Category Archives: Prayer Questions

Questions about Prayer: What Are the Different Types of Prayer?

 

The Bible reveals many types of prayers and employs a variety of words to describe the practice. For example, 1 Timothy 2:1 says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” Here, all four of the main Greek words used for prayer are mentioned in one verse.

Here are the main types of prayers in the Bible:

The prayer of faith: James 5:15 says, “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” In this context, prayer is offered in faith for someone who is sick, asking God to heal. When we pray, we are to believe in the power and goodness of God (Mark 9:23).

The prayer of agreement (also known as corporate prayer): After Jesus’ ascension, the disciples “all joined together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14). Later, after Pentecost, the early church “devoted themselves” to prayer (Acts 2:42). Their example encourages us to pray with others.

The prayer of request (or supplication): We are to take our requests to God. Philippians 4:6 teaches, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Part of winning the spiritual battle is to be “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:18).

The prayer of thanksgiving: We see another type of prayer in Philippians 4:5: thanksgiving or thanks to God. “With thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Many examples of thanksgiving prayers can be found in the Psalms.

The prayer of worship: The prayer of worship is similar to the prayer of thanksgiving. The difference is that worship focuses on who God is; thanksgiving focuses on what God has done. Church leaders in Antioch prayed in this manner with fasting: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:2–3).

The prayer of consecration: Sometimes, prayer is a time of setting ourselves apart to follow God’s will. Jesus made such a prayer the night before His crucifixion: “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will’ ” (Matthew 26:39).

The prayer of intercession: Many times, our prayers include requests for others as we intercede for them. We are told to make intercession “for everyone” in 1 Timothy 2:1. Jesus serves as our example in this area. The whole of John 17 is a prayer of Jesus on behalf of His disciples and all believers.

The prayer of imprecation: Imprecatory prayers are found in the Psalms (e.g., 7, 55, 69). They are used to invoke God’s judgment on the wicked and thereby avenge the righteous. The psalmists use this type of appeal to emphasize the holiness of God and the surety of His judgment. Jesus teaches us to pray for blessing on our enemies, not cursing (Matthew 5:44–48).

The Bible also speaks of praying in the Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:14–15) and prayers when we are unable to think of adequate words (Romans 8:26–27). In those times, the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us.

Prayer is conversation with God and should be made without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18). As we grow in our love for Jesus Christ, we will naturally desire to talk to Him.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: What Is the Meaning and Purpose of Saying Grace before a Meal?

 

“Saying grace” refers to the practice of thanking God for the food before a meal. It is also called “saying the blessing.” Such prayers follow the examples of Jesus and the apostle Paul, both of whom “said grace” before meals (see Acts 27:35).

Matthew records two instances of Jesus feeding thousands of people with only a small amount of food (Matthew 14:15–21; 15:32–38). In both these accounts, before Jesus “broke the bread” (started the meal), He gave thanks to God for it (14:19).

Apparently, giving thanks before a meal was Jesus’ customary practice. In Luke 24:13–35, on the day of Jesus’ resurrection, two of His followers travel to the village of Emmaus. Jesus joins them on the road, but they are “kept from recognizing him” (v. 16). Once they arrive at Emmaus, Jesus stops to eat with them. At the table, Jesus “took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them” (v. 30). Immediately, the disciples recognize Him; it was “when he broke the bread” (v. 35) and gave thanks that their eyes were opened.

Since we owe everything we have to God’s grace, the “free and unmerited favor of God,” it is appropriate to thank Him always (Ephesians 5:20). Meals provide a good time to pause and do just that. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen” (Romans 11:36).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: How and Why Should We Pray for Our Leaders?

 

The concept of praying for our leaders is not unique to democratic nations, and it did not begin with the United States’ National Day of Prayer. The Bible contains many commands to pray for our leaders—national and local, secular and religious.

Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:1–4, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” God told the Israelites in exile to pray for Babylon: “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7). Romans 13:1 says, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Paul requested prayer “for all the Lord’s people” and for himself that he would speak the gospel boldly (Ephesians 2:18–20).

Prayer is important. And it seems the Bible makes special mention of praying for those in positions of authority. Such authorities include government officials (international, national, and local) and pastors, church elders, school boards, school principals, employers, and the like.

We do not pray for our leaders simply because we are commanded to. Praying for them makes practical sense. Our leaders can affect the conditions we live in and have an impact on our families, our churches, our workplaces, our cities, and our countries. When those in authority are obeying the will of God, it is easier to “live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:2). When evil men are in authority, our prayers for them are just as needed, as illustrated by William Tyndale’s last words as he was being burned at the stake: “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”

Also, we do not pray for our leaders merely for our own benefit. Leadership can be a tiring task. James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” Leaders carry a degree of responsibility to their followers. They are often the targets of criticism and the go-to people in a crisis. If they are leading well, they are living their lives in service. We pray for them because we recognize the greatness of their task and because we are grateful for their willingness to lead.

So how should we pray for our leaders? First, if we are uncertain that they know Jesus, we should pray for their salvation. But whether or not our leaders are Christians, we should pray that God will guide them as they guide us. We should pray that they be wise and discerning and surrounded by helpful advisors. We know that God has placed our leaders in authority over us (Romans 13:1), and we can ask Him to use them as He will. We should also pray for their protection. When praying for pastors or ministry leaders, we can pray for them to have strength in the midst of spiritual warfare and to remain encouraged in the Lord. We can pray for their families, who often feel scrutinized and bear an extra load.

Briefly stated, we should mention our leaders before God in prayer and ask Him to have His way in their hearts, to support those around them, and to use their leadership to benefit their followers.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: Does God Answer Prayers?

 

The short answer to this question is, “Yes!” God has promised that, when we ask for things that are in accordance with His will for our lives, He will give us what we ask for (1 John 5:14–15). However, there is one caveat to add to this: we may not always like the answer.

We pray for a lot of things—some good, some bad, some really pointless. But God listens to all of our prayers, regardless of what we ask (Matthew 7:7). He does not ignore His children (Luke 18:1–8). When we talk to Him, He has promised to listen and respond (Matthew 6:6; Romans 8:26–27). His answer may be some variation of “yes” or “no” or “wait, not now.”

Keep in mind that prayer is not our way of getting God to do what we want. Our prayers should be focused on things that honor and glorify God and reflect what the Bible clearly reveals God’s will to be (Luke 11:2). If we pray for something that dishonors God or is not His will for us, He is unlikely to give what we ask for. God’s wisdom far exceeds our own, and we must trust that His answers to our prayers are the best possible solutions.

Does God answer prayers?—When God says “yes.”

In the first two chapters of 1 Samuel, Hannah prays and asks God to give her a baby. She had been unable to conceive which, in biblical times, was considered a mark of shame for a woman. Hannah prayed fervently—so fervently that a priest who saw her praying thought she was drunk. But God heard Hannah, and He allowed her to give birth to a child.

Jesus said, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:3). If you have prayed specifically for something and God has granted it to you, then you can be assured that it is His will. Nothing happens without God allowing it to happen (Romans 8:28).

Does God answer prayers?—When God says “no.”

In John 11, Mary and Martha wanted Jesus to heal their dying brother, yet Jesus allowed Lazarus to die. Why did He say “no” to these grieving women who loved Him so much? Because He had greater things planned for Lazarus, things that no one could possibly have imagined.

“No” is one of the hardest answers we can receive. But, once again, it is important to remember that God is all-knowing and is aware of the entire timeline of history. He knows every possible outcome of every possible choice in every possible situation; we do not. He sees the “big picture”; we see a partial brushstroke. Proverbs 3:5 says to “trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” When we get a “no” answer, we must trust that whatever we asked for was not God’s will.

Does God answer prayers?—When God says “wait, not now.”

Sometimes hearing “wait” is even harder than hearing “no” because it means we have to be patient (Romans 8:25). While waiting is difficult, we can be thankful God is in control and trust that His timing will be perfect (Romans 12:12; Psalm 37:7–9).

God wants the best for your life. He does not want you to suffer needlessly. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Be patient and know that He is your loving Father (Psalm 46:10).

Abide by Philippians 4:6 as you make your requests to God: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Then, when God responds, be prepared to accept His wisdom—whether or not you agree with His answer.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: Does Praying Scripture Have Greater Effectiveness than Other Prayers?

 

Some people have found that using Bible verses in their prayers is an effective way to pray. “Praying Scripture back to God” seems to help to focus the mind and to assure that the subject matter of the prayer is pleasing to God.

James 5:16 says, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (KJV). First John 5:15–16 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” The word effectual means “sufficient to produce a desired result.” Fervent means “constant, strenuous, and intense.” James and John are both telling us that for our prayers to be effective, they must be fervent, meaningful, and in agreement with the will of God.

One way to know that our prayers are the will of God is to pray specific Scriptures that express what is in our hearts. Scripture should not be used as some kind of magic chant, repeated mindlessly as though the words themselves had power. The power of prayer comes from God alone to a heart that is “fervent.” But when we find a command or promise that expresses what is in our hearts, we know we are agreeing with God when we use it as a prayer. It is, after all, His Word. The more we memorize and meditate on the Bible, the more it becomes part of us. The truth we have studied comes to mind when we are praying and is often the answer we are seeking. Often, when we don’t know what to pray, Scripture can give us the words. The Psalms contain hundreds of prayers, and many of them have already put our thoughts into words.

Jesus gives our best example of effectual prayer. His longest recorded prayer is His “High Priestly Prayer,” found in John 17. The first thing we notice is the oneness of spirit Jesus has with the Father. He begins by saying, “Father, the hour has come.” Jesus was not telling the Father anything He did not know. Rather, Jesus was acknowledging that they were in agreement. He spent so much time in fervent prayer that He knew the heart of the Father. That is the goal of effectual prayer: to understand the heart of God and align our wills with His. Whether by using our own words or those penned two thousand years ago, the key to effective prayer is that it comes from the heart and seeks the will of God.

Praying Scripture as an act of personal dedication is a good way to know we are praying effectually. For example, we can take Galatians 2:20 and use it as a prayer of consecration. Such a prayer might sound something like this: “Father, today I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. This life I live today I will live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” In praying this way, we take the heart of God and make it our goal. There is nothing magic in the words, but we can know we are praying within the will of God when we use His Word as our model.

We must be careful not to treat Scripture as though every passage was written specifically for our situation. We cannot take verses out of context simply because we want them to be true for us. For example, God promised Solomon “wealth, possessions, and honor” in 2 Chronicles 1:13. But we cannot pray that verse as though God had promised it to us instead. We cannot search for isolated verses that say what we want them to say and then “claim” them. There are times, however, when God impresses a certain verse on our hearts as His personal message to us, and we can and should pray about it.

If we try to apply every verse as though it directly affected our own lives, we would have problems with verses like 1 Samuel 15:3: “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them.” We must always read Scripture within its context and learn more about God from the principles we find. God may use that passage to speak to us about destroying the worldliness in our lives and leaving no remnant of it. In that instance, we could pray, “Lord, just as You told the Israelites to totally destroy everything that represented the evil of the Amalekites, I want to tear down any false gods in my life and leave nothing but You. Purify my heart as they purified their land.”

Effectual, fervent prayer can come from Scripture or from the depths of our own hearts. The goal as we grow is that the two become intertwined. Even on the cross in the midst of horrible suffering, Jesus cried out words from Psalm 22: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Many scholars believe He was quoting the entire passage as He hung on the cross, praying it back to God as an act of worship even in death. The more Scripture we learn and personalize, the more our prayers will reflect the will of God and the more effective they will be.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: What Is the Importance and Value of Group Prayer?

 

Group prayer among Christians is important and rewarding. It has been this way from the beginning of the church. In Acts 3, when the disciples by the power of the Spirit were preaching and thousands were being saved, the church had a plan, and they carried it out in community. “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42, NASB). Group prayer was important in the early church as something that bound them together as they carried out the Great Commission.

In Acts 4:31 group prayer is noted again, “And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the word of God with boldness.” God gave boldness to the whole group in their witness, in response to their prayer. They needed this power, as they were facing persecution.

In Acts 6:3–4, “But select from among you, brethren, seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” Prayer was one of the highest priorities of the church leadership.

The Holy Spirit is always praying in and through us “through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26), and Jesus taught the importance of personal prayer in secret in the inner room (Matthew 6). But group or corporate prayer has a place as well. Group prayer knits believers together and encourages the burdened. When a group of believers pray together, the result is unity, humility, thanksgiving, confession of sin, intercession, and discovery of God’s will.[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: What Does It Mean to Pray for Our Daily Bread?

 

The Lord’s Prayer, the prayer Jesus used to instruct His followers how to pray, is well known among Christians. Many recite it in unison as a form of liturgy; others meditate on each portion in their private time with God or view it is a model of the components of prayer. The prayer is recorded in Matthew 6:9–13 and Luke 11:2–4. One portion of the prayer says, “Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).

The first, and most obvious, meaning of this request is that God would sustain us physically. Jesus was perhaps alluding to God’s provision of manna, which was given every day in the desert (Exodus 16:4–12; Deuteronomy 8:3; John 6:31). We recognize God as our provider and rely on Him to meet our daily needs. This does not mean that we expect God to literally rain down manna on us but that we understand He is the one who makes our work fruitful, sometimes even meeting physical needs in miraculous ways. Shortly after instructing His followers how to pray, Jesus talked to them about anxiety. He said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?… But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:25, 33). Interestingly, in the Lord’s Prayer, the request immediately preceding the appeal for daily bread is for God’s kingdom to come.

Requesting daily bread is not only about physical provision. It can also refer to asking God to provide for our less tangible needs. In Matthew 7:7–11 Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Good parents provide not only what their children need for physical life, but also for practical, emotional, and relational needs. God is the giver of good gifts (James 1:17). “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

God has already met our greatest spiritual need, that of forgiveness and restoration, through Christ (Colossians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 5:17, 21; John 20:31). But He does not stop there. Jesus calls Himself the “Bread of Life” (John 6:35). “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind” (John 1:4). Jesus says He came to bring us abundant life (John 10:10). Not only are we saved for eternity, but we also experience a restored relationship with God now. We seek Him daily, and He renews us day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). The branch is continually nourished by the Vine (John 15:5).

Yes, God sustains us physically and meets the less tangible needs of this life. More than that, He fulfills our spiritual needs. He is the bread that satisfies our spiritual hunger. He sustains our hearts. When we ask God for our daily bread, we are humbly acknowledging Him as the sole giver of all we need. We are living day by day, one step at a time. We are exercising simple faith in Him to provide just what we need, when we need it—for every area of life.[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.