Prayer is one of the pillars of the Christian life. It is a privilege to take all our burdens, requests, and praise to Almighty God in prayer. When we pray, we communicate with our heavenly Father. Jesus taught His disciples to begin their prayer with “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9). In prayer we praise Him, thank Him—“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6)—and worship Him—“So the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped” (Exodus 4:31). If we make our requests known to our Father, with thanksgiving, the indwelling Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth as we pray (John 16:13). He will comfort us, strengthen us, and encourage us in the way of righteousness. How shall we pray and for what shall we ask? In this outline we will examine some of the great biblical passages on prayer, from which we will learn six vital lessons.
30-1 Pray As the Lord Prayed
Our Lord’s disciples asked Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” (v. 1). In the ancient world of the Old Testament, everyone did not pray as freely as we do nowadays. In fact, the prevailing opinion was that only a great rabbi could compose the words of a new prayer. Thus, many of the common people would say aloud the great prayers of the rabbis. John the Baptist had taught his disciples to pray; our Lord’s disciples asked Him to do the same. However, He did more than give them a beautiful prayer to recite. He provided them with a model to guide them in their daily prayers. This model prayer contains numerous lessons, including the following:
1) “As He was praying” (v. 1). Christ is our example of a person of prayer. Not only did He show others how to pray, He first set the example. This, in itself, made others desire to follow His example.
2) “Our Father in heaven (v. 2). True prayer depends upon our belonging to God’s family, through faith in Christ. For example, David began his “shepherd’s prayer with the words, “The Lord is my shepherd,” with the word “my” showing the personal relationship that existed by faith between David and the Lord (Psalm 23:1).
3) “Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (v. 2). Thus at the outset we honor the holiness of God and submit ourselves to His will. Indeed, we should desire not only our own perfect submission, but that of all on earth. Therefore we long also for His coming kingdom.
4) “Give us day by day our daily bread” (v. 3). Christ sympathizes with our need for daily necessities, and it is perfectly proper to pray for these anew each day. As God made the earth to spin, He made our bodies and minds to function day by day, with day-by-day needs; we are to come afresh each morning to him who supplies all things to His children (Mark 1:35).
5) “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us” (v. 4). Our own fellowship with God and daily spiritual cleansing require that we forgive others who have wronged us, because we ourselves have been redeemed through His blood (Matthew 6:14, 15). We have forgiveness of our sins because He is rich in grace (Ephesians 1:7). We are to forgive “up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21, 22), because God has forgiven us for so much more.
6) “Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (v. 4). We should not pray with pride in our ability to withstand any test which God might allow to come our way. Rather, we must constantly, humbly remember our weaknesses and each day ask Him to protect us against Satan’s temptations.
30-2 Pray in the Spirit
Jude tells us that we are to pray in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit especially assists in prayer; so we are to pray in the Spirit. That is, we are to be guided and controlled by the One who dwells within us. However, Scripture states that God will neither hear us nor look upon us as we pray, if we are regarding iniquity in our hearts or retaining any known and unconfessed sins (Isaiah 59:1, 2). “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (Psalm 66:18). We must first confess by name all known sin (1 John 1:9).
Paul reveals some of the benefits of praying in the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26, 27):
1) We need the Spirit’s guidance to know what to pray for. Just as a child tends to ask the parent for useless gifts, neglecting to ask for the necessities of life, we also need the Holy Spirit to guide us to pray more with eternity in mind, we do not know the future, but the Holy Spirit does. He alone knows what we will need and what our requests should be.
2) We need the Spirit’s intercession to speak to the Father for us. Just as a street beggar may not know the proper wording to petition a king, so we need the Holy Spirit to make “intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).
3) We need the Spirit’s mind to pray unselfishly, purely, and correctly. God searches hearts, and He sees when our prayers have an aspect of selfishness in them. The mind of the Holy Spirit, however, does not lead us to present petitions to the Father that His searching holiness could not grant. We need the mind of the Holy Spirit to pray in the Spirit (Romans 8:27; cf. Philippians 2:5).
4) We need the Spirit’s intercession so that we may pray according to the will of God. Well-meaning Christians often pray apart from God’s will for the world, for others, or for themselves. It is the Holy Spirit within the believer who guides each person so that he or she does not ask contrary to God’s will (James 4:3). Thus Christ, who was always filled with the Holy Spirit, prayed, “Nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). The Spirit must lead us to seek His will. We may pray fearlessly for His will because “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28).
30-3 Pray According to God’s Will
(1 John 5:14-15)
God’s will for the Christian is good, acceptable, and perfect (Romans 12:2).
1) The object of God’s will. God’s will includes holiness and His eternal plan (often called the decree of God).
2) Knowing God’s will. We learn His will first from:
a) The Scriptures
b) The leading of the Spirit within us
c) The circumstances which He allows to occur in our lives (providence)
3) Christ put God the Father’s will first. The ultimate example of praying for God’s will was Christ’s going to the cross with the words, “Not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). This agony unto death paid the penalty of sin for every believer (1 Peter 3:18).
4) Untrue perception of God’s will. When Christ clearly told the Twelve that He was to be killed in Jerusalem, Peter declared, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You” (Matthew 16:21, 22). Suppose Peter began to pray that Jesus would not be allowed to die? Peter would have been praying contrary to the will of God. Thus, we too must be guided by the Scriptures and the Spirit to pray, not necessarily for the most comfortable, immediate, apparent good, but rather for that holy, lasting, eternal, more important good, according to the will of God (Hebrews 12:2).
5) Praying in God’s will produces confidence. According to verses 14 and 15, “if we ask anything according to His will,” we have confidence that God hears us and that our petitions will be granted.
6) The Lord’s Prayer— “Your will be done” (Matthew 6:10). It is no accident that, in the Lord’s model prayer for us, the sentence before the beginning of our own personal requests is the prayer, “Your will be done.” To be effective, our requests must consider His holy purposes before all other things. God’s way is always best.
30-4 Pray Without Ceasing
(1 Thessalonians 5:17, 18)
As Paul closed his first letter to the Christians at Thessalonica, he stirred them with a series of brief exhortations (vv. 14-22). Among these we find the words, “Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks” (vv. 17, 18). Here are some life-long lessons for the believer regarding his prayer life:
1) Pray continually (v. 17). This command concerns the time of prayer. It urges the believer to a continual life of prayer with God—morning, noon, and night (Daniel 6:10). It teaches the Christian always to be in the attitude of prayer, and to be conscious of God’s invisible presence.
2) Pray continually, giving thanks in everything (v. 18). Prayer can wrongly become dominated by our asking “things” of God. Although asking is indeed a definite, legitimate, and biblically commanded part of prayer (Matthew 7:7, our prayers, like our attitudes in life, must be balanced. They should include constant thanksgiving—for the many blessings God sends our way, as well as for the trials which He allows us to face in order to mold us in Christ’s image (Romans 8:29).
We must thank Him for mercies even in these difficult times, for “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28) and that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing,” shall be able to “separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39; cf. James 1:2-4).
3) Pray continually, and don’t faint. Christ urges us not to cease praying when we do not see our problems disappear immediately. “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). Pray on, “pray without ceasing.”
4) Pray continually, “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
5) Pray continually, but “do not use vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7).
6) Pray continually, but not with an unforgiving heart (Matthew 6:14, 15).
7) Pray continually, but not to be seen and admired by men (Matthew 6:5).
8) Pray continually, including your enemies in your prayers (Matthew 5:44). This will help you to see that they often face more severe problems than those difficulties they cause you to endure.
9) Pray continually, “lest you enter into temptation” (Matthew 26:41).
These directions are God’s will for you as a Christian. “The will of God…for you” (v. 18) signifies that God both commands and desires continual prayer from His children. He desires your fellowship; He desires you to have His forgiveness, peace, guidance, and the fullness of His Spirit; He longs for you to have His rest in your soul; He longs to impart to you His good and perfect gifts (James 1:17; Luke 11:9-13).
30-5 Pray Believing
Faith is based on the knowledge that the Bible is God’s inspired, infallible Word (2 Timothy 3:16). We believe in God’s almighty ability and desire to answer our prayers from the evidence and testimony of the Scriptures. We must pray with the understanding that all things were created, and therefore can be controlled, by the spoken Word of God (Hebrews 11:1-3).
It is possible to pray insincerely, too casually, irreverently, or even flippantly, just as a person can say words that he or she doesn’t really mean (Matthew 6:5-8). Such a prayer is a false prayer, because it shows no interest in God’s power or purpose.
By contrast, true prayer, according to Scripture, includes faith in God’s power and will to accomplish what we ask. If we ask God for anything, but do not think it is His will, or do not believe He is able to perform it, in a sense we are not praying. We must be confident in what we know of God’s will, and have faith in His almighty power, before we can ask and receive the answer. “For whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).
1) “Ask in prayer” (v. 22). God delights in our seeking His face. He cannot allow us to think that great spiritual victories happen by chance or by our own efforts. He wants to accomplish His great works through us just as He fed the five thousand with the lad’s lunch through that hands of the twelve apostles (John 6:1-14).
2) Ask “believing” (v. 22). “If you have faith and do not doubt…if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed…’ it will be done” (v. 21). Some spiritual problems are as stubborn as mountains. Attempting to solve them in our own strength is hopeless. We must, by faith, ask and expect great things from God.
The prayer of faith lifts us above all outward circumstances, filling our hearts with joy and peace (John 16:33). Prayer not only helps us to find the mind of God and His peace, it helps us yield to His will. Beyond all this, however, Christ Himself has promised that our prayers will be answered (Matthew 7:7, 8).
30-6 Pray in His Name
Christ teaches us to pray to the Father in His name. what a wonderful name to be able to use, what a great Friend to be our Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5), what a mighty and holy Sovereign with which to storm the doors of heaven!
1) Christ knows that we are sinners, but when we are robed in His righteousness we are dressed as children of the King (Romans 10:1-10). By ourselves, we deserve nothing from God. But when we ask in Christ’s name, we can expect mountains to be moved (Matthew 17:20).
2) Christ assures us that prayers in His name will be answered. He does this strongly by using the words, “Most assuredly,” when He promises that the Father “will give you” the answer (v. 23).
3) Christ teaches that we must ask in His will, for that is part of what it means to ask in His name. Those requests asked in His holy name must be asked by one who trusts in Him as Savior (1 John 5:14, 15).
4) Christ urges us to ask “in My name” that our “joy may be full” (v. 24). “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).
For the believer these lessons in prayer will yield peace and joy—now, and for eternity.
Master Outline 30 – Lessons on Prayer
 ________________________ is one of the pillars of the Christian life.
 When we pray we ______________________ with our Heavenly Father.
 If we make our ____________________ know to our Father with _________________, the
indwelling Holy Spirit will guide us into all ________________________ as we pray.
 What are six (6) vital lessons of prayer do we need to know?
 The prevailing attitude in the Old Testament was only a ________________________ could compose a new prayer.
 What are the six (6) lessons of the model prayer Jesus gave His disciples?
 Jude tells us that we are to _____________________ in the Holy Spirit.
 What four (4) benefits do we need from the Spirit?
 God’s will for the Christian is _____________________ ______________________ and
 How do we learn God’s will? (Please list three ways)
 Whose will did Jesus put first?
 What does praying in God’s will produce?
 To be effective our request must consider His holy purpose before all other things. TRUE or FALSE. Explain.
 ___________________ without ceasing in ____________________ gives thanks.
 List nine (9) things we should do continually as we pray.
 Should the Christian always be in the attitude of prayer? YES or NO. Explain.
 What can wrongly dominate our prayer life?
 God desires ___________________________.
 Faith is based on the knowledge that the Bible is God’s inspired infallible word. TRUE or FALSE. Explain.
 Describe the three (3) attributes of an insincere prayer.
 What two (2) things must we do when we ask in prayer?
 The prayer of ___________________ lifts us above all outward ____________________
filling our hearts with ____________________ and ____________________________.
 What four (4) benefits do we obtain by being in Christ and using His name when we pray?