Basic Questions About Prayer

Jason Myers Blog

Sometimes we unnecessarily complicate prayer.  Sometimes the basics of prayer are assumed when they shouldn’t be.  Sometimes they are forgotten.  Sometimes they are ignored.  So, every once in awhile it is good to explicitly answer some simple, appropriate, and basic questions about prayer.  What are some of the who’s, when’s, where’s, why’s, how’s, and what’s of prayer?

The WHO of Prayer

  • People pray to God
    • Who does the praying?  People made in the image of God and for the glory of God pray.  We should pray by ourselves (Matthew 6:6) and with others (Acts 1:14, 2:42, 4:24, 12:5, 12; Romans 12:12; Colossians 4:2-3; I Timothy 2:1, 8).
    • To whom do we pray?  We pray to the Triune God (Father, Son, and Spirit) who alone is the all-powerful Creator, ever-present Sustainer, sovereign King, just Judge, and gracious Savior.

The WHEN of Prayer

  • Anytime and All of the time.
    • Jesus prayed early and late and often.  He prayed when He was alone in the desert, when surrounded by His disciples, and even while being crucified.  We need Him every hour and He’s worthy every moment, so surely, there is no inappropriate time to pray (I Thessalonians 5:17; Romans 1:9-10; 12:12; Colossians 4:2).

The WHERE of Prayer

  • Anywhere and Everywhere.  (I Corinthians 1:2 I Timothy 2:1, 8).
    • Jonah prayed from inside a fish; Daniel prayed in Babylon; Jesus prayed on the Cross.  Since God is omnipresent, He hears us no matter where we are (Psalm 139:7-12).

The WHY of Prayer

  • We should pray because we love God and in order to obey and honor God (I Corinthians 10:31).
  • We should pray because we need God and He is more than sufficient for us (Matthew 6:11, 25-34; Ephesians 3:20-21; Philippians 4:19-20).
  • We should pray because we trust God (Jeremiah 29:11-13; Matthew 13:58; Mark 9:24; Hebrews 11:6; James 1:6-8, 5:15).
  • We should pray because we have God and in order to express and deepen our joy for God (present communion), gratefulness to God (past gifts), and hope in God (future issues).

The HOW of Prayer

  • We should pray with humility. (James 4:6-10; I Peter 5:6-7)
    • We must believe that we are sinful people who deserve nothing except judgment from God.
    • We must believe that we are needy, limited, and dependent people.
    • We must believe that God’s ways and answers to our prayers are best (even when they don’t line up with what we desire, expect, or ask for).
  • We should pray in faith.
    • We must believe that God is powerful enough, faithful enough, wise enough, and gracious enough to answer our prayers. (Hebrews 11:6).
    • We must place our faith in the life, death, resurrection, and present intercessory ministry of Christ on our behalf. (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25-26, 13:15).
    • We must trust that the Holy Spirit helps us pray and even intercedes for us when we don’t know what to pray (Romans 8:26-27).
  • We should be honest and sincere in our praying.
    • We don’t have to and shouldn’t try to and actually cannot impress God or manipulate God with our eloquent, spiritual, or plethora of words when we pray.  Instead, God wants us simply to express what’s really in our hearts. (Matthew 6:5-13).
  • We should express our love for God and others when we pray.
    • If we don’t love God or people, then our prayers will only and always be selfish.  God will not answer these prayers (James 4:1-5).
  • We should be repentant and holy when we pray.
    • No amount of praying and no kind of praying to the Holy God will be acceptable if our hearts and lives are full of sin.  How we relate to other people made in God’s image necessarily affects how we relate to God.  God cares about the conduct of our lives and the condition of our hearts.  We must not think we can be religiously and spiritually holy in matters of prayer and such if we are relationally and morally unholy in our lives (I Peter 3:7-12; Matthew 5:23-24; James 4:1-10).
  • We should persevere in prayer. 
    • Praying for something only once is not necessarily wrong.  However, for many things in life, God desires that we show our faith in and submission to Him by persevering in our asking for things over time (Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 11:5-8; Galatians 6:9; II Thessalonians 3:13).

The WHAT of Prayer

  • We can pray the truth.
    • Praying the truth of God’s written Word is a great way of keeping yourself focused on what matters most.
  • We should tell God our desires and needs.
    • Jesus taught His disciples to pray for both their needs and their desires (Matthew 6:9-13, 7:7-11, and 26:38-44).
  • We should be honest with God about our fears and sorrows.
    • Be honest with God about how you feel.  Prayer is simply (and yet amazingly) talking to God.  It’s ok to lament to your Father.  Christians can and should express their sadness and fears to God.  Not only can He take it, He actually tells us to lay our burdens down before Him (I Peter 5:6-7).  It honors God to be the gracious and faithful One upon whom we cast all of our cares (Psalm 50:15).
  • A.C.T.S.
    • Adoration for who God is for us in Christ (Psalm 96:1-9; Matthew 6:9; Revelation 7:11-12).
      • Using the Bible, a book on the attributes of God, or the different names and titles of God can be a great help here in praising Him for who He is.
    • Confession for how we’ve sinned against Him (I John 1:9).
      • This is agreeing with God about your sin.  Be open and ask the Lord to show you what’s in your heart (Psalm 139:23-24).
    • Thanksgiving for all that He’s given us by grace (Psalm 50:14; I Thessalonians 5:18; Ephesians 1:3; James 1:17).
      • Make a list and joyfully recount all that God has done for you! (Psalm 71:15, 77:11, 105:5).
    • Supplication for God to work in and for the good of ourselves and others (I Timothy 2:1-2; Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6).
      • A list of supplications to pray for would be too long, but if we follow the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) or this A.C.T.S. acronym, especially if we pray through the Bible as we read it, our prayers will not be old/dull/boring or overly/wrongly/foolishly self-focused.