The Bible has given us examples on:
Who we pray to and for? What we pray? Where we pray? When we pray? And Why we pray?
The final question for us to look at is: How do we pray?
God’s Word isn’t silent on this either. Below are verses that show us examples of how to pray. I’ve used mostly the NLT and NKJV. The verses are in no particular order and as always, my comments are in [brackets].
…Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
[We are to be alert and persistent in prayer. It’s easy to pray once for someone and then let it go. But that isn’t what we’re supposed to do. We’re supposed to be persistent and keep at it.]
1 Timothy 2:8
…I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.
[I picture men basking in God’s light, overwhelmed by His presence. If that doesn’t describe your prayer-life right now, keep it in your mind as something to work toward. Build up to this image slowly. If there are “things” getting between you and God, work on letting them go. This verse gives the image of men baring all to God, not hiding, arms are thrown wide saying “Here I am God…hear me…see me…all of me…” It’s a call to prayer.]
…The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
[We are to pray earnestly. Dictionary.com defines earnest as ‘serious in intention, purpose, or effort; sincerely zealous’. This is how we are to pray, with intent and purpose.]
Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.
[Be persistent. If you are praying for good gifts from God like wisdom, understanding, spiritual growth, you will receive what you ask for if you are persistent. If you pray to win the lottery? Don’t hold your breath! God determines the good gifts for His children and what this world thinks of as “good” isn’t necessarily what God views as good. Be persistent in prayer, no matter what you decide to pray for. You will receive an answer one way or another.]
“All right,” Moses replied. “As soon as I leave the city, I will lift my hands and pray to the LORD…”
[Another example of the lifting of hands to pray. We are creatures of habit and once we learn one way to do something we tend to stick to it. Many people were taught to bow their heads in prayer and fold their hands. This isn’t wrong, but there are other acceptable ways to pray too.]
1 Samuel 1:13
Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard…
[Some people believe that a person must voice their prayers out loud to be heard by God but the Bible gives us an example of silent prayer. God hears you no matter if you talk loudly or softly or not at all. The Bible also lets us know that sometimes when we just don’t know what to pray, that the Holy Spirit will pray for us!]
But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father who sees everything will reward you.
[How should we pray? With a mind and heart solely focused on God, our Father. Yes, you can pray with other people; yes, you can pray anywhere and at any time. Just make sure that the reason you are praying isn’t for attention or show. Make sure the reason you are praying is to be in that relationship with God because you want to be there with Him, not because you “have to” because others are watching. If you find yourself only coming to God in prayer when other people are around or only at church or small group, never by yourself, you should follow this verses example and go away by yourself, shut the door and pray.]
Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.
[Here’s the word ‘alert’ again. Sometimes I will be praying right before bed and I’ll actually fall asleep in prayer. Probably not the most respectful thing to do and definitely not praying with the most ‘alert mind’ either. I’m sure He understands and gets a chuckle out of it. God created everything so I have to assume He created our senses of humor as well! Being thankful is an easy one for me. At our house when we say goodbye to one another as we’re heading off to work and school it goes something like this, “Love you, see you later…miracles!” We usually say “Love you” just in case something happens and those are the last words our family will hear from us. Sounds morbid but truly, I don’t want my last words to someone to be, “Yeah whatever, see ya”. We say “see you later” for the hope of returning home safely, God willing. And we tack on “miracles” as a reminder to ‘be alert’ and look for God’s hand working in our lives every day. Do we consciously think all that when we say, “Love you, see you later, miracles” or “Love you, miracles, bye”? Nope. But it’s become a habit for us. Be thankful when praying to God. If nothing else, He gives you breath.]
I hope this series on prayer gave enough examples from God’s Word to answer most questions that come up about praying.
There is no right way or wrong way to talk to God, as long your talking from your heart.
that God, the source of hope,
will fill you completely with joy and peace
because you trust in Him.
Then you will overflow with confident hope
through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible has answered the questions:
Who do we pray to and for? What do we pray? Where do we pray? And When should we pray?
God’s Word also gives us examples on why we pray. It almost seems pointless to pour our hearts out to a God that already knows everything. He knows what we need before we do, He knows what is in our hearts already. So why take the time to repeat it all for Him?
Think of it this way… you’ve just watched your child do something amazing. They are happy, they are beaming, they are full of life and what is the first thing they want to do? They want to tell you all about it. Even though they know you just saw what they did, they go in detail and tell you everything. Or think about when your child has done something wrong and knows that you already know. They stand there in guilt and shame. Now, you can mean and let them stew a bit and not say a word. Or, you can alleviate these bad feelings and let them talk about what happened and why and offer forgiveness.
Just because our Father in Heaven knows everything, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk to Him. We should be talking with Him all the more because He does know! Because He knows it all, we can say anything and share everything without walking on eggshells that we’ll let something secret slip. There is nothing secret so our relationship with the Father is only truly honest relationship we have, and we should nurture that and make it grow.
As always the verses are in no particular order and I’ve used the NLT and NKJV. My comments are in [brackets] below.
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed…
[One reason why we pray is to feel forgiveness and healing. As Christians, our sins have been covered over by the blood of Jesus. We are forgiven already, but that doesn’t stop the emotional wounds and hurt caused when we sin. Those need forgiveness and healing along the way so we can move forward on the path God has set before us.]
For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
[Why do we pray? We pray for wisdom, spiritual blessings, and daily provisions. This verse promises that we will find it. The first thing is to ask God to grant these things to us. We can search His Word for answers leaving our hearts open to what we find.]
But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John.”
[Zechariah prayed for a child to love and raise. We spend most of our time praying for others, but sometimes there are things outside of our reach to make happen that only God can accomplish.]
Afterward, when Jesus was alone in the house with his disciples, they asked him, “Why couldn’t we cast out that evil spirit?”
Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer.”
[When faced with situations that are beyond our abilities or comprehension, we give it to God. The disciples couldn’t cast out the evil spirit on their own. The needed to turn to God who is all powerful. When faced with any form of evil, or an insurmountable obstacle, we should pray. Nothing is greater than our God.]
Upon hearing this, the angel of the LORD prayed this prayer. “O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, for seventy years now you have been angry with Jerusalem and the towns of Judah. How long until you again show mercy to them?”
[We pray when we see a need for God’s mercy. We may not be able to correct situations of hardships for people but we can always pray to God to show mercy on them.]
As my life was slipping away, I remembered the LORD. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your Holy Temple.
[Jonah was in the belly of a big fish, dying because of his rebelliousness and disobedience against God. But this says that even as he was slipping away, God was still listening to him. If you go on to read the next few verses you would see that God listened and had the fish vomit Jonah out on shore. God is waiting to hear from us. Why do we pray? We pray when we need to repent, when we need God’s mercy, when we need to be saved and when we remember God’s love for us and want to make things right.]
Lift up holy hands in prayer, and praise the LORD.
[Why do we pray? It’s not all bad! We pray to praise God for all the blessings He has shown us, for all the good things that He allows to happen. We thank Him, always.]
I love the LORD because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy.
[It may sound selfish but there it is. We pray because the LORD actually hears us and grants us comfort and mercy and wraps us up in His love so all-encompassing that you begin to crave that extreme feeling of peace. Imagine an ocean full of peace and comfort just washing over you, wave after wave. That’s what we search for in prayer. That’s why we pray. To be blessed with a few seconds of peace and light in the midst of this chaotic dark world, it’s a teaser for what is to come to those who believe…and we want more. ]
Why do we pray?
We pray for all sorts of reasons and each time we pray it’s for a different reason. We pray because we remember our God. We pray because we need comfort or mercy. We pray because it’s the only thing we CAN do in some situations. We pray because we know He is listening. We pray because He loves us and wants us to.
The Bible is full of examples of why people pray. This is just a snapshot.
The last question is still to come…how do we pray?
The Bible has answered who we pray to and for, what we pray, where we pray, and now we’ll search out what the Word says about when we should pray.
I used mostly the NLT and NKJV and as always, my comments are in [brackets] below.
Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
[When should we pray? In the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Doesn’t get much simpler than that?]
At this rate they were afraid we would soon be driven against the rocks along the shore, so they threw out four anchors from the back of the ship and prayed for daylight.
[Fear is a great cue for us about when to pray. When afraid, pray. Whenever you’re in a dark place, pray for daylight.]
Then the people came to Moses and cried out, “We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take away the snakes.” So Moses prayed for the people.
[Always be ready to intercede in prayer for someone else. In this example, the people had sinned and were being punished with snakes. Once they repented of their sin enough to ask Moses to intercede with God, he did.]
Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!
[When should we pray? For as long as our Heavenly Father, the Creator of All is willing to listen.]
God knows how often I pray for you. Day and night I bring you and your needs in prayer to God, whom I serve with all my heart by spreading the Good News about His Son.
[Pray day and night when others are in need. Lift them up to God and keep them in your prayers. Our FIRST line of defense, of service to others, is prayer. We can be praying long before we can gather up and deliver other “things” to meet needs. We may only be able to do a little, but God is able to do all.]
1 John 5:16
If you see a Christian brother or sister sinning in a way that does not lead to death, you should pray, and God will give that person life.
[God is able and willing to forgive the sins of anyone. We are not perfect, we are just forgiven. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are not perfect, they are just forgiven. As Christians, we still sin but we recognize sin and call it what it is. Then we can work in God’s strength to overcome it. Every bit of prayer from fellow believers helps. Lift each other up.]
Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord.
[When do we pray? When we’re suffering, when we’re happy, when we’re sick. Pray in the good times AND the bad.]
When do we pray? On every occasion! Our Father wants to hear from us. He is listening! Give Him the honor and respect and the glory of being the FIRST One we turn to with good news or bad. Day or night, He is there, listening.
Next we’ll see what the Bible has to say about why we pray…
The Bible has answered the following questions so far:
Who do we pray to? And Who do we pray for?
What do we pray? And what should we pray for?
The next question is, where? Where should we pray? God’s Word isn’t silent on this subject. The verses below are taken from the NLT and NKJV and are in no particular order. My comments are in [brackets] below.
1 Timothy 2:8
In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.
[Where? In places of worship. It seems like an obvious answer but how many people just go along with group prayer, not really taking it to heart? How many people will just bow their heads and be so distracted thinking of their “to-do” list when others are voicing the prayer, rather than repeating the words in their own minds and adding their own to it? We are to pray in places of worship.]
Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.
[Many verses show Jesus going off by himself to pray. Our relationship with our Creator, our Father, is a personal one. Not every conversation is meant to be public, in fact, most are probably meant to be in confidence. If your prayer-life is mainly a public one, it needs work.]
After telling everyone goodbye, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.
[Again, Jesus goes off by himself to pray. We can follow his example to the letter and go outside in solitude to pray, or we can follow his example in spirit and find any private spot to pray. Just make sure where you choose is quiet and private so you can pray in truth.]
One day soon afterward, Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night.
[Again, Jesus goes off by himself to pray. I can only pray that God will gift me with the focus necessary to sit in His presence waiting quietly for answers during hard times. Jesus spent a night in prayer with the Father as he was choosing his 12 apostles. God is there for us as well, to help us and guide us in making huge decisions.]
When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.
But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
[Jesus teaches us how to pray. Is it wrong to have group prayers in church? No, that isn’t what He says. There is nothing more beautiful than to have unity and one voice, one purpose, one heartfelt prayer by many offered to God. It’s all about the motives here. Is the person praying loud and clear in public doing so for the right reason? Or are they praying loudly and publicly for their own glory and attention? We might not always be able to tell but God knows the difference.]
But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.
Pray in the spirit at all times and on every occasion…
[Where do we pray? In the spirit… Sometimes you just can’t physically get away but that doesn’t mean you can’t mentally step away. There’s a connection with God that doesn’t ever go away. It’s in the back of your mind playing soft music and whispering to you and you can only hear when you go looking for it. Go looking for it more often and pray continually in the spirit.]
Jesus’ example was to go off by himself outside to pray. There is nothing quite like hearing the animals and birds and feeling the breeze, looking up into a vast sky. It’s very simple to acknowledge God in that setting. The earth truly does proclaim that there is a God. Jesus prayed by himself,j and while walking down the road, while healing others, in groups, in places of worship as well. The examples are too numerous to list here.
Where should we pray?
Everywhere. As long as your focus is properly placed, with God, pray everywhere. Pray silently, out loud, moving your lips and whispering, or let the Spirit pray for you when you have no words. Don’t let a place or lack of a place prevent you from praying.
Now that we know Who to pray to and Who to pray for, the next questions are:
What things do we pray for?
It’s one thing to step up in front of a group and suddenly your mind goes blank; what a horrible feeling! But there is no reason for your mind to blank out with God. The Bible is full of examples on what to pray. So if we can’t think up a few things on our own we can follow the examples given to us until we feel more comfortable.
These verses are in no particular order. I used the NLT and NKJV. My own thoughts are in [brackets].
And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.
[God provides a way for us to pray even when our minds cannot focus. That is how important prayer is for us.]
…for all believers everywhere.
[Can’t think of something to pray? Pray for believers everywhere.]
I pray that your love will overflow more and more and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.
[Pray for friends and loved ones, people who have just accepted Christ and new in the Christian walk.]
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other…
[It’s important to live in truth, in the light. Confessing your sins lifts a weight off your shoulder, there’s no reason to hide from the truth anymore, no reason to hide from God. Letting one other person know gives you an advantage over sin because suddenly it’s not just you fighting to overcome the sin on your own, it’s whoever you’ve confided in as well. They fight for you, support you, hold you accountable, and lift you up to God.]
Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.”
[Paul counted it all joy to suffer for Christ. He was saved, facing eternal life in heaven with God, and forgiven of his sins. This is what he prays for all, that they become like him.]
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
[No matter what translation or version of the Bible you choose, this prayer taught to the disciples by Jesus, covers pretty much everything. We pray to God, our Father. We offer up praise. We acknowledge His authority and respect His will. We ask for spiritual food and forgiveness and protection. Whenever you don’t know what to pray, you can pray this prayer as is or in your own words, tack on anything else that’s weighing you down. God is listening.]
“Pray that the LORD your God will show us what to do and where to go.”
[You can ask God to guide you. God will fill you with the words to say, the path to walk, and tasks for your hands.]
The Bible has a lot of examples of what to pray. There are no hard and fast rules here. Pour your heart out to God. You can’t screw it up. Not every prayer gets a “Yes” answer. Some are a “No” and some are “Not yet”. God knows what is in our hearts and because He sees the past, present, future all at the same time, He knows the right path for us to walk, always. He may not always keep up from harm, but we can be sure he will never leave us and that if harm is allowed, it has a purpose.
The start of any relationship is the first “hello”.
You can simply say, “Hi God, I’m here.”