The Principles of Prayer

How can prayer be defined? Why do we pray and what is the purpose of prayer? Is there a specific time we should pray or a specific posture when we pray? These and many other questions about prayer are discussed as we consider this important topic.

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The Definition of Prayer

After considering three Hebrew and seven Greek words that the Bible uses concerning prayer, Fruchtenbaum (2005:7) defines prayer as ‘human speech addressed to God’. When we pray, we ask something of God, we converse with God and carry on a conversation with God. So when we study the Word of God, God speaks to us, but when we pray, we speak to God.

Presuppositions of Prayer

When we pray, we already presuppose quite a few things. First, we presuppose that God is a personality so that we can have an I/You-relationship with Him. Second, we also presuppose that God is near so that He can hear our prayers (the immanence of God). Third, because God is omnipresent (everywhere, not restricted by space), He hears the prayers of believers regardless of whether they live in Kenya, Angola and South Africa. Fourth, since we believe that God is sovereign, we are making our requests to the Lord of heaven and earth. Fifth, because God is omniscient, He knows everything — including the wisest and best answer to our prayers. Sixth, God is omnipotent. Seventh, we also presuppose the promises of God as recorded in the Scriptures.

The Promises of God Concerning Prayer

God has made certain promises in the Bible concerning prayer. You are referred to Fruchtenbaum’s article for a detailed discussion of God’s promises (at least 15) concerning prayer, but we note only a few such promises. First, God wants to hear our prayers. This is seen in Job 22:27 and Psalm 65:2. Second, one of the ways in which we sacrifice to God is by praying to Him (Psalm 50:14-15). Third, under the Mosaic Law, a widow was under special protection from God (Exodus 22:22-24). If a widow’s rights were violated and she cried to God, He will hear her cry and He will avenge her. See also James 1:27. Fourth, if the Jewish people will turn to God, He will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:12-18). Please note that in context, God made this promise to the Jewish people. Sometimes this Scripture is taken out of context. Fifth, according to John 4:10, God will give eternal life to those who ask. Sixth, if a person is a worshipper of God, He hears the prayer of that person. As noted, there are more promises of God concerning prayer.

The Nature of Prayer

Prayer is an act, not merely an attitude. It is also a position (Luke 11:1-13), an act of specific petition, an act of an urgent emotion, even an emotional petition as well as an act of filial petition, for believers have a Father-child relationship. Further, the object of our faith is in God, for ‘God is our refuge and strength’ (Psalm 46:1) and ‘I will rejoice in Jehovah’ (Habakkuk 3:18).

The Symbol of Prayer

The symbol of prayer is incense. We see this not only in the Old Testament — ‘Let my prayer be set forth as incense before you (Psalm 141:2) — but also in the New Testament: ‘…the bowls of incense, which are the prayers of the saints’ (Revelation 5:8; cf. also 8:3).

The Reasons for Prayer

Why do we pray? There are at least eight specific reasons. First, believers are commanded to pray (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Second, Jesus told a parable to encourage people to pray because it is both right and proper to do so (Luke 18:1). Third, through prayer God bestows gifts and blessings (Daniel 9:3; Matthew 7:7-11). Fourth, prayer is essential to victory, as we see in Ephesians 6:10-18. Fifth, Jesus prayed, and He is our perfect example (Mark 1:35). Sixth, the early Church prayed and they too serve as an example for us (Acts 6:4; 12:5). Seventh, by means of prayer, God delivers us. For example, we are delivered from temptation, and discouragement, and adverse circumstances (etc.) by means of prayer (Matthew 26:41; Luke 18:1; Acts 12:3-19). Eighth, through prayer, God brings us to spiritual maturity.

The Admonition to Pray

Without discussing them, we note some texts that admonish us to pray (this is not an exhaustive list): Psalm 32:6; Luke 18:1-8; Romans 12:12; Philippians 4:6b; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17, 25; and 1 Timothy 2:8.

The Outline of Prayer

Jesus taught his disciples how to pray and provided an outline of prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 (cf. also Luke 11:2-4). We will devote a separate article to this important topic.

The Places, Times and Posture of Prayer

The Bible does not emphasize any specific place of prayer. We can pray to God the Father in any particular place, anywhere where we happen to be. Having said this, the Bible also encourages us to pray in seclusion. For example, Matthew 6:6 teaches that we should pray to God the Father in your inner chamber, having shut the door.

We should be open to praying to the Lord throughout the day or night, but as far as a special time of day, this seems to be up to the individual. The Bible speaks of a variety of times of prayer just as it does with places of prayer. There is similarly no fixed rule about our posture when we pray. It can be done standing, kneeling, prostrate, lying down, sitting, head bowed, eyes closed or open, etc.

There are many results of prayer, but as we conclude, we will highlight only this: God is glorified by means of our prayers, so let us pray (John 14:13).


If you would like to read more about Prayer, we suggest you read the original article and source of this post, The Principles of Prayer, written by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum and published by Ariel Ministries in San Antonio.

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