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16. Prayer

Purpose: To help the disciple understand the place of prayer in a life that is lived in communion with God.


1. The disciple will gain an understanding of three kinds of prayer.

2. The disciple will review the conditions for successful prayer.

3. The disciple will be able to better organize his prayer life.

4. The disciple will rate his prayer life.

5. The disciple will understand common misconceptions concerning prayer.

Scripture Memory

Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7


1. Mutual sharing and prayer time.

2. Discuss material.

3. Review questions.

4. Review Scripture memory.


This is a session that summarizes the importance of prayer in the Bible. Prayer is essential in completing communion and fellowship with the Father that I need in the Christian life. It is not something that makes me more spiritual. It is, however, a means of interacting with our heavenly Father, a means of ministry and support of others, and a means of receiving in relation to our need.

Three Basic Kinds of Prayer

The first is communion. This involves reading the Scriptures and hearing God speak to us and speaking to Him in return. It can be away in a private place or in public. It may be with open or closed eyes, whichever seems natural. It includes thanksgiving and praise.

The second kind of prayer is petition. Petition is asking the Father for things that we need. It can be in regard to everyday needs or larger needs. There is often the feeling that the Father is not to be bothered by very personal things in our lives. But we can be assured that He is interested in whatever our need is.

Intercession is the third way to pray. This is different from petition in that one is speaking to God on behalf of others and putting one’s self between people and the Father. Moses was interceding when He asked God to not destroy Israel—but if He did, to blot him out. It was intercession when John Knox cried, "Give me Scotland or I'll die". Intercession is probably more intense than petition, although not always.

Certain Conditions for Successful Prayer

1. Confessing and forsaking sin, Psalm 66:18; 1 John 1:9

2. A forgiving spirit, Mark 11:25

3. A spiritual motive, James 4:3

4. Obedience as a general rule of life, 1 John 3:22

5. Faith that we will receive what we ask for, Mark 11:24

6. Prayer according to the will of God, 1 John 5:14

7. Prayer in the Name of Jesus, John 16:23

8. Persistence—not giving up, Luke 11

9. Open ears to the cry of the poor, Proverbs 21:13

10. Right family relationships, 1 Peter 3:1-7

11. Doing it—praying—"Men ought always to pray and not to faint." Luke 18:1

The Holy Spirit has an active part in our prayer life and encourages us to know how to pray, Romans 8:26-27.

Our Father answers every prayer we offer in the way of a request. He says "yes", "no", or "wait a while".


This is a session that summarizes the topic of prayer and praying as it occurs in the teaching of the Scripture. It's not exhaustive by any means. But it is enough of a basis to give adequate information so that you or any young Christian can begin an active prayer life.

Prayer is essential if we are to enjoy fellowship and communion with the Master. It does not make me more spiritual. The reasons people pray are varied and sometimes are not according to the will of the Father and His Son.

Three Kinds of Prayer

We usually want to spend time with those we love. There is joy in talking with them and hearing them speak. This type of prayer is called communion. Write in your own words what you feel this is in your own life in relation to your Heavenly Father!

This can be accomplished through reading, praying and meditating on the words of Scripture. I can ask Him to make real for me the things that I read, as I read. Or I can be away in a private place just because I want to spend time with Him alone. It may be in public. It may be an open or closed eye approach. Whatever it is, it involves simply _______________ with Him. It may involve loving Him and telling Him how we feel about Him, listening for Him to speak to us, or thanking and praising Him for what He has done and who He is, Philippians 4:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Psalm 100:4.

The second kind of prayer is petition. Petition is asking for things and sometimes for people. In this light, it is different from____________________ which is simply having fellowship with God. Petition is asking for our needs or for the needs of others. Matthew 21:22 says, "If we believe we will _____________.” Sometimes I will ask for others. When I offer a petition for another, I stand beside the person for whom I am asking. We needn't be afraid of our Father’s lack of concern about things that may appear to be little to Him. God is interested in our needs irrespective of how trivial they seem to be. When I ask for these kinds of things, I am usually praying a prayer that is a _______________.

The third kind of praying is intercession. Intercession at times can be more intense than petition. It also involves being in a different position. When I offer a petition, I stand beside another. When I intercede, I am usually in between the person, for whom I am praying, and the Father. Moses’ prayer is an example of intercession when he prayed that God would not destroy Israel. But if God chose to, he asked to be taken also. Intercession was illustrated by Paul who said what concerning Israel, Romans 9:3?

Intercession was involved in the prayers of George Mueller, when he sought God’s provisions for the orphans he served. Read the accounts of the prayer life of Harry Ironsides, Oswald Chambers, Amy Carmichael and other more contemporary saints.

Certain Conditions for Successful Prayer

People frequently say that prayer for them seems to be a failure. Somehow they don't connect with God, or what they are asking for isn't on the Father's agenda for them. There doesn't seem to be any value in prayer.

The Scripture outlines conditions for a successful and fulfilling life of prayer. The remainder of this study will involve looking at conditions for a prayer life that is meaningful and successful.

Perhaps the greatest hindrance to an active prayer life is inactivity—simply not praying. We are commanded in the Scriptures to pray. See 1 Thessalonians 5:17. What does this mean?

I need seriously to ask myself if I have honestly tried to allocate time in my busy schedule to approach my heavenly Father on a regular and scheduled basis.

Other conditions for success include the following:

1. Psalm 66:18

What does this verse mean?

How do I do what is forbidden in this verse?

How can I be faithful to this condition? (1 John 1:9)

2. Mark 11:25

What is meant by forgiveness?

Why do we have problems in the area of forgiveness?

3. James 4:3

What do we mean by prayer with a spiritual motive?

What are some examples of motives which are not spiritual?




4. 1 John 3:22

To maximize my prayer life (to really make it effective) what should characterize my life generally?

5. Mark 11:24

What does this mean?

How can our faith increase, Romans 10:17?

6. 1 John 5:14

How do we know the will of God in prayer?

How are we to pray if we do not know for certain if something might be the will of God or not?

7. John 16:23

Write in your own words the meaning of this verse.

Is praying "in the Name of Jesus" a "magical" phrase that will get us whatever we want? Why?

8. Luke 11 (the story of the persistent neighbor)

How is persistence a positive thing in prayer?

9. Proverbs 21:13

How can I live a life that shows open concern for the poor?

10. 1 Peter 3:1-7

What is implied for the married in this text?

What conditions for the unmarried might be implied from this text?

11. Luke 18:1

What encouragement is given in the phrase "they ought to pray and not lose heart”?

12. Romans 8:26-27

What role does the Holy Spirit play in our prayer life?

List the problems you have faced in your prayer life.





How are you going to deal with these problems and get them out of your life?





Questions for Review and Discussion

1. How can our prayers be of any benefit to God if He has already predetermined what He will do?

2. In what way(s) is it possible for prayers to be hindered by forces outside ourselves?

3. What about the prayers of those who do not know the Lord? Does God hear these? Justify your answer.

4. How would you encourage a new Christian to begin to pray?

5. Why was it necessary for the Son of God to pray?

How Would You Rate Your Prayer Life?

Answer each of the following questions, and give yourself a score of 4 for "always", 3 for "often", 2 for "sometimes", 1 for “seldom”, and 0 for “never”.

_______________ 1. Do you set aside time for prayer in private every day?

_______________ 2. Are you able to keep your thoughts from wandering to other matters when you pray?

_______________ 3. Do you make yourself get up promptly in the morning in order not to neglect prayer?

_______________ 4. In public prayer are you able to forget the people present and make real contact with God?

_______________ 5. Do you always approach the Father through Jesus' name? Ephesians 3:12

_______________ 6. Do you diligently watch for and record answers to your prayers?

_______________ 7. After receiving an answer to prayer, do you fulfill any promises you made to God?

_______________ 8. When you pray in public do you resist the temptation to orate?

_______________ 9. Do you share with others when you receive definite answers to prayer?

______________ 10. Do you have a prayer list?

______________ 11. Do you wake up in the morning with a definite prayer in your heart and on your lips?

______________ 12. When others are praying, are you courteous and reverent, praying silently with them?

______________ 13. Are you willing to be the instrument by which God answers your prayers?

______________ 14. Do you keep your promises to missionaries and others who ask your prayer help?

______________ 15. In sickness or trouble of any nature is prayer your first thought?

______________ 16. In saying grace at the table do you avoid mechanical statements and really thank Him?

______________ 17. Do you remember to pray regularly, as God commanded, for our government?

______________ 18. When you instruct others in praying do you teach them to talk to God?

______________ 19. Are you free to incorporate Scriptural expressions in your prayer?

______________ 20. Do you refuse to use your public prayer to instruct or attack others?

______________ 21. Are you so in earnest about your requests that you come to God again and again with them?

______________ 22. Is your most fervent prayer all the time prayer for the salvation of the lost and the welfare of fellow Christians?

______________ 23. Do you really fight the interruptions that would keep you from praying?

______________ 24. Do you utilize prayer as a means of resisting temptation?

______________ 25. When you pray, do you honestly seek the glory of God?

________________ Total points

If you score 100, you have a rather outstanding prayer life. If not more than 50, put yourself at the top of your prayer list.

Common Misconceptions Concerning Prayer

Imposing Our Will upon God

God has given us the power through prayer to get what we want for ourselves, regardless of what He wants. Consequently, we speak of "power in prayer", and/or "a great force is unleashed in prayer!" These are two examples of Pelagian error. As Christians, we are not to try to impose our will upon God. The idea of "binding God" is blasphemous.

Prayers of Painless Piety

Prayer of painless piety asks God to do something for us that costs the prayer nothing. It is praying for the hungry when the prayer, rather than God, is the one who should do the feeding.

I need to participate in the provision of food for the hungry, if I am going to pray for them. It is helping the missionary financially and in other ways, if I am going to pray for their success. It is perhaps going to Russia and endeavoring to convert Russia, or doing something that costs me if I am going to pray for Russians. A little son of a very wealthy man heard his father daily pray for the needs of a neighbor who had little. One day, after such a prayer, the little lad said, "Daddy, you could answer that prayer if you wanted to."

Prayer Is a Magical Process

Prayer is a kind of magical process by which we manipulate God and get things. I remember my daughter when she was approximately seven or eight years of age wanting a bike that was being given away at a drawing in a local clothing store. She was going to put in an appearance at that store and be ready for the drawing to bring her name from the basket. Before she left, she wrote a little prayer pertaining to her getting the bike and put it in her pocket. She referred to it as magical. The magic didn't work, however, and her brother who couldn't have cared less won the bike. We need to remember that the statement "all things for which you pray and ask, believe" simply tells us that God is able to do all things. There is nothing we need to withhold asking for, thinking that He is not able.

Prayer Is Autosuggestion

Prayer is merely "autosuggestion" (believing that thinking about something will make it happen) and this explains how answers seem to come. This idea is ridiculous. Believing in autosuggestion is as much as to say that God does not answer prayer, or that He does not even exist. Only an atheist would suggest that there is not another person at the end of the line who hears and


Stereotyped Ideas about Answers

Answers to prayer come at once, or they don't come at all. This is simply not true. God may not answer all at once but in installments. After all, it is He Who knows our needs best. Only He can determine "how" and "when" needs need to be met.

Life Application

Begin to get your prayer life organized. Begin a prayer journal. Develop "prayer" pages for immediate and permanent prayer requests.

Read: Meditative Prayer by Richard Foster, InterVarsity Press, 1983 or How to Get Results Through Prayer by Jerry Bridges, NavPress, 1975.

Related Topics: Discipleship

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