Learning To Pray Effectively

God has a lot to say about prayer in the Bible. It is a very important two-way communication between God and His people. He wants to hear from us and wants us to hear from Him. God also wants us to selflessly pray for others, not just for ourselves.

Prayer is a topic that can and should be studied at great length by every believer. For the purposes of this teaching as a starting point to lead you toward righteous prayer we highlight several scriptures regarding prayer but will only break down into greater detail the teaching of Jesus, Himself, regarding prayer in Matthew 6:5-14. It was in this way that Jesus began teaching His disciples how to pray.

To learn more about prayer, you can review our devotions on prayer by selecting the Category “Prayer” or consider other resources such as those recommended on our site at “Study The Word: Books and Other Study Tools“.

1 Timothy 2:1-8

1First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. 7For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

8Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.

Ephesians 6:18-20 

18With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 19and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

Philippians 4:4-7

4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 5:23

23“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

Matthew 26:36-46 

36Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. 38Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”

39And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” 40And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? 41“Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” 43Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. 45Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46“Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”

Matthew 6:5-14

5“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

7“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8“So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

9“Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.

10‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.

 11‘Give us this day our daily bread.

 12‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]

14“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15“But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

Please do not skip over verses 5-8. While these are not included in what we commonly refer to as “The Lord’s Prayer” or “The Our Father”, they are critical points in teaching common mistakes that what we should not be doing. Do not pray for attention before men, but rather pray in secret for relationship with God. Do not use meaningless repetition… including just empty recitation of the prayer that Jesus shares in verses 9-13! This prayer is not a formula of specific words that must be recited, but rather an outline to help you focus your prayer in relating to God. It is meaningless to just memorize and repeat the words without truly dwelling on what they mean and how to relate to our God!

To explore this further, we will explore how to apply this outline for prayer with greater depth, so we draw near to God rather than repeat memorized words. (I am grateful to those who shared with me what I now share with you as I find it a very good application of the Lord’s Prayer.)

“Our Father who is in heaven,”

Respect and honor who God is. Take a few moments and be still before God. Contemplate the character of God:

  • The Great I Am
  • Creator of All
  • All Knowing (omniscient)
  • All Powerful (omnipotent)
  • Present In All Places At All Times (omnipresent)
  •           Unchanging (immutable)
  •           Eternal (without beginning or end)
  •           Incapable of Making a Mistake (flawless)
  •           Without limit or boundaries (infinite)
  •           Holy (worthy of devotion as one perfect in goodness)
  •           Just (behaving according to what is morally right and fair)
  • The Beginning and the End (Alpha and Omega)

In Ephesians  1:18-19 Paul prays “…that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.”

Reflect on the greatness of God’s power toward you as:

  • God the Father: Father, Provider, Shelter, Protector
  • God the Son: Righteousness, Holiness, Peace, Truth
  • God the Holy Spirit: Comforter, Counselor, Teacher, Guide

“Hallowed be Your name.”

God’s name is to be separated from the world. To do this, we must separate from the world and focus on God. Focus on the Old Testament names for God.

Consider, also, focusing on God through a worship song.

“Your kingdom come.”

God’s kingdom is where He has total rule and authority. It is a kingdom of righteousness based in free will. His servants choose willingly or even enthusiastically to obey Him.

This scripture represents submission to God to rule and control your life. You are asking God to make your character to transform to be more like His character to make the fruit you bear more like the fruit of Jesus’ life and ministry.

We must first pray “my kingdom go” before we can truly pray for God’s kingdom to come. Pray for God to take control of these areas of your life; release them into His hands.

  • My family
  • My future
  • My job
  • My finances
  • My ministry
  • My thought life

Write in your prayer journal any areas you feel like God is directing you to pray for specifically.

God’s character should be reflected in our character.

  • Compassionate
  • Gracious
  • Humble
  • Pure (in body and mind)
  • Merciful
  • Giving (in time and resources)
  • Slow to anger / Patient
  • Filled with love
  • Truthful
  • Forgiving
  • Kind
  • Faithful (to God)
  • Wise
  • Servant’s heart
  • Disciplined (self control)
  • Joyful
  • Holy (set apart from sin; set apart for God’s purpose)
  • Just (e.g. justice)

Periodically (e.g. once a week) pick one of God’s characteristics, starting with your weakest, and study its meaning completely including study of application in scriptures. This activity will renew your mind in that area and, in turn, transform your character to be more like God and our Lord Jesus Christ. After completing the list, start over again.

“Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.”

This should be our personal acknowledgment of God’s will to be done in our lives in His timing and His way. Ask God what His will is for decisions that you need to make this week or later this year and then listen and wait for His answer.

Proverbs 3:5-7 guides us to”5Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. 6In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. 7Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil.”

Write in your journal decisions you have to make and answers from God. Expect Him to answer, and then test the answer you hear against the scripture to ensure you are hearing from God and not from your own sin nature or from Satan.

God’s answer may not come during prayer time. It may come later that day or even the next couple days. Often His answer is not what we expect.

Pray for upcoming events as you write them in your journal. They may include things such as government (federal, state, local), schools, Christian leaders or ministry / church staff, missionaries, pastors, and of course events personal to your own life or that of your family and friends.

Pray for God’s will to be done for any individuals or groups for whom you are responsible or for individual people for whom God puts on your heart a desire to pray.

Consider writing down a prayer strategy in your journal and refer back to it periodically.

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

At this point, ask God to provide for your needs (e.g. home, family, finances, church, ministry, friends, etc.)

The body needs food to live, but the spirit also needs food to live. Jesus is our food because He is the Word. Ask Him to speak a word to your spirit. Consider reading a devotional from a book and/or a few verses from the Bible. Write down what stands out to you. Meditate on it and write in your journal an action plan for applying it to your life as you feel led by the spirit. (Meditation in the Christian walk is not emptying the mind and seeking nothingness as in some other faiths, but rather actively using our God-given minds to think about and apply the written word of God in our lives.)

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

This was so important to Jesus, that He came back to it in verses Matthew 6:14-15.

14“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15“But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

Examine your heart and be completely honest with what you find because your Father knows anyway. Confess these things to God and ask forgiveness. Then turn from them and sin no more. Ask the Holy Spirit to convict you and reveal any sins you are unaware of at this time. Confess these sins to God and again ask forgiveness, turn from them and sin no more.

If there is a particular sin that keeps recurring, create an action plan to address it. The plan should include prayer, focused Bible study, and possibly additional resources or partnering with an accountability partner with whom you can share your struggle honestly.

Pray that God would forgive, bless and be good to the people who you believe have mistreated you. The only way God will continue to forgive us is if we continue to forgive others. Hold no bitterness or resentment in your heart. Purge from your heart any desire for revenge.

“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

Ask God for protection. Ask Him to show you any snares of the enemy so that you might not be caught in them. This is where you must ponder your footsteps and consider where you are going or by whom something is coming. Write in your journal anything new that is coming into your life or anything that is already in your life that you do not have a peace about. Now, ask God if this is from Him or from the enemy or from our own internal sin nature. Test each situation against the word of God revealed in scripture. If something does not line up with the word, do not do it. If it lines up with the word, but you still can not get peace about it, seek advice from a mentor. Godly counsel can be very helpful.

“[For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]”

Acknowledge God and all of His attributes. Realize that God is on the throne and He is in charge. Everything is under His control. Let this truth comfort you.

Thank God for being with you during your prayer time and thank Him that He will be with you all day, because He will… our Father loves us!

Praying meaningfully through the Lord’s prayer can easily grow to take thirty minutes or more. Do not try to rush it! If you do not have as much time, pick some of the areas to focus on in each part of the prayer and then rotate which areas you focus on from day to day. Whatever you do, please heed Jesus’ advice:

5“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

7“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8“So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

As individuals within a global Christian community we can ask our brothers and sisters in Christ to pray for us. To submit a prayer request, go to our Submit Prayer Request page.

We at Hearing From Jesus will pray for you when we receive these prayer requests. We also invite other members of our community to visit our site Pray for Others page and pray for the needs listed there.

For those of you in the body of Christ that have a calling to pray for others… the prayer warriors among us… you may even consider adding the Pray for Others page as a favorite to remind you to click in and pray for God’s people in their need.

To study more teachings about effective prayer, review our category of teachings about Learning to Pray Effectively.

May the grace and peace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, be with you.

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