the Bible commands prayer. We are told to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44); for God to send missionaries (Luke 10:2); that we do not enter temptation (Matthew 26:41); for ministers of the Word (Colossians 4:3; 2 Thessalonians 3:1); for government authorities (1 Timothy 2:1-3); for relief from affliction (James 5:13); and for the healing of fellow believers (James 5:16). Where God commands prayer, we can pray with confidence that we are praying according to His will.
2. Follow the example of godly characters in Scripture. Paul prayed for the salvation of Israel (Romans 10:1). David prayed for mercy and forgiveness when he sinned (Psalm 51:1-2). The early church prayed for boldness to witness (Acts 4:29). These prayers were according to the will of God, and similar prayers today can be as well. As with Paul and the early church, we should always be praying for the salvation of others. For ourselves, we should pray as David prayed, always aware of our sin and bringing it before God before it hinders our relationship with Him and thwarts our prayers.
3. Pray with the right motivation. Selfish motives will not be blessed by God. “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3). We should also pray, not so our lofty words can be heard and we may be seen by others as “spiritual,” but mostly in private and in secret, so that our heavenly Father will hear in private and reward us openly (Matthew 6:5-6).
4. Pray with a spirit of forgiveness toward others (Mark 11:25). A spirit of bitterness, anger, revenge or hatred toward others will prevent our hearts from praying in total submission to God. Just as we are told not to give offerings to God while there is conflict between ourselves and another Christian (Matthew 5:23-24), in the same way God does not want the offering of our prayers until we have reconciled with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
5. Pray with thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2; Philippians 4:6-7). We can always find something to be thankful for, no matter how burdened we are by our wants or needs. The greatest sufferer that lives in this world of redeeming love, and who has the offer of heaven before him, has reason to be grateful to God.
6. Pray with persistence (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). We should persevere in prayer and not quit or be dejected because we have not received an immediate answer. Part of praying in God’s will is believing that, whether His answer is “yes,” “no,” or “wait,” we accept His judgment, submit to His will, and continue to pray.
7. Rely on the Spirit of God in prayer. This is a wonderful truth: “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:26-27). We have the Spirit’s help in praying. At the times of our deepest depression or sorrow, those times when we feel that we “just cannot pray,” we have the comfort of knowing that the Holy Spirit is actually praying for us! What an amazing God we have!
What assurance we have when we seek to walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh! Then we can have confidence that the Holy Spirit will accomplish His work in presenting our prayers to the Father according to His perfect will and timing, and we can rest in the knowledge that He is working all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).
Question: Silent prayer—is it biblical?
Answer: The Bible may not specifically mention praying silently, but that does not mean it is any less valid than praying out loud. God can hear our thoughts just as easily as He can hear our words (Psalm 139:23; Jeremiah 12:3). Jesus knew the evil thoughts of the Pharisees (Matthew 12:24-26; Luke 11:7). Nothing we do, say, or think is hidden from God, who does not need to hear our words to know our thoughts. He has access to all prayers directed to Him, whether or not they are spoken.
The Bible does mention praying in private (Matthew 6:6). What would be the difference between praying out loud or silently if you are by yourself? There are some circumstances where only silent prayer is appropriate, e.g., praying for something between you and God only, praying for someone who is present, etc. There is not anything wrong with praying silently, as long as we are not doing it because we are embarrassed to be seen praying.
Perhaps the best verse to indicate the validity of unspoken prayers is 1 Thessalonians 5:17: “Pray without ceasing.” To pray unceasingly obviously cannot mean we are praying out loud all of the time. Rather, it means we are to be in a constant state of God-consciousness, where we take every thought captive to Him (2 Corinthians 10:5) and bring every situation, plan, fear, or concern before His throne. Part of unceasing prayer will be prayers that are spoken, whispered, shouted, sung, and silent as we direct our thoughts of praise, petition, supplication, and thanksgiving to God.
Question: What is the proper way to pray?
Answer: Is it best to pray standing up, sitting down, kneeling, or bowing down? Should our hands be open, closed, or lifted up to God? Do our eyes need to be closed when we pray? Is it better to pray in a church building or out in nature? Should we pray in the morning when we get up or at night before we go to bed? Are there certain words we need to say in our prayers? How do we begin our prayers? What is the proper way to close a prayer? These questions, and others, are common questions asked about prayer. What is the proper way to pray? Do any of the above things even matter?
Far too often, prayer is viewed as a “magic formula.” Some believe that if we do not say exactly the right things, or pray in the right position, God will not hear and answer our prayer. This is completely unbiblical. God does not answer our prayers based on when we pray, where we are, what position our body is in, or in what order we word our prayers. We are told in 1 John 5:14-15 to have confidence when we come to God in prayer, knowing He hears us and will grant whatever we ask as long as it is in His will. Similarly, John 14:13-14 declares, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” According to these and many other Scriptures, God answers prayer requests based on whether they are asked according to His will and in the name of Jesus (to bring glory to Jesus).
So, what is the proper way to pray? Philippians 4:6-7 tells us to pray without being anxious, to pray about everything, and to pray with thankful hearts. God will answer all such prayers with the gift of His peace in our hearts. The proper way to pray is to pour out our hearts to God, being honest and open with God, as He already knows us better than we know ourselves. We are to present our requests to God, keeping in mind that God knows what is best and will not grant a request that is not His will for us. We are to express our love, gratitude, and worship to God in prayer without worrying about having just the right words to say. God is more interested in the content of our hearts than the eloquence of our words.
The closest the Bible comes to giving a “pattern” for prayer is the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. Please understand that the Lord’s Prayer is not a prayer we are to memorize and recite to God. It is an example of the things that should go into a prayer—worship, trust in God, requests, confession, and submission. We are to pray for the things the Lord’s Prayer talks about, using our own words and “customizing” it to our own journey with God. The proper way to pray is to express our hearts to God. Sitting, standing, or kneeling; hands open or closed; eyes opened or closed; in a church, at home, or outside; in the morning or at night—these are all side issues, subject to personal preference, conviction, and appropriateness. God’s desire is for prayer to be a real and personal connection between Himself and us.
Question: What is praying in the Spirit?
Answer: Praying in the Spirit is mentioned three times in Scripture. First Corinthians 14:15 says, “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.” Ephesians 6:18 says, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Jude 20 says, “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” So, what exactly does it mean to pray in the Spirit?
The Greek word translated “pray in” can have several different meanings. It can mean “by means of,” “with the help of,” “in the sphere of,” and “in connection to.” Praying in the Spirit does not refer to the words we are saying. Rather, it refers to how we are praying. Praying in the Spirit is praying according to the Spirit’s leading. It is praying for things the Spirit leads us to pray for. Romans 8:26 tells us, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” Some, based on 1 Corinthians 14:15, equate praying in the Spirit with praying in tongues. Discussing the gift of tongues, Paul mentions “pray with my spirit.” First Corinthians 14:14 states that when a person prays in tongues, he does not know what he is saying, since it is spoken in a language he does not know. Further, no one else can understand what is being said, unless there is an interpreter (1 Corinthians 14:27-28). In Ephesians 6:18, Paul instructs us to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” How are we to pray with all kinds of prayers and requests and pray for the saints, if no one, including the person praying, understands what is being said? Therefore, praying in the Spirit should be understood as praying in the power of the Spirit, by the leading of the Spirit, and according to His will, not as praying in tongues.
Question: What is the connection between prayer and fasting?
Answer: Although the connection between prayer and fasting is not specifically explained in Scripture, a common thread connecting the two seems to run through all the instances of prayer and fasting that are recorded in the Bible. In the Old Testament, it appears that fasting with prayer had to do with a sense of need and dependence, and/or of abject helplessness in the face of actual or anticipated calamity. Prayer and fasting are combined in the Old Testament in times of mourning, repentance, and/or deep spiritual need.
The first chapter of Nehemiah describes Nehemiah praying and fasting, because of his deep distress over the news that Jerusalem had been desolated. His many days of prayer were characterized by tears, fasting, confession on behalf of his people, and pleas to God for mercy. So intense was the outpouring of his concerns that it’s almost inconceivable he could “take a break” in the middle of such prayer to eat and drink. The devastation that befell Jerusalem also prompted Daniel to adopt a similar posture: “So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes” (Daniel 9:3). Like Nehemiah, Daniel fasted and prayed that God would have mercy upon the people, saying, “We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws” (v. 5).
In several instances in the Old Testament, fasting is linked with intercessory prayer. David prayed and fasted over his sick child (2 Samuel 12:16), weeping before the Lord in earnest intercession (vv. 21-22). Esther urged Mordecai and the Jews to fast for her as she planned to appear before her husband the king (Esther 4:16). Clearly, fasting and petition are closely linked.
There are instances of prayer and fasting in the New Testament, but they are not connected with repentance or confession. The prophetess Anna “never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying” (Luke 2:37). At age 84, her prayer and fasting were part of her service to the Lord in His temple as she awaited the promised Savior of Israel. Also in the New Testament, the church at Antioch was fasting in connection with their worship when the Holy Spirit spoke to them about commissioning Saul and Barnabas to the Lord’s work. At that point, they prayed and fasted, placed their hands on the two men and sent them off. So, we see these examples of prayer and fasting as components of worshipping the Lord and seeking His favor. Nowhere, however, is there any indication that the Lord is more likely to answer prayers if they are accompanied by fasting. Rather, fasting along with prayer seems to indicate the sincerity of the people praying and the critical nature of the situations in which they find themselves.
One thing is clear: the theology of fasting is a theology of priorities in which believers are given the opportunity to express themselves in an undivided and intensive devotion to the Lord and to the concerns of spiritual life. This devotion will be expressed by abstaining for a short while from such normal and good things as food and drink, so as to enjoy a time of uninterrupted communion with our Father. Our “confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19), whether fasting or not fasting, is one of the most delightful parts of that “better thing” which is ours in Christ. Prayer and fasting should not be a burden or a duty, but rather a celebration of God’s goodness and mercy to His children.
Question: What does it mean to pray without ceasing?
Answer: Paul’s command in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “pray without ceasing,” can be confusing. Obviously, it cannot mean we are to be in a head-bowed, eyes- closed posture all day long. Paul is not referring to non-stop talking, but rather an attitude of God-consciousness and God-surrender that we carry with us all the time. Every waking moment is to be lived in an awareness that God is with us and that He is actively involved and engaged in our thoughts and actions.
When our thoughts turn to worry, fear, discouragement, and anger, we are to consciously and quickly turn every thought into prayer and every prayer into thanksgiving. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul commands us to stop being anxious and instead, “in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). He taught the believers at Colossae to devote themselves “to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Colossians 4:2). Paul exhorted the Ephesian believers to see prayer as a weapon to use in fighting spiritual battles (Ephesians 6:18). As we go through the day, prayer should be our first response to every fearful situation, every anxious thought, and every undesired task that God commands. A lack of prayer will cause us to depend on ourselves instead of depending on God’s grace. Unceasing prayer is, in essence, continual dependence upon and communion with the Father.
For Christians, prayer should be like breathing. You do not have to think to breathe because the atmosphere exerts pressure on your lungs and essentially forces you to breathe. That is why it is more difficult to hold your breath than it is to breathe. Similarly, when we are born into the family of God, we enter into a spiritual atmosphere where God’s presence and grace exert pressure, or influence, on our lives. Prayer is the normal response to that pressure. As believers, we have all entered the divine atmosphere to breathe the air of prayer.
Unfortunately, many believers hold their “spiritual breath” for long periods, thinking brief moments with God are sufficient to allow them to survive. But such restricting of their spiritual intake is caused by sinful desires. The fact is that every believer must be continually in the presence of God, constantly breathing in His truths, to be fully functional.
It is easier for Christians to feel secure by presuming on—instead of depending on—God’s grace. Too many believers become satisfied with physical blessings and have little desire for spiritual ones. When programs, methods, and money produce impressive results, there is an inclination to confuse human success with divine blessing. When that happens, passionate longing for God and yearning for His help will be missing. Continual, persistent, incessant prayer is an essential part of Christian living and flows out of humility and dependence on God.
Question: What is prayer walking? Is it biblical to go on a prayer walk?
Answer: Prayer walking is the practice of praying on location, a type of intercessory prayer that involves walking to or near a particular place while praying. Some people believe that being close to a location allows them to “pray nearer to pray clearer.” Prayer walks are taken by individuals, groups, and even whole churches. They can be as short as a block or as long as many miles. The idea is to use the five senses—sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch—to increase the intercessor’s understanding of prayer needs.
For example, if you walk through your neighborhood looking for things to pray about, you might come across a yard that is extremely untidy and rundown. This might prompt you to pray for the health, both physical and spiritual, of the residents inside. Some groups prayer walk around schools, prompting prayer for the teachers and students inside, for their safety and peace, and for the schemes of the devil in their school to be thwarted. Some people feel they can concentrate and direct their prayers more effectively by walking near the people and places they are praying for.
Prayer walking is a relatively new phenomenon, the origin of which is not clear. There is no biblical model for prayer walking, although since walking was the major mode of transportation in Bible times, clearly people must have walked and prayed at the same time. However, there is no direct command that prayer walking is something we should be doing. To believe that prayers offered in any setting, or while in any position, are more effective than those offered at another time or in another manner is not scriptural. In addition, while we may feel we need to be close to a location or situation to pray more clearly, our heavenly Father, who is everywhere at all times, knows exactly what needs are present and will respond to them in His own perfect will and timing. The fact that He allows us to be part of His plans through our prayers is for our benefit, not His.
We are commanded to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and since walking is something we do daily, surely part of praying without ceasing is praying while walking. God hears all prayers offered by those who abide in Christ (John 15:7), regardless of time, place, or position. At the same time, there certainly is no command against prayer walking, and anything that prompts us to pray is worthy of consideration.
Question: What are some hindrances to effective prayer?
Answer: The most obvious hindrance to effective prayer is the presence of unconfessed sins in the heart of the one who is praying. Because our God is holy, there is a barrier that exists between Him and us when we come to Him with unconfessed sin in our lives. “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). David concurred, knowing from experience that God is far from those who try to hide their sin: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18).
The Bible refers to several areas of sin that are hindrances to effective prayer. First, when we are living according to the flesh, rather than in the Spirit, our desire to pray and our ability to effectively communicate with God are hindered. Although we receive a new nature when we are born again, that new nature still resides in our old flesh, and that old “tent” is corrupt and sinful. The flesh can gain control of our actions, attitudes, and motives unless we are diligent to “put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13) and be led by the Spirit in a right relationship with God. Only then will we be able to pray in close communion with Him.
One way living in the flesh manifests itself is in selfishness, another hindrance to effective prayer. When our prayers are selfishly motivated, when we ask God for what we want rather than for what He wants, our motives hinder our prayers. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14). Asking according to God’s will is the same as asking in submission to whatever His will may be, whether or not we know what that will is. As in all things, Jesus is to be our example in prayer.
He always prayed in the will of His Father: “Yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Selfish prayers are always those that are intended to gratify our own selfish desires, and we should not expect God to respond to such prayers. “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3).
Living according to selfish, fleshly desires will also hinder our prayers because it produces a hardness of heart toward others. If we are indifferent to the needs of others, we can expect God to be indifferent to our needs. When we go to God in prayer, our first concern should be His will. The second should be the needs of others. This stems from the understanding that we are to consider others better than ourselves and be concerned about their interests over and above our own (Philippians 2:3-4).
A major hindrance to effective prayer is a spirit of unforgiveness toward others. When we refuse to forgive others, a root of bitterness grows up in our hearts and chokes our prayers. How can we expect God to pour out His blessings upon us undeserving sinners if we harbor hatred and bitterness toward others? This principle is beautifully illustrated in the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:23-35. This story teaches that God has forgiven us a debt that is beyond measure (our sin), and He expects us to forgive others as we have been forgiven. To refuse to do so will hinder our prayers.
Another major hindrance to effective prayer is unbelief and doubt. This does not mean, as some suggest, that because we come to God convinced that He will grant our requests, He is somehow obligated to do so. Praying without doubt means praying in the secure belief and understanding of God’s character, nature, and motives. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). When we come to God in prayer, doubting His character, purpose, and promises, we insult Him terribly. Our confidence must be in His ability to grant any request that is in accordance with His will and purpose for our lives. We must pray with the understanding that whatever He purposes is the best possible scenario. “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (James 1:6-7).
Finally, discord in the home is a definite obstacle to prayer. Peter specifically mentions this as a hindrance to the prayers of a husband whose attitude toward his wife is less than godly. “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (1 Peter 3:7). Where there is a serious conflict in family relationships and the head of the household is not demonstrating the attitudes Peter mentions, the husband’s prayer communication with God is hindered. Likewise, wives are to follow the biblical principles of submission to their husbands’ headship if their own prayers are not to be hindered (Ephesians 5:22-24).
Fortunately, all these prayer hindrances can be dealt with at once by coming to God in prayers of confession and repentance. We are assured in 1 John 1:9 that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Once we have done that, we enjoy a clear and open channel of communication with God, and our prayers will not only be heard and answered, but we will also be filled with a deep sense of joy.
Question: What is intercessory prayer?
Answer: Quite simply, intercessory prayer is the act of praying on behalf of others. The role of mediator in prayer was prevalent in the Old Testament, in the cases of Abraham, Moses, David, Samuel, Hezekiah, Elijah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. Christ is pictured in the New Testament as the ultimate intercessor, and because of this, all Christian prayer becomes intercession since it is offered to God through and by Christ. Jesus closed the gap between us and God when He died on the cross. Because of Jesus’ mediation, we can now intercede in prayer on behalf of other Christians or for the lost, asking God to grant their requests according to His will. “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). “Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34).
A wonderful model of intercessory prayer is found in Daniel 9. It has all the elements of true intercessory prayer. It is in response to the Word (v. 2); characterized by fervency (v. 3) and self-denial (v. 4); identified unselfishly with God’s people (v. 5); strengthened by confession (vv. 5-15); dependent on God’s character (vv. 4, 7, 9, 15); and has as its goal God’s glory (vv. 16-19). Like Daniel, Christians are to come to God on behalf of others in a heartbroken and repentant attitude, recognizing their own unworthiness and with a sense of self-denial. Daniel does not say, “I have a right to demand this out of You, God, because I am one of your special, chosen intercessors.” He says, “I’m a sinner,” and, in effect, “I do not have a right to demand anything.” True intercessory prayer seeks not only to know God’s will and see it fulfilled, but to see it fulfilled whether or not it benefits us and regardless of what it costs us. True intercessory prayer seeks God’s glory, not our own.
The following is only a partial list of those for whom we are to offer intercessory prayers: all in authority (1 Timothy 2:2); ministers (Philippians 1:19); the church (Psalm 122:6); friends (Job 42:8); fellow countrymen (Romans 10:1); the sick (James 5:14); enemies (Jeremiah 29:7); those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44); those who forsake us (2 Timothy 4:16); and all men (1 Timothy 2:1).
There is an erroneous idea in contemporary Christianity that those who offer up intercessory prayers are a special class of “super-Christians,” called by God to a specific ministry of intercession. The Bible is clear that all Christians are called to be intercessors. All Christians have the Holy Spirit in their hearts and, just as He intercedes for us in accordance with God’s will (Romans 8:26-27), we are to intercede for one another. This is not a privilege limited to an exclusive Christian elite; this is the command to all. In fact, not to intercede for others is sin. “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you” (1 Samuel 12:23).
Certainly Peter and Paul, when asking others to intercede for them, did not limit their request to those with a special calling to intercession. “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him” (Acts 12:5). Notice it was the whole church that prayed for him, not just those with a gift of intercession. In Ephesians 6:16-18, Paul exhorts the Ephesian believers—all of them—on the fundamentals of the Christian life, which includes intercession “on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” Clearly, intercessory prayer is part of the Christian life for all believers.
Further, Paul sought prayer on his behalf from all the Roman believers in Romans 15:30. He also urged the Colossians to intercede for him in Colossians 4:2-3. Nowhere in any biblical request for intercession is there any indication that only a certain group of people could intercede. On the contrary, those who seek others to intercede for them can use all the help they can get! The idea that intercession is the privilege and calling of only some Christians is without biblical basis. Worse, it is a destructive idea that often leads to pride and a sense of superiority.
God calls all Christians to be intercessors. It is God’s desire that every believer be active in intercessory prayer. What a wonderful and exalted privilege we have in being able to come boldly before the throne of Almighty God with our prayers and requests!
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