How to Pray—From Basics to Advanced


As more and more Christians are being suddenly awakened to the dire predicament of a government seemingly having gone insane, with our God-given liberties being trampled on daily, and with the future looking increasingly dark, it is more important than ever that the members of the Body of Christ understand how to communicate with the Head of the Body, Jesus Christ.

And understanding about it, to then immediately put that knowledge into practice, for without it, we are toast!

This new blog series is partially based upon two lectures which I delivered to our Stone Kingdom Fellowship in Georgia in August of 2000. However, in the intervening years, I have, by experience and by study of the Word, been given significantly more to add to our understanding.

That will either be incorporated within the body of the lectures themselves as presented in this blog format, or I will add the supplemental material in separate sections at the end of this primer on prayer.

As is our custom when dealing with many topics, we shall move from the basics to the advanced. So if you are already a mature Christian, we hope you will pick up a helpful nugget or two as we move on to the more mature understanding of prayer.

Incidentally, chronological age has no inherent relationship to Christian maturity. Many believers who are in their 50s to their 90s have never gone beyond the baby Christian” stage, while some, a much smaller percentage by my observation, have some degree of Christian maturity in their 30s and 40s.

Most of us learned how to pray as children. But let us take inventory. How much have we progressed in our prayer life maturity?


Today we are going to embark upon a subject which is one of the most fundamental activities of a Christian. It is one of the most basic duties, yet it is one of the most blessed privileges of a Christian. The subject is prayer.

How *is* your prayer life, brothers and sisters? You don’t need to answer that because I don’t want to embarrass anyone. But could you use a check-up? Could your prayer life use a tune-up? I’ll bet we all could.

Look, I’m just as human and imperfect as you are, and if I look at myself and notice that from time to time my prayer life goes from pleasing and acceptable to God to a period where it’s downright thoughtlessly habitual or sporadic in nature, then we are guessing that the same is probably true of you.

From time to time we all lose fervency in our prayers, we get humdrum, we get in a rut with our praying. We could all use a tune-up from time to time.

As I was led to deal with this particular subject, it occurred to me that I have been ministering and teaching Bible as my full-time occupation for nearly a decade [now 33 years] and I had only taught on prayer once. Well, actually, that was a four-lecture series, but it was dealing with imprecatory prayer. I had never once taught anything on the most basic precepts of prayer.

I am embarrassed about that. Sometimes I get so involved in doing such long and in-depth series of studies that I neglect some of the basic building blocks for a well-rounded Christian life. Prayer certainly is one of those basic building blocks.

Remember about a year ago, when we were in the middle of our very long series on The Tabernacle in the Wilderness when we came to the study of the Golden Altar of Incense? The Golden Altar is not the enormous brazen altar out in the outer court where they sacrificed the animals.

It was the little altar located in the Holy Place, right in front of the large veil which separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. Immediately opposite the Golden Altar, on the other side of the veil sat the Ark of the Covenant.

Now when the priest came in and lit the incense on the altar and the sweet-smelling smoke arose up and over the veil, who remembers what the smoke symbolized? It represented the prayers of the saints.

I am going to invite your participation in certain parts of this message, so I want you to be thinking about how you would answer a couple of questions: One is: what is the most powerful demonstration of God’s answering prayer in your own personal life.

Now, I’m not looking for a half-hour report on all the details; just a couple sentence summary of how God moved mightily in a situation involving you and/or your family. Another question we will pose for your input is: why is prayer important?

Let’s begin by considering some simple questions. The most basic question would be: just what is prayer?

Prayer defined

Let’s turn to Webster’s first, not because the dictionary has any priority over, or that it takes precedence over the Bible, but because after we leave the dictionary, we will focus the rest of the lectures on what we glean directly from the Scriptures.

Even so, I think we will see that Noah Webster, in the 1828 edition, is right on the mark in his definitions. He gives this for the verb to pray. QUOTE:

  1. To ask with earnestness or zeal, as for a favor, or for something desirable; to entreat; to supplicate. END QUOTE

We find this meaning used hundreds of times in the Scriptures.

Genesis 12: 13 Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.

Genesis 13: 8 And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren.

9 Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.

QUOTE: 2. To petition; to ask, as for a favor; as in application to a legislative body. END QUOTE

Okay, that is obviously speaking in a secular, legal sense, as in Your honor, I pray the court would hear my motion for dismissal of the case.” But now Webster’s next definition is nearly comprehensive, insofar as the type of prayer we’re talking about.

QUOTE: 3. In worship, to address the Supreme Being with solemnity and reverence, with adoration, confession of sins, supplication for mercy, and thanksgiving for blessings received. END QUOTE

Listen to the elements of prayer as I read definition #3 again.

QUOTE: 3. In worship, to address the Supreme Being with solemnity and reverence, with adoration, confession of sins, supplication for mercy, and thanksgiving for blessings received. END QUOTE

Now if we add in here the element of asking for favors or something desirable from definition #1, that covers it completely… or not. We will deal with these elements individually later, and have more to add to it.

Thank you, Noah Webster. Let’s see how his definitions compare to the meanings as we find them from the Hebrew and Greek words. For the sake of time, we will just look at the verbs and mostly ignore the noun form, prayer. The primary Hebrew verb is H6419 palal {paw-lal’} which means 1) to intervene, to interpose, to pray and … to intercede

To intervene means to come between

To interpose means to place between

To intercede means to go between.

We can see the close relationship among those three words. They all relate to someone or something between. Intercession is a special type of prayer, which we will come back to later, but for now, we can see that it has reference to someone acting as a go-between.

On one level of intercession we know that the Lord Jesus Christ is our great intercessor. He is our one and only High Priest. We have access to the Father through Jesus. Any Christian can go directly to God.

In the Greek language of the New Testament, we find several verbs which are translated to pray. Greek is a very rich language and there are often just slight nuances of meaning between very similar words. Again, let me give you one or two examples of each, so that we can get a feel for the similarities and the different shades of meaning between them.

  1. G2172 euchomai {yoo’-khom-ahee} 1) to pray to God 2) to wish, to pray, to pray for

Examples: 2 Corinthians 13: 7 Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates.

3 John 1: 2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

That verb is only used seven times in the Bible. No. 2 is a much more common verb because it is used 87 times. It is also simply an intensified form of the previous verb. All they did was add the prefix pros to it and so we have the verb…

  1. G4336 proseuchomai {pros-yoo’-khom-ahee} 1) to offer prayers, to pray

We find Jesus using it in His Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 5: 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Paul uses proseuchomai many times.

Romans 8: 26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray [*p**roseuchomai*] for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

  1. G1189 deomai {deh’-om-ahee}. It is used 22 times and means: 1) to want, lack 2) to desire, long for 3) to ask, beg 3a) the thing asked for 3b) to pray, make supplications

Examples: Acts 8: 22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.

23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.

24 Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.

2 Corinthians 5: 20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray [deomai] you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

Number 4 is also a very common Greek verb. It is pronounced erotao {er-o-tah’-o}. It is used 58 times in all, but only 14 times is it translated pray. 14 times it is rendered beseech, 23 times as ask.

  1. G2065 erotao {er-o-tah’-o}. The lexicons says it means: 1) to question 2) to ask 2a) to request, entreat, beg, beseech

Jesus uses this verb frequently. For example, in

John 14: 16 And I will pray [erotao] the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

John 17: 15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.

20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

Finally, we have the word

  1. G3870 parakaleo {par-ak-al-eh’-o} which is another common verb, but only translated to pray six times. Here’s the breakdown of how it is translated in the KJV: beseech 43, comfort 23, exhort 21, desire 8, pray 6, intreat 3, misc 4, vr besought 1; 109 (total occurrences). Here are the definitions:

1 ) to call to one’s side, call for, summon 2 ) to address, speak to, (call to, call upon), which may be done in the way of exhortation, entreaty, comfort, instruction, etc.

2a) to admonish, exhort 2b) to beg, entreat, beseech 2b1) to strive to appease by entreaty 2c) to console, to encourage and strengthen by consolation, to comfort 2c1) to receive consolation, be comforted

2d) to encourage, strengthen 2e) exhorting and comforting and encouraging 2f) to instruct, teach

We just read where Jesus said He would send the Comforter. That is the word parakletos, the noun form of this verb. Here’s Paul before Felix, a government official.

Acts 24: 4 Notwithstanding, that I be not further tedious unto thee, I pray [parakletos] thee that thou wouldest hear us of thy clemency a few words.

We notice that Paul uses it there in the sense of begging. He is begging the government official for a fair hearing. As we know, the enemies of the gospel of Jesus Christ eventually had Paul arrested and Paul ultimately finds himself on a ship bound for Rome to stand before the emperor.

On the way, they run into some violent storms and are shipwrecked. Just before that happens, Paul begs the prisoners who have been fasting to eat some food.

Acts 27: 34 Wherefore I pray [parakletos] you to take some meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you.

We do not want to get bogged down in technical word studies, but I did want to give you some idea of the depth of this word pray, especially in the Greek. So with the technical definitions under our belts, let me share with you some more general, and descriptive ideas concerning just what prayer is.

For this discussion, we shall limit our discussion to our prayers to God, not to emperors, kings, presidents, or judges.

We could say that prayer is our heartfelt communication with God in which we praise Him, confess our sins, beg His mercy, ask for favors and give Him thanks for all things.

We could add further that prayer involves coming to God in attitude of submission to His will, and in faith that our needs will be met in answer to our prayers. Prayer is tapping spiritual power.

It is very important, however, that we recognize that prayer is not trying to force God to do our bidding, as though the Almighty Creator is some type of genie in a bottle, there at our beck and command.

That, my friends, is witchcraft. One of the components of witchcraft is the attempt to manipulate God, to manipulate spiritual power for one’s own purposes.

Because the adversary always attempts to counterfeit the genuine, we should not be surprised that prayer and witchcraft have some close similarities. Both are dealing with communion, or we could say both deal with communication between the material world and the spiritual world.

Both seek to have the benefit of spiritual power for results in the material world. But the difference between biblical prayer and witchcraft is 180 degrees. It is day and night; good and evil. One leads to eternal life; the other leads to the lake of fire.

Biblical prayer includes a humble attitude of submission to the will and plan of our Creator. Even as the Savior Himself taught us: …Thy will be done.”

Let’s pose another basic question about prayer.

(To be continued)


Up next The Divinity of Christ, part 15 In demonstrating that Jesus is God, we have seen that Yahweh-God says that He will not give His glory to anybody else. To stress the point: only God The Divinity of Christ, part 16
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