How to Pray
Types of Prayer
There are many kinds of prayer, but all of them can be classified into one or more of the following categories. The popular ACTS formula (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) for praying, continues to be effective for people of all ages and levels of spirituality.
Adoration and Praise
God is to be praised before we present our next list of wants. And far too many of us have forgotten how to praise God – if we ever really knew how. The lack of praise in prayer is to be pitied. We must learn to praise God if we intend to pray to God. For starters, study the Psalms and take notes on how much David and the other writers praised God. Pray these sections of Psalms yourself. Begin with Psalm 19. (See also Psalm 25:1-15; 27:1-6; 31:1-8; 33:12-22; 34:1-10; 42:1-11, 44:1-8; 46:1-11; 50:1-23, etc.) As David said, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6). Also, many of God’s statements of what He has done can be restated into a praise offering.
Unconfessed sin builds barriers between us and God (Psalm 66:18). It rots our spirits and dries up our hearts (Psalm 32:3). We need to confess everything to God and confess to others only what is appropriate and helpful (James 5:16). We do not need to confess every sin specifically to every person. But we must learn to confess our sins.
As you remember, Paul’s advice for Christians was, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This was not a multiple choice test. We cannot pick just one of these three areas for the week. We are to live joyfully, prayerfully, thankfully daily. How long will God continue to answer our prayers if we never thank Him for the ones He has already granted? Don’t be afraid of giving God the “big-head”. He is not some ethereal ego who craves our verbal affirmation. He wants us to be thankful people. We need to be thankful people more than He needs to be a thanked God.
Supplication and Petition
This is usually the favorite and most fully developed part of our prayers. God is not offended by our petitions when we have balanced them with other ingredients. He wants to answer our requests. He also wants us to pray for the needs of others through intercessory prayer, more than we do. When we pray, we must get on our knees for the needs of others. Our requests must go beyond “God bless me and my mate, and our two children, us four and no more.” Most importantly, God wants us to see prayer as a means of building a relationship with Him not just getting things from Him.
Conditions for Effective Prayer
God has promised repeatedly to answer our prayers (Matthew 7:7,8). He is willing; His word is on the line. He is also capable of granting our requests. He knows what we need (Matthew 6;7,8) and He knows how to give good gifts (Matthew 79-11). But God is not a “cosmic cellboy” or a “heavenly vending machine,” as Malcolm Nygren said, “A God who filled the prayer orders of people whose wills were not His won would be no God at all.” James reminded his readers that they had often asked and received not (James 4:3). What are some of the conditions God has given us?
“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22)
But what are we to believe? That we have needs? That we need help? We must truly believe in God – His authenticity and authority. We must also believe God is able to answer our prayers. (Mark 11:24; James 1:6,7).
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your own pleasures.” (James 4:3)
We can ask for the right things and still be refused if we have the wrong motives or purposes in mind. Before we pray, we must pause to check our purposes. Are we living for self or others?
IN JESUS’ NAME
“You may ask for anything in my name and I will do it.” (John 14:13,14)
This concept has been greatly misunderstood. We are to do more than tack on the phrase, “In Jesus’ name,” on the end of our prayers. We are to approach God with the conscious realization that we do so by the authority and power of Jesus Christ. In Christ and as a result of our faith in Christ, and Christ alone, we approach God with “freedom and confidence” (Ephesians 3:12; Colossians 1:19,20).
ACCORDING TO HIS WILL
“If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” (1John 5:14)
We can tell God our deepest personal needs and feelings and finally ask Him for specific requests. But we must always pray that His will be done, as did Jesus (Matthew 26:39, 42, 44). God is pleased to grant us His will. We need to be just as pleased when He does. We should pray for what Jesus would pray for if we could hear Him pray.
WHAT SHOULD I PRAY FOR?
- Daily Needs – Matthew 6:11
- Forgiveness – Matthew 6:12
- For Help in Temptation – Matthew 6:13;26;41; II Peter 2:9
- For Our Enemies – Matthew 5:44
- For Worker in the Kingdom – Matthew 9:38
- For God’s will to be done – Matthew 6:10; 26:39
- The Praise of God – Matthew 6:9
- For Spiritual Leaders – II Thessalonians 3:1
- For Earthly Rulers – I Timothy 2:1,2
- For Wisdom – James 1:5
- For the Sick – James 5:14
- For God to Protect His Name and Honor – Daniel 9:19
- For Strength in Crises – Hebrews 4:16
- For Spiritual Maturity – Ephesians 1:16-20; 3:14-21
- Philippians 1:9-11; Colossians 1:9-1Another list by Nancy Guthrie posted online at the Gospel Coalition:
- To put God’s glory on display (John 9:3)
- To make the life of Jesus evident (2 Cor. 4:10-11)
- To live out genuine faith (1 Peter 1:6-7)
- To cause us to depend on him more fully (2 Cor. 1:8-9)
- To reveal hidden sin or keep us from sin (2 Cor. 12:7)
- To experience that Christ is enough (2 Cor. 12:9)
- To discipline us for holiness (Hebrews 12:10-11)
- To equip us to comfort others (1 Cor. 1:3)
- To make us spiritually mature (James 1:2-5)
- To make us fruitful (John 15:2)
- To shape us into Christ’s likeness (Romans 8:29)
- To share in the suffering of Christ (Philippians 3:10)