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A Primer on Prayer Essentials

Is there a right way to pray? How do you get started? Here are instructions for individuals of all ages.

Prayer is the vital link between the believer and God. I don't want to make assumptions about what you and other readers know about prayer, and therefore I'm giving here what I would call a primer on prayer—an overview of the essentials.

… "men ought always to pray and not to give up" …

Why should we pray? Reason number one is that God's Word commands us to pray. Isaiah said, "Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near" (lsaiah 55:6). Jesus spoke a parable of which the main lesson was that "men ought always to pray and not to give up" (Luke 18:1). Paul told Timothy, "I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing" (I Timothy 2:8).

Because there is a devil, we pray. Because Jesus prayed, we pray. Because we have physical and emotional needs, we pray. Because we have material needs, we pray. Because we must communicate with our Father and fellowship with Him, we pray. Nothing is more important than prayer. As S. D. Gordon wrote, "The greatest thing anyone can do for God and man is pray. It is not the only thing; but it is the chief thing. The great people of the earth today are the people who pray. I do not mean those who talk about prayer; nor yet those who can explain about prayer; but I mean those people who take time to pray."

Many Christians face this problem: they are convinced of the great need for prayer, but they do not know how to pray. They are unable to get started right and carry through into a fruitful prayer life. For such Christians, the first necessity is understanding exactly what prayer is.

Prayer, in the minds of many believers, is asking God for things. But prayer is much more than this. In fact, the Bible teaches us that there are a number of distinct activities which are essential parts of what we know as prayer. These activities include: praise, confession, intercession, thanksgiving, and petition. Let's consider each of these individually:


One of the best ways to begin prayer is by praising God. This means to express your gratitude and love for who He is. It is adoring Him with all your heart. What can you praise God for? Praise Him for His love, His goodness, His patience, His faithfulness, His wisdom, His greatness, His power, His knowledge, His holiness, His grace. To these things you can probably add many others.


Sin in a believer's life is a roadblock to effective prayer. To remove this roadblock, a believer must simply confess his sins to God. Confession literally means agreeing with God; in this case, agreeing with Him about your sins. When he had sinned, David cried out and pleaded with God to restore the joy of his salvation. His relationship with God was intact, but the fellowship had been broken. Like David, claim God's cleansing and restoration, and thank Him for His forgiveness.


Intercessory prayer is, simply, praying for others. To be an effective intercessor, you must have a genuine love and concern for others. It is especially helpful to keep a list of the persons for whom you want to intercede before God. Be sure to write down their specific needs and problems as these come to your attention. The heart of the intercessor is an unselfish spirit.


Thanksgiving and praise go hand-in-hand. The difference is this: We praise God for who He is, but we thank God for what He has done. There are so many things for which to thank Him … Thank God for the full provision of His grace for both the spiritual and physical realm and make your own list. Thank God for His protection. We don't even know all the ways in which He protects us from spiritual and physical harm. But we must thank Him, even for what we don't know! Thank God for His presence. Everywhere we go, He is there. He is our constant companion.


Petition is asking God for personal needs. Of course, this is not a bad thing. Our loving Father wants us to ask Him to meet our needs, for it shows our dependence upon Him. Many believers have discovered the blessing of making a list of family and personal needs, and keeping track of God's answers to each one.


With these thoughts on prayer, here are 10 suggestions for making your prayer life more profitable:

  1. Make prayer your first choice, not your last.
  2. Pray specifically.
  3. Make prayer a priority.
  4. Choose specific times for focused prayer.
  5. Begin your day with prayer.
  6. End your day with prayer.
  7. Pray with an open Bible.
  8. Make a prayer list.
  9. Pray out loud whenever possible.
  10. Don't substitute family or group prayers for personal prayers.

Nothing pleases our heavenly Father more than the prayers of His children. He loves to hear us, and He loves to respond. He eagerly awaits to provide for us, comfort us, forgive us, protect us and grant to us everything that is according to His will.

Rev. Denys Blackmore is executive director of Every Home for Christ and a member of the Vision Canada Roundtable for Evangelism Ministries. Their web site is:

Originally published in Harvest Partner, January, 2000




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