12 Biblical Principles Of Personal Prayer
According to the Word of God, prayer may be both public, for things that affect everyone as a whole, or at worship services, or private, for things that are personal. This study deals with personal prayer - matters that involve one's self, family, friends, or something that is very important to you personally, even if on a large scale e.g. praying for people who are suffering from a great disaster, whether natural (e.g. earthquakes) or man-made (e.g. wars of aggression). Although the core principle is the same for both personal and public prayer, the Holy Scriptures include specific instructions for personal prayer.
This study covers 12 Biblical principles of personal prayer. The numbers are for point by point clarity, not ranking; all are important if our prayers are to be "heard" (i.e. considered) by God.
1. Prayer Must Be A Humble Request
The English word "pray" originated from an Old French word, which originated from a Latin word, precari which meant to ask with humility. The English word "precarious," meaning depending on the will of another, originated from the same word. The English word accurately defines what prayer must be if there is to be any hope of a favorable answer from God - a humble request, not a demand.
The English words "pray" or "prayer" are used to translate a number of different Hebrew and Greek words of the Holy Scriptures. All of them have the same general meaning as the English word - a humble request.
Along with a humble attitude comes a humble posture - kneeling. Even the Son of God kneeled during personal prayer.
"22:41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed" (Luke 22:41 KJV)
The Church of God (i.e. in the Holy Bible, "church" means people; see What Is The Church?) prayed according to Christ's instructions and example, by kneeling for personal prayer.
"9:40 But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed..." (Acts 9:40 KJV)
"20:36 And when he [i.e. the apostle Paul] had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed ..." (Acts 20:36 KJV)
2. Personal Prayers Are To Be In Private
Jesus Christ prayed in public and in private, depending on the purpose. For personal prayer, the Messiah "departed into a solitary place, and there prayed."
"1:35 And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed." (Mark 1:35 KJV)
"6:12 And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God." (Luke 6:12 KJV)
The Son of God instructed His people to pray as He did - for worshipful purpose, not for show.
"6:5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6:6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." (Matthew 6:5-6 KJV)
3. Pray To God, In Jesus' Name
Only God has the power to answer prayer. Prayers are to be made directly to God, just as the Son of God Himself prayed.
"26:39 And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father..." (Matthew 26:39 KJV)
"6:9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven..." (Matthew 6:9 KJV)
As our High Priest (see What Is Jesus Christ Doing Right Now?), we can now pray to God "in Jesus' Name" - if we have the right to do so by truly obeying what Christ taught and commanded.
"16:26 At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: 16:27 For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God." (John 16:26-27 KJV)
4. God Answers The Prayers Of Those Who Truly Live In Jesus' Name
God hears those who hear Him, by truly obeying Him (e.g. see Why Observe The True Sabbath?).
"4:3 But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him." (Psalm 4:3 KJV)
"5:2 Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray." (Psalm 5:2 KJV)
On the other hand, those who merely claim Jesus' Name for their religion (see Is Your Religion Your Religion?) are not going to have their prayers answered by God.
"7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:21-23 KJV)
5. Pray Without Ceasing, But Not With Mere Repetition
The Son of God repeated His praying to God, as an act of faith and humility.
"26:42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.
26:43 And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.
26:44 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words." (Matthew 26:42-44 KJV)
The Son of God did not however "use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do" - merely repeating the words of a scripted prayer over and over and over. Prayer is to be heartfelt andgenuine (imagine if someone came to you with a request, but instead of talking to you about their concerns, merely thoughtlessly babbled the same sentences over and over at you).
"6:7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. 6:8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him." (Matthew 6:7-8 KJV)
God does not answer prayer to those who deliberately defy or disobey Him. While all people are sinners (it's even a sin to claim to be sinless i.e. "1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us" 1 John 1:10 KJV), God nevertheless answers the prayer of repentant sinful humans, if they acknowledge that they are sinners ("God be merciful to me a sinner" Luke 18:13 KJV; see point 9 below), and if they are doing all that they can to overcome sin, and if they are not hypocrites who expect God to forgive them and answer their prayer while they have not "forgiven the trespasses" of others who have sinned against them.
The "Lord's Prayer" (which was not given to be endlessly repeated "as the heathens do") teaches us to pray to God in a state of forgiveness. The entire prayer, which was intended as a lesson in Who to pray to and what to pray for, not as a prayer in itself, focuses on forgiveness.
"6:9 After this manner therefore pray ye:Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.6:10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.6:11 Give us this day our daily bread.6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.6:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 6:15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:9-15 KJV)
Prayer itself is an act of faith (when was the last time that you saw an atheist genuinely praying?), but having sufficient faith in God is necessary for a prayer to be answered. All good things are possible for those who have sufficient faith in God.
"21:21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.
21:22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." (Matthew 21:21-22 KJV)
8. According To God's Will
God may answer prayer for good things, according to His Will - which means that we must sometimes endure physical hardship for the greater good that is coming e.g. eventually, and ultimately, God does heal those who have terminal illness because putting aside the physical life, in due time (there are no righteous "shortcuts" allowed) is necessary for salvation (see Why Were Humans Created Physical?; also No Pain, No Gain). Even the Son of God Himself was given to endure suffering when God answered His prayer, not with a "no," but with a "not yet."
"26:39 And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." (Matthew 26:39 KJV)
9. "No" To The Self-Righteous
Righteous prayer is an act of humility by those who truly seek and strive to obey God. Those who merely do as they please in God's Name, or in Christ's Name, will not be aided and supplied in their self-righteous arrogance toward Him.
"18:9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 18:10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
18:11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 18:12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
18:13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
18:14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." (Luke 18:9-14 KJV)
10. Don't Pray For Worldly Lusts
God doesn't answer prayers for people who arrogantly ask for evil or vain things, for "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." Praying for the means to live in anti-God carnal lusts won't be answered favorably, for "a friend of the world is the enemy of God."
"4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. 4:5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? 4:6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." (James 4:3-6 KJV)
In some cases, fasting, which is also an act of faith and humility, is helpful - or necessary.
"17:19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? 17:20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.17:21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." (Matthew 17:19-21 KJV)
12. The Holy Spirit Is How The "Connection" Is Made
The Holy Spirit of God is the means by which God can "hear" those who pray to Him. It is also the means by which we want, and know how, to pray - and the Holy Spirit comes only to those who repent and obey God (see the Fact Finder question below).
"8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 8:27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:26-28 KJV)
Fact Finder: As we have read, God only "hears" (i.e. considers) the prayer of those who truly seek His Will. How can we know God's Will so that our prayers are heard for His consideration?