TBU: The Bible Unpacked: In-Depth Edition

II. Praying to God

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Chapter 24  Part II

Praying to God

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Prayer is one of the greatest privileges and one of the greatest responsibilities of being a Christian. It is also one of the main sources of vitality for our lives as Christians, and is critical to our effectiveness in our endeavors for God’s kingdom. At the end of our lives, quite possibly many of us will see prayer as the main thing that we should have done more often. As the saying goes, “Life is short; pray hard.”

The Importance of Prayer

Prayer is portrayed as an offering to God and Jesus Christ

In being portrayed as an offering to God, the importance of prayer is shown in it being depicted as honoring and desirable to God, amongst other things.

Ps 141:2  Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice! ▤ 

Acts 10:4  And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. ▤ 

Cornelius’s prayers and alms are portrayed as being akin to sacrifices offered up (“have ascended”) to God. The last clause implies that they have and/or would be remembered by God.

Rev 8:3-4  And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, 4and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. ▤ 

Incense was a key aspect to a number of OT offerings.

Rev 5:8  And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. ▤ 

Particularly with the correlation of the prayers with incense and in light of 8:3-4 above, this also appears to portray prayer as an offering – in this case to Jesus Christ.

Prayer is very powerful . . .

James 5:16-18  Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.g 17Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. ▤ 

g Or The effective prayer of a righteous person has great power

Mark 9:28-29  And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”h ▤ 

h Some manuscripts add and fasting

The power of prayer is such that demons can be driven out with it – in fact some demons cannot be driven out without it.

John 14:12-14  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If you ask mei anything in my name, I will do it. ▤ 

i Some manuscripts omit me

The promise that the disciples would do even greater things then what Jesus had been doing (v. 12) appears to be linked to prayer (vv. 13-14). As such it is a tremendous witness to the power and importance of prayer. (What the apostles would later accomplish, as recorded in Acts, is evidence of the validity of the promise.)

Acts 9:40  But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. ▤ 

This and 28:8 below demonstrate the incredible power of prayer or, more precisely, the power of God accessed through prayer.

Acts 28:8  It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him. ▤ 

Isa 37:21-22  Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Because you have prayed to me concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria, 22this is the word that the Lord has spoken concerning him: “‘She despises you, she scorns you— the virgin daughter of Zion; she wags her head behind you— the daughter of Jerusalem. ▤ 

Because Hezekiah prayed to God concerning Sennacherib and the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem, God promised to take action against Sennacherib, as poetically indicated in v. 22b. Consequently he delivered Jerusalem (cf. vv. 36-38). Note that the clause “she wags her head behind you” (v. 22) likely speaks of the people of Jerusalem scoffing at Sennacherib and his army fleeing (cf. NCV, NIV, NLT).

. . . If we ask God for things, he will give or do them

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The tremendous promises of answered prayer in this subsection are obviously not an automatic guarantee that every request will be granted. Amongst other things (cf. Making Requests), such prayer must be consistent with God and Jesus Christ’s purpose and will (cf. 1Jn 5:14-15 ), which is largely what is meant by asking “in Jesus’ name”. (See the introductory comment on Ask for things in Jesus Christ’s “name”.) Nevertheless, these wonderful promises should greatly encourage us to pray fervently and persistently.

Matt 7:7-11  Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! ▤ 

As with “ask”, the terms “seek” and “knock” are references to prayer. The use of them along with “ask” is to emphasize the need for the listeners to persevere in prayer.

Matt 18:19-20  Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. ▤ 

As indicated by the preceding verses (cf. vv. 15-18), the immediate reference is to prayer regarding an unrepentant brother who has sinned against you. However the promise here (v. 19) would appear to be applicable to any request consistent with coming together in Jesus Christ’s name (v. 20) and so to furthering his objectives.

Matt 21:22  And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. ▤ 

John 16:24  Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. ▤ 

1Jn 5:14-15  And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. ▤ 

  • The apostles gave a very high priority to prayer:

Acts 6:4  But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word. ▤ 

We help others by praying for them

Rom 15:30  I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, … ▤ 

2Cor 1:10-11  He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. ▤ 

Phil 1:18b-19  Yes, and I will rejoice, 19for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, … ▤ 

Philem 1:22  At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you. ▤ 

Acts 12:5-7, 11  So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. 6Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. 7And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. ▤ 11When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” ▤ 

This suggests that the church’s prayer for Peter was a key factor in his deliverance.

We are called on to pray

The fact that we are called on and even commanded to pray, points to the importance of prayer.

1Thes 5:16-18  Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ▤ 

Quite likely the remark in v. 18b applies also to the directions in the preceding verses (vv. 16-17), as well as to that immediately preceding it (v. 18a).

Matt 6:6  But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. ▤ 

Luke 18:1  And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. ▤ 

Rom 12:12  Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. ▤ 

Eph 6:16-18  In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, … ▤ 

Col 4:2  Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. ▤ 

1Thes 5:25  Brothers, pray for us. ▤ 

1Tim 2:1, 8  First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, ▤ 8I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; … ▤ 

Pray for persecuted Christians

Praying before God

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Pray before God, in his presence

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To pray “before” God involves being mindful of his presence as one prays.

2Sam 7:18  Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? ▤ 

David went into “the Tent of the Lord’s presence” (GNT). The sacred ark of the covenant, which signified God’s presence, was in David’s time enclosed in an inner section of this tent and then later in the temple. To pray even in the outer sections of these places was indicative of praying before God, in his presence (cf. 2Chr 6:24 ).

1Ki 8:28, 59  Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O Lord my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, ▤ 59Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires, … ▤ 

1Ki 9:3  And the Lord said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your plea, which you have made before me. I have consecrated this house that you have built, by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time. ▤ 

2Chr 6:24  If your people Israel are defeated before the enemy because they have sinned against you, and they turn again and acknowledge your name and pray and plead with you in this house, … ▤ 

Neh 1:4-6  As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. 5And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. ▤ 

Jer 36:7  It may be that their plea for mercy will come before the Lord, and that every one will turn from his evil way, for great is the anger and wrath that the Lord has pronounced against this people. ▤ 

Approach God with confidence

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We are to approach God with confidence both in regard to him receiving us and to him hearing our prayers.

Eph 3:11-12  This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. ▤ 

This speaks of “access” (v. 12) into God’s presence, with prayer quite possibly being primarily in view.

Heb 4:15-16  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. ▤ 

The phrase “draw near to the throne of grace” is probably referring to approaching God, to whom we can come because of our high priest (v. 15; cf. Heb 10:19-22 ). But possibly it could instead be referring to approaching Jesus Christ, the high priest who is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses”. Alternatively, the writer may in fact not be attempting to distinguish between God and Jesus Christ.

Heb 10:19-22  Therefore, brothers,j since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. ▤ 

j Or brothers and sisters

The reference to Jesus’ body as “the curtain” (v. 20), is drawing a parallel between Jesus’ death which opened a way for believers to confidently enter into God’s presence, and the curtain which the high priest went through to enter the Most Holy Place of God’s presence in the temple. This link was emphatically affirmed by what took place when Jesus died – “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” (Matt 27:51) This event symbolically pronounced that there is no longer any barrier to people themselves directly entering into God’s presence. Because of what our “great priest” (v. 21) has done, this privilege is no longer confined to just the high priest, nor do people need to have a human priest make representations to God on their behalf.

1Jn 3:18-22  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 19By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. ▤ 

By loving each other with actions and in truth we know that we belong to the truth, and set our hearts at rest in God’s presence (vv. 18-19). As such we can have confidence before God when praying to him because we obey and please him.

1Jn 5:14  And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. ▤ 

  • No one would dare of themselves to approach God:

Jer 30:21  Their prince shall be one of themselves; their ruler shall come out from their midst; I will make him draw near, and he shall approach me, for who would dare of himself to approach me? declares the Lord. ▤ 

Be reverent . . .

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Heb 5:7  In the days of his flesh, Jesusk offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. ▤ 

k Greek he

Eph 3:14-16  For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every familyl in heaven and on earth is named, 16that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, … ▤ 

l Or fatherhood; the Greek word patria is closely related to the word for Father in verse 14

Kneeling in prayer – “fall to my knees and pray” (NLT) – is indicative of reverence for God, and submission to him. See Postures and gestures used in prayer.

1Chr 17:25  For you, my God, have revealed to your servant that you will build a house for him. Therefore your servant has found courage to pray before you. ▤ 

That David needed courage to pray to God, reflects the awe he held for God and presumably the reverence in which he prayed.

Eccl 5:1-2, 7  m Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. 2 n Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. ▤ 7For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity;o but God is the one you must fear. ▤ 

m Ch 4:17 in Hebrew

n Ch 5:1 in Hebrew

o Or For when dreams and vanities increase, words also grow many

The context involves approaching God, with vows being primarily in view (cf. vv. 3-6). Quite possibly “dreams” alludes to foolish or self-centered vows or prayers. As reflected in v. 3, the verse is saying that like much dreaming, many words are meaningless in God’s presence (cf. NCV). Rather, when in God’s presence one should have an overriding sense of awe and so fear and reverence of God (v. 7b), as reflected by the tone of vv. 1-2.

. . . and humble yourself before God

2Chr 33:12-13  And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. 13He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God. ▤ 

Ezra 8:21  Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. ▤ 

Dan 10:12  Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. ▤ 

This appears to be referring to Daniel consistently being humble before God, not only when praying but obviously inclusive of it.

Gen 18:27-28  Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. 28Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” ▤ 

Abraham’s words in v.27 imply humility, in making his request before God (v. 28b) – as do those of the centurion in making his request to Jesus below in Luke 7:6-7.

Deut 9:18-19  Then I lay prostrate before the Lord as before, forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all the sin that you had committed, in doing what was evil in the sight of the Lord to provoke him to anger. 19For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure that the Lord bore against you, so that he was ready to destroy you. But the Lord listened to me that time also. ▤ 

Moses in effect humbled himself before God, in prayer (v. 19b), by falling prostrate before him and fasting (cf. Ezra 8:21 ) for forty days and forty nights (v. 18).

  • The centurion’s humble appeal to Jesus:

Luke 7:6-7  And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. 7Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. ▤ 

Pray to God as a caring father

1Pet 1:17  And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, … ▤ 

Matt 6:6-9  But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.p ▤ 

p Or Let your name be kept holy, or Let your name be treated with reverence

Matt 7:9-11  Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! ▤ 

Having a holy and loving Father in heaven should inspire us to make requests of him, doing so in awareness of him being such a Father. Note that the term “evil” (v. 11) is used here in a relative sense, in comparison to God and his standards, rather than in a general sense.

Luke 22:41-42  And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” ▤ 

John 11:41  So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. ▤ 

John 15:16  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. ▤ 

Pray in the Holy Spirit

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Being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, believers are to pray “in the Spirit”. As such we are to consciously rely on the Holy Spirit’s help, to empower and guide us in our prayers.

Eph 6:16-18  In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, … ▤ 

Jude 1:20-21  But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. ▤ 

  • The Holy Spirit helps us in prayer:

Rom 8:26-27  Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, becauseq the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. ▤ 

q Or that

This appears to be speaking of the Holy Spirit helping believers (v. 26a) while they pray (v. 26b). As such, the Holy Spirit overcomes their ignorance as to what to pray for by interceding on their behalf. This action of the Holy Spirit has been linked with people praying in the Spirit. See also the introductory comment on Worship God in spirit and by the Holy Spirit. Note that “with groanings” (v. 26) is unlikely a reference to the gift of tongues.

Note: It is vital for prayer that we live righteously . . .

See also:

Ps 145:18  The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. ▤ 

Calling on God “in truth” may be referring to praying with integrity, implying righteousness – the reason for its inclusion here. However, more precisely, it may well be speaking of praying with sincerity (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NLT). The two alternatives are not unrelated.

Prov 15:8  The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him. ▤ 

Prov 15:29  The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous. ▤ 

2Tim 2:22  So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. ▤ 

Note that “call on the Lord” is not necessarily referring specifically to prayer here, although it would be inclusive of it or at least applicable to it.

James 5:16  Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.r ▤ 

r Or The effective prayer of a righteous person has great power

1Pet 3:12  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. ▤ 

1Pet 4:7  The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. ▤ 

. . . and so it is vital for prayer that we act rightly towards others

Isa 58:3-4  ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,s and oppress all your workers. 4Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. ▤ 

s Or pursue your own business

Note that fasting and humbling oneself are being spoken of as being done in association with prayer.

Isa 58:9-10  Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, 10if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. ▤ 

Mark 11:25  And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”t ▤ 

t Some manuscripts add verse 26: But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your trespasses

Holding something against someone betrays a lack of grace and is incompatible with both what God wants us to be and to his own character, and so is a barrier to fellowship with him and prayer to him. Furthermore, if we want God to treat us graciously, we then must in turn treat others as such. Note that similarly in Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus says that before making an offering to God, first be reconciled to any brother (or sister) with something against you – “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,  24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

Acts 10:1-4  At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, 2a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. 3About the ninth hour of the dayu he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.” 4And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. ▤ 

u That is, 3 P. M.

Cornelius’s generosity to the poor (and his devoutness) went “hand in hand” with and in a sense supplemented his prayers.

1Tim 2:8  I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; … ▤ 

1Pet 3:7  Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with youv of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. ▤ 

v Some manuscripts since you are joint heirs

  • However, requests should not be made on the basis of any righteousness of our own, but on God’s mercy:

Dan 9:18  O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. ▤ 

Daniel may be referring to his people’s great lack of righteousness, rather than implying that whatever degree of righteousness one might have is no basis on which to make requests of God. However, even so, his words are very much applicable to the latter. For whatever level of righteousness we might display in our own lives is in itself far short of what God requires of us and of what would be needed to impose on his will.

Pray for persecuted Christians

Physical Aspects of Prayer

Pray aloud or in your heart

Acts 4:24, 29-31  And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, ▤ 29And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servantsw to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. ▤ 

w Greek bondservants

Ps 3:4  I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah ▤ 

Ps 142:1  With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord. ▤ 

Gen 24:42-45  “I came today to the spring and said, ‘O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now you are prospering the way that I go, 43behold, I am standing by the spring of water. Let the virgin who comes out to draw water, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,” 44and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also,” let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master’s son.’ 45“Before I had finished speaking in my heart, behold, Rebekah came out with her water jar on her shoulder, and she went down to the spring and drew water. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ ▤ 

1Sam 1:12-13  As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. ▤ 

Pray anywhere

See also:

The following verses illustrate that one can pray anywhere by giving examples of prayer in a variety of diverse locations.

Luke 18:10  Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. ▤ 

Matt 6:6  But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. ▤ 

Acts 10:9  The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hourx to pray. ▤ 

x That is, noon

Luke 5:16  But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. ▤ 

Luke 6:12  In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. ▤ 

Acts 16:13  And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. ▤ 

Acts 21:5b  And kneeling down on the beach, we prayed … ▤ 

Pray anytime

See also:

Similar to the previous subsection, the following verses illustrate that one can pray anytime by giving examples of prayer at various times of the day.

Ps 119:147  I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. ▤ 

Ps 88:13  But I, O Lord, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you. ▤ 

Ps 86:3  Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day. ▤ 

Ps 55:17  Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice. ▤ 

Dan 6:10  When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. ▤ 

Acts 10:30  And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour,y and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing … ▤ 

y That is, 3 P. M.

Acts 16:25  About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, … ▤ 

1Sam 15:11b  And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the Lord all night. ▤ 

Pray constantly

See also:

Luke 2:37b  She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. ▤ 

Rom 12:12  Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. ▤ 

Eph 6:18  … praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, … ▤ 

1Thes 5:17-18  … pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ▤ 

1Tim 5:5  She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, … ▤ 

1Cor 7:5  Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. ▤ 

Acts 1:14  All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.z ▤ 

z Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church; also verse 15

Acts 2:42  And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. ▤ 

Spend long periods alone in prayer – like Jesus did

See also:

Matt 14:23  And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, … ▤ 

Mark 1:35-37  And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” ▤ 

The fact that he rose (to go out to pray) very early and apparently continued until he had been missed and eventually found by the disciples (cf. vv. 36-37), implies that Jesus spent a considerable amount of time praying, alone.

Luke 5:16  But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. ▤ 

Luke 6:12  In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. ▤ 

Luke 21:37  And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. ▤ 

Jesus probably spent nights in this way so that he could pray for an extended time alone.

Keep alert to pray

Eph 6:18  … praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, … ▤ 

Col 4:2  Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. ▤ 

We are to devote ourselves to prayer, “keeping alert in it” (NASB; cf. AMP, CEV, GNT, NCV, NLT).

1Pet 4:7  The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. ▤ 

In order to pray we must “keep sound minded and self-restrained and alert” (AMP).

Matt 26:40-41  And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” ▤ 

In light of the reference to keeping watch with him (v. 40), Jesus’ subsequent exhortation to watch – and pray – probably has watching out for imminent danger primarily in view. Nevertheless it still implies that his weary disciples needed to keep alert to pray (cf. NLT).

Mark 13:33  Be on guard, keep awake.a For you do not know when the time will come. ▤ 

a Some manuscripts add and pray

Here and in Luke 21:36 below, “awake” has the sense “alert” (cf. GNT, NASB, NIV, NLT, NRSV). The rendering in the text note suggests that we need to be alert in prayer (cf. AMP, NKJV).

Luke 21:36  But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man. ▤ 

Postures and gestures used in prayer

See also:

Acts 9:40  But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. ▤ 

Acts 20:36  And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. ▤ 

Matt 26:39  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.” ▤ 

2Sam 7:18  Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? ▤ 

Mark 11:25  And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”b ▤ 

b Some manuscripts add verse 26: But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your trespasses

John 17:1  When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, … ▤ 

Ex 9:29  Moses said to him, “As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will stretch out my hands to the Lord. The thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, so that you may know that the earth is the Lord’s. ▤ 

1Tim 2:8  I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; … ▤ 

Note: Do not pray for show and do not babble on

Matt 6:5-8  And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. ▤ 

We should pray in secret to God “who is in secret” (v. 6), rather than pray publicly to be seen by the public.

Mark 12:38-40  And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 40who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” ▤ 

Eccl 5:1-3, 7  c Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. 2 d Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. 3For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words. ▤ 7For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity;e but God is the one you must fear. ▤ 

c Ch 4:17 in Hebrew

d Ch 5:1 in Hebrew

e Or For when dreams and vanities increase, words also grow many

Pray for persecuted Christians

Making Requests

See also:

Note that the teaching on prayer in general in the previous two sections – Praying before God, and Physical Aspects of Prayer – is also very pertinent to this section on making requests to God in prayer.

Ask for things in Jesus Christ’s “name”

See also:

In Jewish thought, a person’s name represented or embodied their whole person – including their nature, authority and purpose/s. As such, to ask in Jesus Christ’s “name” is to do so in accordance with all that his name signifies. It is prayer that is compatible with Jesus Christ himself and his purposes – and made on his authority (cf. NIV, ZBC).

When praying, people often use the phrase “in Jesus Christ’s name” (or “in Jesus’ name”) to signify that they are asking for something in Jesus Christ’s “name”. The usage of the phrase does not by itself mean that the prayer is necessarily in accordance with Jesus Christ’s “name”. Along with being conscious of and acknowledging Jesus Christ’s authority and role in our making requests to God, the content of the prayer is also at issue. Thus asking for things in Jesus Christ’s “name” concerns both how we ask and what we ask.

Bear in mind that the deeper one’s relationship with Jesus Christ becomes, the better-equipped one becomes to make requests of God in Jesus Christ’s “name”. (See also the introductory comment on God’s people ask the Father for things in Jesus Christ’s “name”.)

John 14:13-14  Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If you ask mef anything in my name, I will do it. ▤ 

f Some manuscripts omit me

John 15:16  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. ▤ 

Notice that the promise in the last part of the verse follows on from the presumption that those asking have been bearing fruit, fulfilling Jesus Christ’s purposes in carrying out their appointed tasks.

John 16:23-24, 26  In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. ▤ 26In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; … ▤ 

“In that day” (vv. 23, 26) refers to the time following Jesus’ ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost – inclusive of the present age. The second statement in v. 26, probably means that we are able to ask God directly, in Jesus Christ’s name; Jesus does not have to ask for us.

Matt 18:19-20  Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. ▤ 

Coming together in Jesus Christ’s name (v. 20) to pray (v. 19a) gives assurance of Jesus Christ’s presence (v. 20b), even his participation in and sanction of the prayers. Thus it engenders prayer that is in accordance with his “name”, effectively praying in his “name”.

  • Give thanks for things in Jesus Christ’s “name”:

Eph 5:18-20  And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, … ▤ 

Ask earnestly . . .

See also:

Ps 119:58, 145  I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise. ▤ 145With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord! I will keep your statutes. ▤ 

Dan 9:3  Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. ▤ 

Wearing sackcloth and ashes was primarily a sign of sorrow, but it also – along with his fasting – reflects the intensity of Daniel’s prayer.

Mark 5:22-23  Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” ▤ 

Perhaps this is not a prayer as such, but obviously it is still an example of making an earnest request to Jesus or God.

Luke 22:44  And being in an agony he [Jesus] prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.g ▤ 

g Some manuscripts omit verses 43 and 44

Heb 5:7  In the days of his flesh, Jesush offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. ▤ 

h Greek he

James 5:17  Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. ▤ 

. . . Even fast when making requests of God

See also:

Fasting promotes and is indicative of earnestness in prayer (as clearly reflected in some of the following verses). For when we fast, the ache and craving of our hunger brings an earnestness and intensity to our prayers. In addition, our hunger serves as a persistent reminder to pray.

Note that the references to prayer in the following passages are not all explicitly regarding making requests, but in most at least it appears likely that requests were involved.

Judg 20:26-28  Then all the people of Israel, the whole army, went up and came to Bethel and wept. They sat there before the Lord and fasted that day until evening, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. 27And the people of Israel inquired of the Lord (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, 28and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, ministered before it in those days), saying, “Shall we go out once more to battle against our brothers, the people of Benjamin, or shall we cease?” And the Lord said, “Go up, for tomorrow I will give them into your hand.” ▤ 

2Sam 12:16  David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. ▤ 

In addition to fasting, David also expressed his earnestness in seeking God’s mercy for his sick child by spending the nights lying on the ground. Note that David’s request was in the face of God’s ordained judgment on him (cf. v. 14) and it was not granted (cf. v. 18).

2Chr 20:2-3  Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude is coming against you from Edom,i from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar” (that is, Engedi). 3Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. ▤ 

i One Hebrew manuscript; most Hebrew manuscripts Aram (Syria)

Ezra 8:21, 23  Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. ▤ 23So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty. ▤ 

Neh 1:4  As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. ▤ 

Est 4:16  “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” ▤ 

Although not mentioned, presumably prayer is in view.

Jonah 3:7-8  And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, 8but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. ▤ 

Mark 9:28-29  And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”j ▤ 

j Some manuscripts add and fasting

The text note indicates that in some manuscripts v. 29 speaks of “prayer and fasting”.

Luke 2:37  … and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.k She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. ▤ 

k Or as a widow for eighty-four years

Luke 5:33  And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.” ▤ 

Acts 13:3  Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. ▤ 

Acts 14:23  And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. ▤ 

Ask persistently

See also:

Luke 11:5-10  And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudencel he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. ▤ 

l Or persistence

There are differing opinions as to whether this passage is primarily teaching persistence or boldness in prayer. The key is whether “impudence” (v. 8, cf. NCV, NIV) should be rendered “persistence” (cf. text note, CEV, GNT, NASB, NKJV, NLT, NRSV). The number of translations supporting “persistence” would suggest that this is quite possible. That persistence in prayer is probably the theme, is arguably also implied by the use of three similar terms for asking – i.e. “ask…seek…knock” (vv. 9-10). This is borne out in the NLT – “And so I tell you, keep on asking… Keep on looking… Keep on knocking…”

Luke 18:1-8  And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” ▤ 

The latter part of v. 8 points to the need to persist in faith (cf. AMP) – as is required in persistence in prayer – until Christ’s return.

1Tim 5:5  She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, … ▤ 

Deut 9:18-19  Then I lay prostrate before the Lord as before, forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all the sin that you had committed, in doing what was evil in the sight of the Lord to provoke him to anger. 19For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure that the Lord bore against you, so that he was ready to destroy you. But the Lord listened to me that time also. ▤ 

That the Lord listened to Moses (v. 19b) indicates that he prayed (cf. vv. 26-29), presumably quite constantly, during the 40 days and nights of lying prostrate before God.

Isa 62:1, 6-7  For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch. ▤ 6On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent. You who put the Lord in remembrance, take no rest, 7and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth. ▤ 

The speaker here is either the Lord (cf. NIrV) or Isaiah (cf. AMP). If it is the Lord, then v. 1 is not speaking of persistence in prayer, although it would still be applicable to it. The term “watchmen” (v. 6a) depicts godly people – quite possibly the prophets, particularly if God is the speaker. While watching for God’s salvation (v. 1) or news of it, they persist in prayer to God – never silent, day or night. Likewise all godly people are called on (vv. 6b-7) to give themselves and God no rest, petitioning God – until he establishes Jerusalem as “a praise in the earth”.

Believe and do not doubt that what you ask will be granted

See also:

Matt 21:18-22  In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. 19And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. 20When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” 21And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 22And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” ▤ 

Belief is vital in petitioning God, particularly in regard to things that seem impossible, as Jesus figuratively points out (v. 21; Mark 11:22-24 ). But belief is not merely making yourself “believe” what you do not really believe. Instead, it involves an understanding of God’s will and genuinely trusting in God to fulfill his will (cf. ZBC).

Mark 11:22-24  And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have receivedm it, and it will be yours. ▤ 

m Some manuscripts are receiving

These verses are from the parallel passage in Mark to that of the above passage from Matthew 21. Note that Jesus uses a similar illustration in Luke 17:6 (although he does not expressly relate it to prayer): “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

James 1:6-8  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. ▤ 

Verse 8 implies that one who doubts when making requests, in a sense cannot make up his mind (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NIrV, NLT). For he wavers between belief of sorts (as shown in asking) and unbelief (as shown in doubting).

James 5:14-15  Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. ▤ 

The broader context of the whole of Scripture would suggest that all prayer, including prayer offered in faith for healing, is still subject to God’s will. (See Ask for things in Jesus Christ’s “name”, and God and Jesus Christ grant anything we ask that is in accordance with their will . . .. Also note the refusal of Paul’s request to have the thorn in his flesh removed, 2 Corinthians 12:7-9; and that Paul left Trophimus sick in Miletus, 2 Timothy 4:20.) Some commentators qualify the sickness spoken of here, seeing it as only referring to sickness brought about by sin, or as meaning a spiritual weakness or weariness; but most interpret it as speaking of sickness generally. Note that the anointing with oil (v. 14b) may be medicinal treatment, although some view it as being of spiritual significance. Either way it is done “in the name of the Lord”, acknowledging that healing is ultimately from him.

Ps 5:3  O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for youn and watch. ▤ 

n Or I direct my prayer to you

Particularly if the alternative rendering in the text note is to be preferred (cf. AMP, CEV, GNT, NASB, NCV, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV), David appears to speak of making requests of God and then watching, presumably in faith, for God to answer.

1Chr 5:20  And when they prevailed over them, the Hagrites and all who were with them were given into their hands, for they cried out to God in the battle, and he granted their urgent plea because they trusted in him. ▤ 

Presumably the Israelite’s trust encompassed the belief that God would answer their prayers.

  • Everything is possible for those who believe:

Mark 9:22-23  And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” ▤ 

Give thanks and praise when asking

See also:

Part of the reasoning as to why we ought to give thanks and praise when making our request/s of God, is that it acknowledges and helps us bear in mind God’s blessings – including past answers to prayer – and in doing so reinforces our faith in making our request/s.

Phil 4:6  … do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. ▤ 

Note that the use of “supplication” appears to underline the need to make “definite requests” (AMP).

1Chr 16:4  Then he appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the Lord, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the Lord, the God of Israel. ▤ 

To “invoke” means to call on or appeal to God in prayer, which involves making requests.

Dan 6:10-11  When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. 11Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. ▤ 

Col 4:2  Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. ▤ 

1Tim 2:1  First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, … ▤ 

Philem 1:4  I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, … ▤ 

Ps 66:17  I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was ono my tongue.p ▤ 

o Hebrew under

p Or and he was exalted with my tongue

The psalmist’s cries to God for help were accompanied by praise.

Ps 71:12-16  O God, be not far from me; O my God, make haste to help me! 13May my accusers be put to shame and consumed; with scorn and disgrace may they be covered who seek my hurt. 14But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more. 15My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. 16With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone. ▤ 

Note: “The Lord’s Prayer” – the prayer Jesus gave as an example

Matt 6:9-13  Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.q 10Your kingdom come, your will be done,r on earth as it is in heaven. 11Give us this day our daily bread,s 12and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.t ▤ 

q Or Let your name be kept holy, or Let your name be treated with reverence

r Or Let your kingdom come, let your will be done

s Or our bread for tomorrow

t Or the evil one; some manuscripts add For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen

The clause “hallowed be your name” (v. 9) means may your name “be honored” (NLT, cf. CEV, GNT) or “always be kept holy” (NCV™). In v. 10, “your will be done” is speaking of people acting in accordance with God’s will and/or the fulfillment of God’s plans for the world. In v. 13, “lead us not into temptation” may have the sense “don’t let us yield to temptation” (NLT; cf. NIrV). Alternatively “temptation” may have a more general sense, referring to “hard testing” (GNT; cf. NRSV). Note that the conclusion of “The Lord’s Prayer” as it is often prayed in church is contained in the text note.

Pray for persecuted Christians

Epilogue: God’s Response to Requests

Note that a number of the subsections in the previous sections regarding how to pray are very pertinent to the theme of this section – because for prayer to be answered, it should be presented appropriately.

God answers those who obey and please him . . .

See also:

1Jn 3:21-22  Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. ▤ 

As noted earlier, the expression “if our hearts do not condemn us” (v. 21) refers to having a clear conscience before God, from obeying and pleasing him (v. 22b; cf. v. 18).

John 9:31  We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. ▤ 

John 15:7-8, 16  If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. ▤ 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. ▤ 

Being in Jesus Christ (v. 7) – knowing, believing and obeying his words – produces prayer that is consistent with Jesus Christ’s purpose and will. Such prayer will be answered. Regarding v. 16, the promise to answer prayer appears to be based on one obediently bearing fruit, as alluded to earlier. However some commentators consider it to be primarily related to the preceding clauses regarding being chosen and appointed by Jesus Christ. Either way it would seem that prayer regarding one’s work for God is largely in view.

Ex 33:17  And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” ▤ 

The final clause points to Moses’ close relationship with God, which is indicative of the fact that he obeyed and pleased God (as per the preceding clause).

Dan 9:23  At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision. ▤ 

As with being known by God (cf. Ex 3:17 ), being “greatly loved” by God indicates that one obeys and pleases God, amongst other things.

. . . God does not listen to those who do evil rather than good

See also:

Job 35:12-13  There they [wicked people] cry out, but he does not answer, because of the pride of evil men. 13Surely God does not hear an empty cry, nor does the Almighty regard it. ▤ 

Ps 66:18  If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. ▤ 

Prov 21:13  Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered. ▤ 

Prov 28:9  If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination. ▤ 

Isa 1:15  When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. ▤ 

Isa 59:1-2  Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; 2but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. ▤ 

Jer 11:10-11, 14  They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, who refused to hear my words. They have gone after other gods to serve them. The house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant that I made with their fathers. 11Therefore, thus says the Lord, Behold, I am bringing disaster upon them that they cannot escape. Though they cry to me, I will not listen to them. ▤ 14“Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble. ▤ 

Note that in v. 14 God indicates that the people’s judgment was fixed; their doom was sealed. As such there was no point even righteous Jeremiah praying for them.

Lam 3:42-44  We have transgressed and rebelled, and you have not forgiven. 43“You have wrapped yourself with anger and pursued us, killing without pity; 44you have wrapped yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can pass through. ▤ 

Ezek 8:17-18  Then he said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it too light a thing for the house of Judah to commit the abominations that they commit here, that they should fill the land with violence and provoke me still further to anger? Behold, they put the branch to theiru nose. 18Therefore I will act in wrath. My eye will not spare, nor will I have pity. And though they cry in my ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them.” ▤ 

u Or my

Note that it is not clear what the expression “put the branch to their nose” (v. 17) means. It may have been a reference to a pagan worship ritual or possibly even an insulting gesture towards God. Whatever the case, it was obviously offensive to God (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NLT).

Ezek 20:31  When you present your gifts and offer up your children in fire,v you defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. And shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live, declares the Lord God, I will not be inquired of by you. ▤ 

v Hebrew and make your children pass through the fire

Mic 3:4  Then they will cry to the Lord, but he will not answer them; he will hide his face from them at that time, because they have made their deeds evil. ▤ 

Zec 7:13  “As Iw called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,” says the Lord of hosts, … ▤ 

w Hebrew he

John 9:31a  We know that God does not listen to sinners … ▤ 

  • God does not respond to those who ask with wrong motives:

James 4:3  You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. ▤ 

God and Jesus Christ grant anything we ask that is in accordance with their will . . .

See also:

1Jn 5:14-15  And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. ▤ 

Deut 10:10  I myself stayed on the mountain, as at the first time, forty days and forty nights, and the Lord listened to me that time also. The Lord was unwilling to destroy you. ▤ 

Here Moses refers to his earlier request that God would not destroy his people (cf. 9:26). The last statement suggests that God granted Moses’ request as it was in line with his will.

Matt 8:2-3  And behold, a leperx came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 3And Jesusy stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. ▤ 

x Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13

y Greek he

“I will” (v. 3) has the sense “I am willing” (AMP, NASB, NIV, NKJV). In stating his willingness to heal, Jesus affirmed that the leper’s request was in accordance with his will, and so he granted the request.

John 14:13-14  Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If you ask mez anything in my name, I will do it. ▤ 

z Some manuscripts omit me

Asking for things in Jesus Christ’s name is akin to asking for things that are in accordance with his will. As noted earlier, praying in Jesus Christ’s name signifies prayer that is compatible with his person and purpose. Thus it is in effect prayer that is reflective of or in accordance with his will – and is answered.

. . . Further verses regarding prayer and God’s will

Matt 6:9-10  Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.a 10Your kingdom come, your will be done,b on earth as it is in heaven. ▤ 

a Or Let your name be kept holy, or Let your name be treated with reverence

b Or Let your kingdom come, let your will be done

The believer’s request that “your will be done” (v. 10) reflects the need for the Christian’s own will and requests to conform to God’s will. Note that the instruction to pray that God’s will be done on earth also reflects the need to ask for specific things to be done that are in line with his will.

Luke 22:41-42  And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” ▤ 

Jesus requested that his impending suffering be avoided – if this was in God’s will. The request was not in accordance with God’s will and so was not granted.

Rom 1:9-10  For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. ▤ 

Paul appears to pray that his request be in accordance with God’s will or, similarly, be achieved through God’s will. The case appears to be the same in 15:31-32 below.

Rom 15:30-32  I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. ▤ 

  • The Holy Spirit intercedes for believers in accordance with God’s will:

Rom 8:26-27  Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, becausec the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. ▤ 

c Or that

Most commentators understand v. 27b to mean that the Holy Spirit intercedes for believers with petitions that are in accordance with God’s will. However v. 27b could instead be read as meaning, “the Spirit intercedes for the saints, which is in accordance with God’s will.”

Sometimes God may not appear to answer, or does not answer immediately

See also:

Job 19:7  Behold, I cry out, ‘Violence!’ but I am not answered; I call for help, but there is no justice. ▤ 

Job 30:20  I cry to you for help and you do not answer me; I stand, and you only look at me. ▤ 

“I stand” presumably refers to standing up to pray – “when I pray” (GNT) and/or to standing up in a form of appeal to God.

Ps 22:1-2  My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 2O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. ▤ 

Ps 80:4  O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? ▤ 

The people (or the psalmist) are in effect asking how much longer God would reject their prayers.

Ps 88:9b, 14  Every day I call upon you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you. ▤ 14O Lord, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me? ▤ 

Hab 1:2  O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? ▤ 

  • God may answer without us realizing it:

Job 33:13-14  Why do you contend against him, saying, ‘He will answer none of man’sd words’?e 14For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. ▤ 

d Hebrew his

e Or He will not answer for any of his own words

The use of this reference here should be qualified. Firstly, the meaning of the Hebrew in v. 13 is not clear, as evidenced by the second text note. Secondly, “God speaks” (v. 14) is not necessarily referring specifically to answering prayer (cf. vv. 15-20), although it may well be inclusive of it.

Sometimes God and Jesus Christ refuse requests

Deut 3:23-26  And I pleaded with the Lord at that time, saying, 24‘O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours? 25Please let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.’ 26But the Lord was angry with me because of you and would not listen to me. And the Lord said to me, ‘Enough from you; do not speak to me of this matter again. ▤ 

2Sam 12:14-16, 18a  Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord,f the child who is born to you shall die.” 15Then Nathan went to his house. And the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick. 16David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. ▤ 18On the seventh day the child died. ▤ 

f Masoretic Text the enemies of the Lord; Dead Sea Scroll the word of the Lord

2Cor 12:7-10  So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,g a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ▤ 

g Or hears from me, even because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations. So to keep me from becoming conceited

This is an example of God or Jesus Christ not granting a request (v. 9a) because they have a higher purpose (vv. 9b-10).

Mark 14:35-36, 39  And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” ▤ 39And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. ▤ 

Obviously Jesus’ request here was not answered (cf. ch. 15). (Note the comment on Luke 22:41-42, above in . . . Further verses regarding prayer and God’s will.)

  • God can do far more than all we ask:

Eph 3:20  Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, … ▤ 

It can be inferred from this that sometimes God declines to answer requests because he has a plan far better “than all that we ask or think”.

Examples and affirmations of God answering prayer

See also:

Gen 24:12-15, 18-19  And he said, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. 13Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 14Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By thish I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.” 15Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with her water jar on her shoulder. ▤ 18She said, “Drink, my lord.” And she quickly let down her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink. 19When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.” ▤ 

h Or By her

Note that God began to answer the prayer of Abraham’s servant before he had finished praying (v. 15).

1Sam 1:27  For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. ▤ 

1Ki 13:6  And the king said to the man of God, “Entreat now the favor of the Lord your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me.” And the man of God entreated the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored to him and became as it was before. ▤ 

1Ki 17:21-22  Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s lifei come into him again.” 22And the Lord listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. ▤ 

i Or soul; also verse 22

1Chr 4:9-10  Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.”j 10Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harmk so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked. ▤ 

j Jabez sounds like the Hebrew for pain

k Or evil

Note that the latter part of Jabez’s request (v. 10) alludes to the association of his name with pain (cf. v. 9 text note), reflective of his birth (v. 9b).

Ps 21:1-2  O Lord, in your strength the king rejoices, and in your salvation how greatly he exults! 2You have given him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah ▤ 

The “desire of his heart” and “request” (v. 2) are probably concerning his victories and the deliverance involved (v. 1).

Ps 65:2, 5  O you who hear prayer, to you shall all flesh come. ▤ 5By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas; … ▤ 

Ps 99:6  Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called upon his name. They called to the Lord, and he answered them. ▤ 

Acts 9:40  But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. ▤ 

Acts 12:5, 11  So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. ▤ 11When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” ▤ 

Acts 28:8  It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him. ▤ 

James 5:17-18  Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. ▤ 

Further promises and prophecies of God answering prayer

Isa 41:17-18  When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them. 18I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. ▤ 

Isa 49:8  Thus says the Lord: “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages, … ▤ 

With the Messiah being in view, “I have answered you” may have a future sense (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV, NLT) or fulfillment – i.e. it appears to be a promise.

Isa 65:24  Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. ▤ 

This is an eschatological prophecy and promise speaking of the people of the renewed Israel. (Zechariah 13:9 below also has the renewed Israel of the end time in view.)

Jer 29:10-12  For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfarel and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. ▤ 

l Or peace

Jer 33:3  Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. ▤ 

Zec 13:9  And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’ ▤ 

Rom 10:12-13  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” ▤ 

  • Jesus knew God always heard him:

John 11:41-42  So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” ▤ 

Pray for persecuted Christians