This study is all about prayer. What is it all about? How can we (or should we) pray? Why should we pray and who (or what) should we pray for?

Meaning of Prayer

First of all, let's look at what it means to pray. It can have a wide variety of meanings: to petition; to entreat; to bow down; to ask; to wait; to interrogate; to wish and to call for. In its simplest form, it just means talking to God but, as citizens of God's Kingdom and members of His family, we can discover that prayer in Jesus' Name, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, means so much more.

If we acknowledge Jesus as our Lord, we have access to the throne of Almighty God, Hebrews 10:19. He has every solution to every problem we'll ever have and He is just waiting for us to come to Him, so that He can give us the answers we're looking for. We may need to spend some private time alone with Him, but it will never be time wasted and He will never disappoint us.

How to Pray

According to Jesus, our prayers should be simple and uncomplicated. He let us in on the key secret to prayer when He said (in Matthew 26:39): “not as I will, but as you will”. If Jesus is going to be our Lord, our focus will have to shift from ourselves to Him. So, it is not about us asking for what we want, but allowing God to tell us what we need and what He wants to give us. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 suggests that we should “pray continually” to be in constant communion with God.

What does it mean to pray "in Jesus' name"? Is it just a formula that we tack on to the end of our prayers before saying "Amen"? If so, why? Nowadays, we expect people in authority to carry some form of identification to say that they are who they say they are. It may be a uniform that they wear, or a badge or warrant that confirms their authority to speak or act in a certain way. As Christians, we now live in two "realms" at once. Our physical bodies confine us to a particular place, within the country or state to which we belong. But we also have a spiritual life, where we are citizens of God's kingdom and ambassadors for Jesus in the physical world where we live. When we pray "in Jesus' name", we are claiming to act under Jesus' authority rather than our own. We're not asking for something on our own behalf, but on Jesus' behalf and on His authority. In effect, we're saying, "Jesus has asked me to ask You for this..."

Here is a quick summary, then, of how we should pray:

  • Simply;
  • Not hypocritically;
  • To the Father;
  • Always - continually and, therefore,
  • Everywhere;
  • In the name of Jesus.

Prayer, like all communication, can take many forms. It need not necessarily be confined to asking God for certain things - like bringing Him a "shopping list" of our needs, or even other peoples' needs. We can say all sorts of things to our Father in heaven: thanking Him, praising Him, or simply asking Him questions. In turn, this may lead to times when we simply wait and listen. It often helps to focus on a passage of Scripture and to think about it, imagining to ourselves that Jesus is sitting with us. We can comment on what the passage says and ask Him about certain words or meanings. As we listen, we can learn to wait for His response. It may come immediately or only after some days or even weeks. It may come through another passage of Scripture, through a conversation with family or friends - especially other believers - or through any number of other means.

Here are some examples:

  • Praise (Psalm 52:9; Psalm 68:3)
  • Worship (Psalm 100:2)
  • Waiting (Psalm 46:10)
  • Confession (Psalm 139:23)
  • Message from someone (Jeremiah 29:29)
  • Listening to God (Colossians 4:2; Ecclesiastes 5:1-3)
  • Intercession (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
  • Petition (Matthew 7:7; Genesis 25:21)
  • Thanksgiving (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
  • Meditation (Joshua 1:8)
  • The Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26; Ephesians 6:18)
  • Agreement (Matthew 18:19)
  • Binding and Loosing (Matthew 16:19; Matthew 18:18)
  • Faith (James 5:15)
  • Private prayer - Jesus went to a place alone with the Father. (Matthew 14:23)
  • Overcoming prayer (Matthew 6:6 Matthew 26:40-41; Philippians 4:6-7; Exodus 32:9-14)
  • With fasting (Luke 4:1, 2; Acts 13:2-3)

Why Pray?

There are as many reasons for praying as there are needs. As born-again children of the Most High God, we have family privileges, but we need to spend time with our Father to see His plans and perspective on all the situations in our lives. We were created for fellowship with the Father and that is what He wants: a love relationship with His children. Prayer is the best way to develop this relationship. If we want to grow in a love relationship with a human, we need to spend time together, share our hearts and just be together. How much more is this true of our relationship with God?

Here are some reasons why we might be praying:

  • For healing (James 5:15)
  • For mission workers (2 Corinthians 1:11; Colossians 4:2-4)
  • For forgiveness (Hosea 14:2; Mark 11:25)
  • For power (Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 3:16)
  • For our enemies (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:28)
  • For intimacy with God (Deuteronomy 4:7)
  • For healing of our land (2 Chronicles 7:14; 1 Timothy 2:1-4)
  • For royalty and politicians (Ezra 6:10; 1 Timothy 2:2)
  • For Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6)
  • For prosperity of the city (Jeremiah 29:7)
  • For strength in trouble (Matthew 26:38-42; John 12:27; Psalm 91:15)
  • For strength against temptation (Matthew 26:41; Luke 22:40)
  • For everything (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Colossians 4:2)
  • For those who don't know God (John 17:20)
  • For knowledge of God's love (Ephesians 3:17-19)
  • For a life that is worthy of God (Colossians 1:10)
  • For revival (Habakkuk 3:2)

When it comes to supporting our brothers and sisters in Christ, here are some ways in which we can pray for other Christians:

  • Be thankful for their faith and changed lives. (Colossians 1:3-5)
  • Ask God to help them know what He wants them to do. (Colossians 1:9)
  • Ask God to give them spiritual understanding. (Colossians 1:9)
  • Ask God to help them live for Him. (Colossians 1:10)
  • Ask God to give them more knowledge of Him. (Colossians 1:10)
  • Ask God to give them strength for endurance. (Colossians 1:11)
  • Ask God to fill them with joy, strength and thankfulness. (Colossians 1:11)

Who Should Pray?

Every disciple (follower) of Jesus Christ should pray. Paul encourages the believers at Colossae by saying: "Don’t be weary in prayer. Keep at it. Watch for God’s answers and remember to be thankful when they come." (Colossians 4:2) Jesus Himself said: “And now about prayer. When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who pretend piety by praying publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. Truly, that is all the reward they will ever get." (Matthew 6:5)

Here are some other encouragements from Scripture on how to pray:

  • "Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God your needs and don't forget to thank him for His answers." (Philippians 4:6)
  • "The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore be earnest, thoughtful people of prayer." (1 Peter 4:7)
  • 'Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives, marked by godliness and dignity' 1 Timothy 2:2
  • "Keep alert and pray; otherwise temptation will overpower you. For the spirit indeed is willing, but how weak the body is!” (Matthew 26:41)
  • "So I want people everywhere to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from sin and anger and resentment." (1 Timothy 2:8)

Opposition to our praying will arise in three areas:

  1. Self - The self-life, sometimes called “the old nature” or the "flesh". (Romans 7:18-25)
  2. Sin - This separates us from God and breaks our communion with Him. (1 John 1:7-9)
  3. Satan - He will always oppose our praying, even as he opposed Jesus' life work. (Ephesians 6:12; Matthew 26:36-46)

My sheep listen to My voice. I know them and they follow Me.” (John 10:27)

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