Three Types of Prayer
We have already discussed the basic principles of prayer and today we focus on the three types of prayer, namely private prayer, public prayer and eschatological prayers. We also mention the ‘ten most unwanted public prayers’ that should be avoided.
The first type of prayer is private prayer. The Bible is clearly not against prayer in public, but Jesus also encourages us to pray privately. In Matthew 6:5-6, Jesus warns us that when we do pray in public, we are not to pray hypocritically, i.e. merely to be seen by others, trying to show off. Instead, Jesus tells us to enter into our inner chambers, shut our doors and pray to our Father who is in secret. In this way, we can avoid all distractions and give ourselves over to the Lord for a time of prayer.
We should pray in harmony with the Word of God. Viewed positively, believers can rely on God’s promises, for example to provide us our daily needs. Viewed negatively, God is not obligated to answer our private prayers exactly as we want Him to. James 4:15 says, ‘for that you ought to say, if the Lord will, we shall both live, and do this or that’. Proper praying includes confidence that God will accomplish His purpose in wisdom and love but it does not mean that our specific request is guaranteed.
We are to pray on the basis of Scripture (James 4:2-3). Sometimes we receive not because we ask not (James 4:2). Or sometimes we do not receive because we ask in a wrong manner or in a wrong way. Perhaps surprisingly, it is alright to take your complaints and gripes to the Lord in prayer as Job did (Job 10:1-7), but if we pray expecting and demanding God to answer our prayer in a specific way, we are asking ‘amiss’ (James 4:3).
Examples of private prayer (this is not an exhaustive list) are found in Psalm 17:1-15; 72:20; 86:1-17; 90:1-17 and 102:1-28.
The Bible does not only teach private prayer, but also public prayer. In the Book of Acts, seven examples of public prayer are given: Acts 1:14; 4:23-31; 12:5, 12-17; 16:25; 20:36; 21:5; 27:35.
We are partly summarising an article by Dr Fruchtenbaum. In this article, he summarises the ‘ten most unwanted public prayers’, which were compiled by Leroy Patterson. According to Patterson, here are ‘the ten most unwanted public prayers’:
- Avoid the ‘solemn assembly prayer’ where the person suddenly starts to pray in a deep voice and says “Gawd” and not “God”.
- Avoid the cliché camouflages for a lack of preparation such as “we bow our heads before you”, “may our hearts be on fire”, etc.
- Avoid the ‘just’ prayer where the phrase ‘just’ is repeated many times: “just bless us today”, “just bless the sick, “just be with us”, etc.
- Avoid the ‘holy promotion prayer’ to raise support for some pet project (such as “we look around us and are reminded of the need to expand our facilities”) or a forthcoming attraction (“as our guest evangelist begins the revival series, may each of us bring our unsaved friends…”).
- Avoid the lecture prayer where the person is not only praying, but is using the prayer to give a lecture to the congregation.
- Avoid prayers where the term “Father” is overused and repeated too often.
- Avoid the ‘you know syndrome’ as if prayer needs to remind God of something, like “You know the situation on the mission field”, etc.
- Avoid the round-the-world-prayer where a person is asked to pray for one thing but then prays for everything and everyone in the whole world.
- Avoid the ‘payment-on-demand prayer’ which claims every promise in the Bible regardless of who the promise was made to and then demanding God to answer the request exactly as prayed.
- Avoid the ‘in conclusion’ prayer, or ‘summary’ prayer, where the preacher feels compelled to summarise the message he has just preached, even down to the three main points of the sermon.
There are four prayers concerning eschatological events about which we are to pray. First, see the discussion by Fruchtenbaum (2005:10) about the rapture and Luke 21:36. Second, concerning the Great Tribulation and Israel’s flight (Matthew 24:20; Mark 13:18): During the middle of the seven-year Tribulation, Israel must flee to the mountains and the prayer is so that ‘your flight be not in winter or on a Sabbath’. Third, believers are to pray for the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 13:33), we are to ‘watch and pray’. Fourth, during the Messianic/millennial kingdom, Christ will be the object of prayer continually (Psalm 72:15), the Millennial temple will be a house of prayer for all peoples (Isaiah 56:7; Matthew 21:13) and Gentiles will go to Jerusalem on a regular basis to pray and entreat the Lord for favour (Zechariah 8:21-22).
If you would like to read more about The Three Types of Prayer, we suggest you read the original article and source of this post, The Three Types of Prayer, written by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum and published by Ariel Ministries in San Antonio.
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