What is prayer?

If you’re like most people, you probably pray without giving it much thought. It’s just something you do. You pray before meals, before bed, when you’re in the midst of challenging circumstances, etc.

But even though you may not give it much thought, prayer is an incredibly profound thing. It is a privilege of incredible proportions.

In this article, we’re going to dig into the what, why, and how of prayer. We’re going to look to Scripture to learn the nature of prayer, why we should pray, when we should pray, how we should pray, and why we pray in Jesus’ name.


What Is Prayer?

Let’s start with the basics. Prayer is not primarily a religious duty. It is not something on a spiritual checklist that we must do in order to earn God’s favor. No, prayer is something else altogether.

It is communion with God.

When we pray, we are inviting God into the nitty-gritty of our lives.

We are conversing with our heavenly Father, telling Him what’s on our heart and asking Him to work in our lives.

Philippians 4:6-7 says:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Notice the intimacy this verse describes. Instead of being anxious, we’re to pray to our loving Father. We’re to unburden ourselves to God, confident that He loves us and will take care of us.

Pastor Adrian Rogers said:

"There’s nothing in life outside the reach of prayer. If it concerns you, it concerns God. We sometimes try to divide life into two separate categories: the secular and the sacred. We say, “This is the sacred part of life. We’ll pray about this. But this over here is secular. I’ll handle this myself.” But for the child of God, everything that concerns us, concerns Him."

Prayer is an ongoing, daily conversation with God. Just as a child converses with their father, so we converse with our heavenly Father. We have the incredible privilege of knowing God intimately and sharing our heart with Him.

Why Do We Pray?

Now let’s talk about why we pray. We don’t pray because we have to. Muslims believe they are required to pray five times per day in order to please God, but the Bible makes it clear that we don’t pray in order to earn anything from God or impress God.

We pray because we need God. We can’t make it through life on our own. We need God to strengthen and sustain and help us.

Pastor Adrian Rogers said:

"We don’t pray to impress God. We’re not heard for our “much speaking.” You don’t have to use poetic language or be an amateur Shakespeare. If an earthly child can speak to an earthly father, you can speak to your Heavenly Father. We’re told to cry out to Him as our Abba—literally translated “Daddy”—Father (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6). We’re not praying to impress Him."

We need Him to help us obey Him with joy and empower us to love our neighbors.

When we pray, we are admitting our dependence on God. 1 Peter 5:6-7 says,

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

God deeply cares for us and He wants us to cast all our cares upon Him. Prayer is a way of casting our cares upon the Lord. When we pray, we’re saying, “God I need you to help me. Please take all these burdens and strengthen me.”

Helpul Tools and Resources about Who God Is

Who Is God and What Is He Like?

For thousands of years, people have been trying to answer the question, “Who is God?" In this post, we’re going to walk through some of God’s attributes and begin to get a sense of who God is.

Read More >

When Should We Pray?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us when we should pray:

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

We should pray at all times! We are to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in everything.

In other words, we should always be engaging with God in prayer. There is nothing too big or small for prayer. We should pray about our most pressing, overwhelming needs as well as the “little” stuff.

Pastor Adrian Rogers said:

“Can I pray about small things? A parking space? That’s silly, that’s too small.” Can you think of anything that’s “big” to God? Nothing is “big” to God. Things are neither big nor small to Him. The biggest thing you can think of is small to God, and the smallest thing you can think of is important to God…if it’s important to you."

We shouldn’t think, God doesn’t care about this. God cares about all the details of our lives, big and small. He cares about your aching back and wayward child and financial burden.

In Matthew 6:26, Jesus said,

Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

If the Lord cares about the birds then He most certainly cares about the details of our lives. We shouldn’t hold back in prayer, waiting until we have “big” requests. Instead, we should come to God at all times.

How Should We Pray?

There is no specific formula for prayer. Prayer is a conversation with God, not a religious transaction. In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus provided this framework for prayer:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

We don’t need to repeat these words exactly. Rather, they give us general guidance on different things we should pray for. It is called the ACTS prayer method (A.C.T.S.):

  • Adoration: First and foremost, give God praise and honor for who he is as Lord over all.
  • Confession: Honestly deal with the sin in your prayer life and ask God for forgiveness.
  • Thanksgiving: Verbalize what you’re grateful for in your life and in the world around you.
  • Supplication: Pray for the needs of others and yourself.

If you are unsure how to pray or what to pray about, use the ACTS prayer method in your prayer time.

Why Do We Pray In Jesus’ Name?

Have you ever wondered why we often end our prayers by saying, “In Jesus’ name, amen,”?

Is there something special about praying in Jesus’ name? Yes, there is.

Jesus has opened the way to God for us. On our own, we have no right to ask God for anything. We’ve sinned against God, and our sins separate us from Him.

But because He loves us so much, God sent Jesus to save us from our sins. Jesus lived a sinless life and died in our place. When we believe in Jesus, God gives us the righteousness of Christ and adopts us into His family.

Because we are in Christ, we have free access to God. We can pray to Him without fear or hesitation. We can boldly bring all our requests to God, confident that God hears them.

Hebrews 4:16 says,

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

When we pray in Jesus’ name, we are, in essence, saying to God, “Lord, I ask that you would answer these prayers because of Jesus.” We’re not invoking the name of Jesus as if it’s a magical spell or anything like that. Rather, we’re confessing our dependence on Jesus and His work on our behalf.

The Privilege of Prayer

What a privilege prayer is! We should regularly, constantly pray. We can come to the almighty God and pour out our hearts to Him. When we’re burdened, we can ask Him for strength. When we’re blessed, we can give thanks to Him. When we’re anxious, we can pray for His peace. When we’re sick, we can pray for healing.

God doesn’t need our prayers. He already knows exactly what we need. But prayer deepens our relationship with God. Prayer connects us to God in a unique, profound way.

Pastor Adrian Rogers said:

"Prayer binds us to God. That’s why we tell God what He already knows. He knows what we need before we ask, but we’re definitely, specifically told to pray and to ask—not to impress or inform Him, but to invite Him, so we might have fellowship with Him, grow, and learn to depend on Him."

More Helpful Tools and Resources about Who God Is

Is God Real? Proof of God's Existence

There is strong evidence for the existence of God. We’re going to seek to answer the question, “Is God real?” We’re going to look at five “proofs” of God’s existence.

Learn More

Does God Love Me?

The Bible isn’t silent on the subject of God’s love. If you’ve ever wondered, “Does God love me?” or, “Is God’s love unconditional?” then this is for you.

Learn More

Why Does God Allow Suffering and Evil?

If God is good, why does He allow suffering and evil to come into the world? The Bible shines some light on the question of why God allows suffering.

Learn More

Related Articles and Sermons on Prayer

How To Have A Meaningful Quiet Time

Learn More

When Prayer Seems Unanswered (2190)

Learn More

The Warfare of Prayer (1945)

Learn More