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What is Biblical…

hands in prayer

Prayer is conversation with God; the intercourse of the soul with God, not in contemplation or meditation, but in direct address to him. Prayer may be oral or mental, occasional or constant, ejaculatory or formal. It is a…

We do not need to be well-spoken to talk to God. In fact, He hears what is in your heart, even if you can’t express it well or even talk. And the Holy Spirit promises to express to the Father what you cannot.

“…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…” —Romans 8:26 NASB

Prayer presupposes a belief in the personality of God, His ability and willingness to communicate with us, His personal control of all things and of all His creatures and all their actions.

Persistent and watchfully alert to specific needs

Rather than being unfocused or vague in our prayers, we are to be on watchful alert for specific needs about which we should pray. The Apostle Paul urged,

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving…” —Col. 4:2 ESV

The Greek verb proskartereó (προσκαρτερέω) translated “devote” above means to be steadfastly persistent and perseverant. Christ emphasizes persistent prayer in Luke 11:5-10 and Luke 18:1-8.

“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…” —Eph. 6:18 NASB

“…devoted to prayer…” —Romans 12:12b NASB

“…continually devoting themselves to prayer…” —Acts 1:14 NASB

“pray without ceasing” —1 Thessalonians 5:17 NASB

Prayer is not optional for God’s people

Prayer is frequently commanded or referred to in Scripture ( Exodus 22:23, 27; 1 Kings 3:5; Psalm 37:4; Isaiah 55:6; Joel 2:32; Ezek. 36:37).

“If…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 NASB


“Prayer is like the dove that Noah sent forth, which blessed him not only when it returned with an olive-leaf in its mouth, but when it never returned at all.” —Thomas Robinson, Homiletical Commentary on the Book of Job

“We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties.” —Oswald Chambers

“We look upon prayer as a means of getting things for ourselves; the Bible idea of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself.” —Oswald Chambers

“We must move from asking God to take care of the things that are breaking our hearts, to praying about the things that are breaking His heart.” —Margaret Gibb

woman praying

Acceptable prayer must be…

No rules are laid down anywhere in Scripture for the physical posture to be assumed by the suppliant (hands folded, hands held up, kneeling, stretched out with face on the ground, etc.). However, there is mention made of…

Except for the “Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13), which is, however, rather a model or pattern of prayer than a set prayer to be offered up, we have no special form of prayer for general use given us in Scripture.

Types of prayer

There are different kinds of prayer:

  • Thanksgiving (prayers of gratitude)
    • THANKS—Why should people and nations give thanks to their Creator? What does the Bible say about it? Answer
    • What should we thank God for, and how should we praise Him? Answer
    • THANKFULNESS—Tips for New and Growing Christians—GO
    • Are you thankful to God? GO
  • Confession and repentance
  • Secret prayers (Matthew 6:6)
  • Social prayers (as in family prayers and social worship)
  • Public prayers, in the service of the sanctuary
  • Worship and true worshippers
  • Intercessory prayers (praying on behalf of others) is commanded.

    “Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him…” —James 5:14a NASB

    “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
    ‘May they prosper who love you.’” —Psalm 122:6 NASB

    “On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen;
    All day and all night they will never keep silent.
    You who remind the Lord, take no rest for yourselves…” —Isaiah 62:6 NASB

    “…My servant Job will pray for you. For I will accept him so that I may not do with you according to your folly…” —Job 42:8 NASB

    “…I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” —1 Tim. 2:1-2 NASB

    Praying for those in authority includes: our nation’s leaders, our local government leaders, our church leaders (pastor, elders, ministry leaders, deacons and deaconeses), etc.

    “…Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. …” —Numbers 6:23 NASB

  • Praying for God’s guidance

    “O Lord, I know that the path of [life of] a man is not in himself; It is not within [the limited ability of] man [even one at his best] to choose and direct his steps [in life].” —Jeremiah 10:23 Amplified Amplified Bible

    “Direct my steps by Your word,
    And let no iniquity have dominion over me.” —Psalm 119:133 NKJV

    “I am the Lord your God,
    who teaches you to profit,
    who leads you in the way you should go.” —Isaiah 48:17 NASB, ESV

    “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    And lean not on your own understanding;
    In all your ways acknowledge Him,
    And He shall direct [Or make smooth or straight] your paths.” —Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

  • Prayers of blessing
  • Prayers for punishment—calling for God’s righteous judgment on enemies of God and persecutors of His people / It is acceptable for God’s righteous people to do this where warranted (Psalm 109:14-15).

Examples of answered prayers in the Bible

Isaiah praying
the prophet Isaiah praying
man praying

We have very many Biblical testimonies that prayers have been answered (Psalm 3:4; 4:1; 6:8; 18:6; 28:6; 30:2; 34:4; 118:5; James 5:16-18, etc.).

Other examples:

Answers to frequently asked questions

Modern stories about prayer

Questions & Answers about God

  • GOD—How can we know there’s a God? Answer
  • What if the cosmos is all that there is? Answer
  • If God made everything, who made God? Answer
  • What does God say? Answer
  • Is Jesus Christ God? Answer
  • ACCURACY—How do we know the Bible is true? Answer
  • INERRANCY—When we say that the Bible is the Word of God, does that imply that it is completely accurate, or does it contain insignificant inaccuracies in details of history and science? Answer
  • INFALLIBILITY—How can the Bible be infallible if it is written by fallible humans? Answer
  • SUFFERING—What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer
  • Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer
Article Version: November 26, 2018