What does the Bible tell us about prayer?

By , on April 10, 2014

Photo: Facebook Page of Prayer
Photo: Facebook Page of Prayer

As God’s children, do we really know how to pray?

In our day to day living, we communicate with God. We thank, repent, and ask for His guidance and blessings. But the biggest question is: Are we praying in accordance to what was written in the Bible?

Before going any further, it is important to know and understand the meaning of prayer. According to Biblical definitions, when we pray, we make petitions to God and we expect to receive what we asked for. Moreover, prayer is not the mere utterance of words, as there are underlying principles that apply when praying.

For us to gain a deeper understanding of prayer, here are a few teachings from the Scripture.


To whom should we address our prayer?

In John 16:23, 26-27, Jesus instructed us to address our prayers to the Father—this is one of the most fundamental teachings about prayer.

We could also address our petitions to the Holy Spirit, according to a prayer mentioned in Matthew 28:19, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.”


Knowing God’s Will

In essence, knowing God’s will refers to knowing and understanding the Bible as stated in I John 5:14-15:

“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And we know that if He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”


Pray with understanding

Understanding the meaning of prayer is important. We should not just recite it mindlessly because it is equivalent to mindlessly taking communion as stated in I Corinthians 11:27 -31.

Let’s take a closer look at Jesus’ Pastoral Prayer in John 17.

Petition: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son…”

Reason why the Father should grant it: “…that Your Son  also may glorify you.”

Qualification (justification for request): “As you have given Him authority over all flesh…”

Definition of term: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You…”

Notice that the prayer consists of different parts. The Bible told us that our prayer should consist of all these elements.

To recap, here are some guidelines on how we can pray effectively:

  • Don’t repeat a prayer mindlessly.
  • Put a piece of your heart in your prayer.
  • Be specific in asking for what you want.
  • Utter a justifiable reason on why you are praying for something.
  • Define terms in your prayers, as they could bear several meanings.
  • Accompany your petitions with thanksgiving as written in Philippians 4:6, I Timothy 2:1.


What to pray for?

What do we often pray for? Material needs? Personal success? Other earthly gains?

Do we also remember to pray for spiritual growth? In Colossians 1:9-12, St. Paul taught us that the main thrust of our prayer should be our petition for spiritual needs. Not that he was telling us not to pray for material needs, but he emphasized that prayers for material needs should just be secondary.

“For this reason we also, since the day we heard of it, do not cease to pray for you,
and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.”

In Matthew 6:33, we were also reminded to seek first for spiritual needs before any other material needs.

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God.”


Praying for the forgiveness of sins

How many of us pray to God to forgive the sins of others, especially those who have wronged us?

Bible experts believe that this kind of prayer is the most neglected one, where in fact this is one of the first things that we should ask from the Father.

In the Bible, it was discussed that we are priests (I Peter 2:5). As stated in the Old Testament, the main duty of a priest is to offer sacrifices for the forgiveness other people’s transgressions. So as priests, we can intercede for others by asking God to forgive their sins and He will do it.

It was evident in the Lord’s Prayer, as all petitions for people started with “Give us” as opposed to “Give me”.

Another scripture stated that we have the power to forgive sins through prayer. In John 20:23, as the risen Jesus told the disciples, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Genesis 20:7 also stated the same teaching, “Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shall live.”


Physical position in prayer

Do we really need to kneel down, bow our heads, or close our eyes when we pray?

In Psalm 63:6, the Bible showed people praying while standing (with and without raised hands), bowing, kneeling, laying flat on their faces, and even laying on a bed.

Quoting a teaching from a priest, “your physical position in praying does not matter. What’s more important is the sincerity of your prayer.”


Time and Place of prayer

In Daniel 6:10, it is written that we should pray at least three times a day: in the morning before we start our day, during a break at midday, and in the evening.

Finding an appropriate place where you can pray and reflect is important as well. Of course, the church tops the list. But when not in church, you can also pray anywhere as long as you will not be distracted. Try your room or any part of the house where you can meditate.


Praying out loud

What do you prefer: Praying out loud or praying silently?

While there are no hard and fast rules about praying out loud, it was recommended that we utter our prayer, as our mind tends to wander when we pray silently.

Silent prayer is scriptural, but—if circumstances permit—it’s better to pray out loud, according to Bible experts.


Prepare a prayer list

Do you still find time to write the names of the people you want to pray for, along with your petitions for them?

If not, Bible experts suggest that you start writing your prayer list. According to them, it is better to have a list with you when praying so you will surely remember all of what you want to pray for.

This season of Lent, let us remember all the teachings of God on prayer so we can communicate with Him effectively, and thus strengthening our spiritual growth.

Have a meaningful Lenten season everyone!