Prayer: A Basic Element Of Christianity

Prayer Is Much More Than Asking

Prayer: A Basic Element Of Christianity
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When it comes to prayer there is more to know about it than what most people grasp. Find out what God has said about prayer from the Holy Bible in this article.

From the time God created Adam He has always desired to fellowship with people. This is signaled to us in the earliest portion of the written Word, in Genesis 2:19, “Out of the ground YHVH (The Existing One) God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name.” Though God knows all things before they happen (Psalm 147:5, Isaiah 42:9, Hebrews 4:13, 1 John 3:20), the Holy Spirit moved upon Moses (2 Timothy 3:16) to write “to see what he would call them” to signal to us He wants to have conversations with us.

This close, unhindered fellowship continued until Adam sinned. Now there are many problems. People pray to idols. Most do not really spiritually hear from the One true God. Most people pray incorrectly.

However, when someone surrenders to God through Jesus Christ some core problems are immediately corrected, while a number of others are corrected over time according to the teachability of each true disciple. But a most blessed truth is that when someone becomes born again, then as a redeemed child of God they are to be God's friend (James 2:23). Friends definitely communicate and enjoy good times together!

I. A Brief Overview Of Prayer

William Evans writes concerning prayer {1}, "The Christian life cannot be sustained without it; it is the Christian's vital breath." The Word of God says we are to pray without ceasing  (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Given that passage, and what Evans has stated, while it is good to have focused times of prayer, each true Christian should be in communication with God all of the time to some degree. Sometimes it is just keeping our “spiritual ears” open {A}. We will explore focused times of prayer a little more toward the end of this article.

I like to define prayer as simple communication with God (Psalm 73:28). Some folks think you must pray in King James language to please God or to show respect (for example, saying "Thee" or "Thou"). You really do not have to do so. We may use simple, everyday language to communicate with God (Psalm 17:1).

Prayer is a means of expressing ourselves to God (Exodus 33:11). It is also {2} “. . . God's appointed method of our obtaining what He has to bestow (Daniel 9:3, Matthew 7:7-11, 9:24-29, Luke 11:13)." We must also keep in mind it is not one-sided. Communication is a two-way street. We may speak, but we must also listen for the response from God (Mark 13:33, Habakkuk 2:1).

Most times when God speaks to us {A}, He does so by His Spirit to our spirit (Luke 2:27) and conscience (John 8:9), similar to when someone commits to Christ. Just keep in mind though that, logically, whatever we think we are hearing from God should not contradict His written Word. In other words, God will not tell us something by His Spirit that would be against what is written in the Holy Bible. This is one reason among many why the Holy Bible ought to be read and studied.

II. How Not To Pray

We are not to pray in vain repetition (Matthew 6:5-15). If you remember from the lesson on worship {B}, I encouraged you to repeatedly speak passages that expressed worship to God. Repetition is fine, but vain repetition would include insincerity or/and the thought that repeating a prayer specifically adds favor with God. When I was Roman Catholic, after confessing our sins to a priest, we would have to do penance by praying a certain number of prayers, repeating the same ones. This was vain because no amount of prayer can ever make up for any sins we commit. Some religions place written prayers on prayer wheels and spin the wheel, hoping the multiple revolutions will repeat the petition(s). This is also vain. It is also vain repetition to keep praying for something that is not the will of God.

We must not pray with unforgiveness (Matthew 6:12) or to “show off" (Matthew 6:5). Jesus was not speaking against public prayer, but He was certainly saying that we should not seek favor, glory, and honor from people because we are praying. And 1 Peter 3:7 tells us to avoid certain other hindrances to prayer (using Young’s Literal Translation because the New American Standard was very messed up on this verse): “The husbands, in like manner, dwelling with them, according to knowledge, as to a weaker vessel {C} — to the wife — imparting honour, as also being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers be not hindered."

Praying should not be to someone other than the one true God (John 14:6). It is against Holy Scripture (Psalm 73:25, 1 Timothy 2:5) to pray to Mary, Joseph, or any other person deemed a "saint"; a deceased loved one or acquaintance; the "angel Moroni"; or any other being or creation (real or imaginary).

Worldliness, like confusing literary gender in reference to God, must not taint our praying. There is currently a move to use "she" in reference to God. Not once in the actual Holy Scriptures is "she" used in connection with God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Christ, etc. In regard to our corporate relationship with God, the term "she" is assigned to the Church, the Body of Christ, and to the Bride of Christ. God so chose to use the male gender terms for Himself, partly because (as mentioned in a previous lesson) to establish the proper relationship between Him and us. 

It is also confusing to refer to God as "Mother God". This introduces people into non-Scriptural / non-Christian teachings. If we refer to God as "Mother God" this is direct disobedience to our Lord's teaching that we should pray "Our Father, Who art in heaven" (Matthew 6:9, Luke 6:36, 12:30 and 32, Colossians 1:12).

III. How To Pray

To the Father (Matthew 6:9): You might want to make your prayer life somewhat personal by saying something like, "my Father," or "my heavenly Father." I have heard that in some places in Scotland there are some Christians who endearingly pray, "Papa God." See Romans 8:15.

Through the Son (1 Timothy 2:5): Note this verse says there is only one mediator. So we are not to pray to Mary, Joseph, Theresa, and the rest. Everyone is out. Our only mediator is Christ Jesus (Psalm 73:25) {D}.

In And By The Holy Spirit (Ephesians 6:18, Jude 20): The Holy Spirit will often guide us as to what to pray for and how to pray for it. That guidance will never be against the written Word of God. As a disciple remains and grows in Christ, they are trained by the Holy Spirit over the course of time in various areas of prayer.

A truly redeemed child of God is to be faithful in prayer (Luke 18:1-8, Romans 12:12). That means one can pray more than once for something. Even Jesus had to pray more than once for a specific request (Mark 8:22-26). 

Near the beginning of this article it was noted that there are times of focused prayer and that the disciple should constantly be in communication with God at some level. Many set aside certain times in a day to pray. This is fine, but what often happens is that there are things that interrupt that special time. After missing a number of focused prayer times some disciples become discouraged, thinking they have failed God. The way to remedy this is to be in a constant level of communication with God, though not always focused. The disciple will then find opportunity, being led by the Holy Spirit, to have a focused time. Quite often one will find if they missed a certain time that as they continuously pray at some level another time slot will develop. A disciple should keep in mind God permits a change in schedule. For example, a disciple might make it a point to always have a focused time of prayer at 9 a.m. and keep that schedule for a few months. Years later it might switch to 8 a.m. or some other time.

Another stickler is that some put emphasis on the amount of time spent in prayer. As a result, there are disciples that think sixty seconds of focused prayer is not as good as sixty minutes. While it is great to spend time in prayer, the quality of prayer must not be overlooked. Actually, if one applies prayer as continuous they will eventually find it easier to increase both the amount and quality of focused prayer. Or, let me put it this way: Just put away the stopwatch and pray all the time through continuous communication with God, unfocused or focused.

Focused prayer is to mainly occur in private (Matthew 6:6). It is, of course, acceptable and expected to pray with others (Acts 4:24-30). However, all prayer should be done earnestly (1 Thessalonians. 3:10, James 5:17) and sincerely (Jeremiah 29:13, Psalm 119:58, 119:145, Hebrews 10:22). Regarding fasting and prayer, fasting will be the main subject of a future lesson.

Prayer is to be done with watchfulness, which is akin to what was said above about hearing from God and being led by the Holy Spirit in prayer. In Mark 14:38 Jesus is recorded saying to His disciples, “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” “Temptation” in that verse can also be translated as “trial”. So it would suggest to me that while praying we should be, by the Holy Spirit, discerning whether we need to deal with any spiritual forces, good or bad. Compare this to Ephesians 6:14-18 and 1 Peter 4:7.

And here is something to remember. Satan, from time to time, will try to tell you it is no use to pray. This has happened to me numerous times, especially when one of those I am to spiritually care for were growing cold toward the Lord. I had to ignore that negative spirit and pray anyhow. And, by the way, God had His way in those lives. So, pray anyhow! Worshiping God will also help break that negative spirit.

We are to pray according to His will (1 John 5:14). You might not know specifically the will of God at all times, but the way to begin is to pray for things that you know, from reading the Holy Bible, what God wants. For one thing, He wants all to repent and trust fully in Him (2 Peter 3:9). Also see Psalm 122:6, Matthew 5:44, and 1 Timothy 2:1-3 for some more examples of what God wants us to pray about. As you pray for God's known will, He will increase your sensitivity to understand other facets of His will.

Regarding physical aspects dealing with prayer, nowhere in the Holy Bible does it state that we must pray with our eyes closed and hands folded. While that is fine, we are to remember we are to pray at all times so we most certainly can pray while driving, working and other things. Also, while kneeling is good, some have trouble kneeling. The Holy Bible indicates one can pray in any position—standing, sitting, prone, prostrate and more.

IV. Elements Of Prayer

Worship, praise, adoration, and thanksgiving should be incorporated into our praying. Consider 2 Samuel 22:4, Psalm 22:23, 50:14, Ephesians 5:20, 1 Timothy 1:12, Hebrews 12:28, and Revelation 5:12. The most powerful prayers in the Holy Bible always included the mention of the attributes of God. There will be times confession (Matthew 6:12) will be in order. In this respect, it is always good to pray for our own selves first before we pray for others. Prayer can be one of simple fellowship with God without any requests. It can be comprised of only worship.

But, of course, there will be many times we will be asking God for something. “Supplication" used in many translations means “requests" and “pleading". Supplication  should be mingled with thanksgiving and worship (Philippians 4:6). This point was driven home to me by God when we were pastoring in Flintstone, MD. The church had so many bills piling up and I was unhappy, of course, about the situation. However, I gained more strength in prayer as I praised God anyway amongst all the requests.

There will be times that acute emergencies occur. Sudden prayer in response does not need to be prefaced with praise, adoration, worship, and so on. Hey, if you are about to be robbed or hurt, a quick "help me" to God is OK!

A disciple will learn there are times of intercession (1 Timothy 2:1). Each of us have struggles. Some are in dire situations. Whatever the case is we are to pray for the will of God to be done in hearts and lives to the glory of God. Intercession is a prime activity of spiritual warfare {E}. Some Christians have been known to be called specifically to a ministry of intercession. Many testimonies can be given to attest to the fact of the power of intercessory prayer to God through Christ. Here are some examples. 

Twenty-seven Christians in the U.S.A. one night felt led by the Holy Spirit to pray for a missionary in Australia. Just before that time, the missionary was conducting a series of services. Having no place to stay, this missionary would camp out in the fields. One night, after the above mentioned prayer meeting, the missionary had just concluded a service when a man approached him. This man said that he had been at the missionary's camp the previous night in an attempt to kill him! The man told the missionary he could not do it, for his tent was surrounded,—by twenty-seven people! 
Going back a century or so to England, a man named George Mueller was told by God to start an orphanage for children. He did. One morning they arose and gathered for breakfast, but there was no food. Brother Mueller began to ask the blessing and thank God as usual for His provision. Just moments after he started to pray, there was a knock on the door. It was a merchant who was going to town to sell his bread when a wheel came off of his carriage. He was too far from town for the bread to be any good, so he gave it to the orphanage! 
In our own life, relatives of ours were heading for divorce court. The husband was the one who had filed for divorce. My wife Dorcas and I were led of God to pray that confusion would come between the lawyer and the husband. A week after the court case was to be held, the wife called. She said the case had to be stopped after an argument occurred between her husband and his lawyer! To make a long story short, the divorce never went through and God mended the situation. Dorcas and I have seen many, many other answers to intercessory prayer. 

Everyone above that interceded in prayer was a “regular person,” but born again by God. There are tens of thousands of such testimonies. If you are a redeemed child of God in Christ then, in the eyes of God, you are a priest. Let God use you. Be willing to intercede.

V. Additional Reasons to Pray

Along with the fact that we are commanded and expected to pray, if we are truly saved we should pray in order to increase our faith. Jesus told His disciples in John 16:24, “Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.” Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit that comprise our faith in Christ. Notice, though, we need to ask in the Name of Christ. This implies asking according to His will. See 1 John 5:14.

Before I continue, I feel impressed by the Holy Spirit to mention the sovereignty of God. God is King, not a magic genie that if you “rub the lamp" you will get your wishes. John 16:24 and a few other passages have been taken out of context by some to promote the erroneous idea that as a king and priest before God a Christian can ask, even declare, anything and get it. No. It is to be according to His will.

As noted earlier, God desires we communicate with Him. It is really better said that God desires our fellowship with Him. He wants us to enjoy, and benefit from, His presence. Christ said to the Laodicean Church (Revelation 3:20), “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” Dining often includes fellowship with the person we are dining with.

We ought to pray to increase our sensitivity to the voice of God {A}. Christ said His sheep know His voice (John 10:27). We are likened to sheep partly because sheep are naturally defenseless against their predators. We are spiritually safe when we listen to Christ to the extent that we obey Him.

Prayer enables us to help others (2 Corinthians 1:11). It might be intercessory prayer, or those that we pray for might simply be encouraged by the fact we prayed for them, but God desires to use us in prayer to bless others.

VI. Neglecting Prayer

Satan does not want us to pray. One can see why after learning about the benefits of prayer we have mentioned in this article, especially with the fact we are spiritually safe when we stay close to our Shepherd.

Evans {3} notes that neglecting prayer is grievous to the Lord (Isaiah 43:21-22, 64:6-7); can result in various types of trouble (Zephaniah 1:4-6, Daniel 9:13-14; cf. Hosea 7:13-14, 8:13-14); is a sin (1 Samuel 12:23); and results in the lack of the necessary blessings in life (James 4:2).

But let us go back to an earlier quote from Evans about prayer, viz., “The Christian life cannot be sustained without it; it is the Christian's vital breath.” In the natural, we cannot survive very long without breathing. This is true in the supernatural. In the natural we breathe without ceasing (unless we are dead). As the Holy Scripture says (1 Thessalonians 5:17), we are to “Pray without ceasing.”

The Course On Basic Elements Of Christianity

Now that you have completed this lesson on prayer you can take a quiz, then advance to the next lesson. Please click here then follow the link provided on the landing point of the page to take the quiz or for other options.


{A} Get more information on that from the article, To Hear The Voice Of God, located at .

{B} The lesson on worship is located at .

{C} Given the context of the New Testament, “weaker vessel” in the sense of subordination. The Holy Bible goal for the family is that Christ is the head of the husband, and the husband is the head of the wife. Authority within the family is to flow from Christ to the husband, then from the husband to the wife.

{D} Please see “The Only Mediator Ordained By God” at .

{E} Spiritual warfare may be described as what we read in Ephesians 6:10-12.

{1} Evans, William: The Great Doctrines of the Bible (Moody Press: Chicago; 1970) p171

{2} Evans (as noted in 1); p172

{3} Evans (as noted in 1); pp171-2

This article is part of a series of lessons on Basic Elements Of Christianity (BEC). The offline lesson is simply titled “Prayer". Unless otherwise noted all Holy Scripture is from the New American Standard Bible changing LORD to YHVH as it rightly should be when the text so indicates and adding “(The Existing One)” to readily express the meaning of His Name without making repeated explanations in articles. * = For other versions the spelling of some words is updated for our time in addition to changing LORD to YHVH as it rightly should be when the text so indicates.

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