By Delbert Teachout
When I was a small child, I received a book about prayer that I used so much, I wore it out. A child could memorize and say those prayers, believing God would hear. Now that I’m an adult, the New Testament is my prayer book. The New Testament gives us model prayers, conditions for prayer, types of prayer, times to pray, and reasons why God may seem silent.
I’ve learned model prayers for all times of day—bedtime, mealtime, and morning. Another model prayer I’ve learned is the Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen (Matthew 6:9-13, King James Version).
After each line or thought, I include specifics concerning those lines. For example, when I say, “Hallowed be thy name,” that’s when I add specific praise using the names of God. When I say, “forgive us our debts,” I confess to God every sin I can remember. Using this technique and model, I can easily pray for an hour or more.
Conditions for Prayer
Through my years of reading, I’ve learned some important conditions for prayer:
• When we pray, we must believe God will answer us. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14).
• We must forgive others before we pray. “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25).
• When we pray, we should allow the Holy Spirit to pray through us. “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:18).
• When we don’t know what to say, we should let the Holy Spirit pray. “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26).
We are to pray everywhere and at all times, kneeling or raising hands, knowing that we are talking to the Creator of the universe who is able to hear and act on our prayers.
Types of Prayer
We can find several types of prayer in the New Testament. Here are three I’ve studied:
• Prayers for healing: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Healing may come in different forms or on different timelines than we expect, but God does hear us.
• Prayers of supplication along with thanksgiving: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). God always gives more than we expect, often when we least expect it. That is why we need to take our supplications to him along with our thanksgiving.
• Prayers to avoid temptation. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
Times to Pray
Jesus often went away to pray, where the crowds could not watch or hear him, sometimes early in the morning (Mark 1:35). Peter went up to his rooftop to pray at noon (Acts 10:9).
We don’t need to wait for a special need, a special place, or a special event to pray. Prayer should always be on our hearts, minds, and lips. Paul said to be “faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12) and to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Even though we don’t need a specific time to pray, prayer meetings ought to be as well attended (or better!) than the weekly worship service because they are opportunities for the body of believers to commune with God in community.
Silence from God
A humorous commercial shows a young lady calling her boyfriend to tell him she is giving him the silent treatment. Does God ever give us the silent treatment? Since God wants us to call on him, why would he remain silent? Let’s see what Scripture says.
Jesus said his commandment is to love God with all our hearts and love others as ourselves (Mark 12:30, 31). He also said, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:11, 12). Why would God give us anything if we are cruel or unkind, negligent or unconcerned about others? We need to treat everyone we meet the same way Jesus would.
We need to strive to discern God’s will in prayer (1 John 5:14, 15) How can we know God’s will? We can read the Bible, seek the counsel of wise Christians, and ask God to show us.
We need to be attentive to God because he speaks in different places and in different ways. Jesus said to keep on seeking, keep on knocking, and keep on asking until we have our answer (Matthew 7:7). Sometimes we have to accept no as an answer, and sometimes we have to wait for our answer.
Many times the Bible says to pray, sometimes in groups of two or three, and we will receive our answers. Instead of telling him the answer we want, we need to be listening to hear the answer he is giving.
Prayer is a conversation with our Father, and we can start right now. God is waiting for us to call to him so he can show us great things we never knew.
Delbert Teachout is a freelance writer in Wyoming, Michigan.
Resources on Prayer
Praying from the Gut
by Steven James
The Power of a Praying Church: Experiencing God Move As We Pray Together
by Stormie Omartian with Jack Hayford
(Harvest House Publishers, 2009)
Too Busy Not to Pray
by Bill Hybels
(InterVarsity Press, 2008)
Praying the Attributes of God: A Daily Guide to Experiencing His Greatness
by Ann Spangler
(Tyndale House, 2013)
Praying Backwards: Transform Your Prayer Life by Beginning in Jesus’ Name
by Bryan Chapell
(Baker Books, 2005)
All the Prayers of the Bible
by Herbert Lockyer
Into God’s Presence: Prayer in the New Testament
(Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2001)