Major Principles of Effective Prayer


By Joseph Ametepe

The School of Effective Prayer demands a lifetime commitment to learning since the depths of the subject of prayer are unfathomable. Though, there is so much to learn of the different facets of prayer, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can progress from one grade level to another.

Our focus at this level in the School of Prayer is learning about several major principles of effective prayer as revealed in the Scriptures. These principles are praying in the Holy Spirit, the place of obedience in prayer, the role of faith in prayer, being definite or specific in prayer, praying in the name of Jesus and the chief end of prayer.  Knowing these principles and living them out in the power of the Holy Spirit, makes us people whose prayers are powerful and effective. We must therefore give ourselves to learning these principles, trusting that God will use them to enrich not only our prayer lives, but also our personal relationship with Him.

A. Praying in the Spirit

"With 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" (Ephesians 6:18).

"But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit" (Jude 1:20).

1. Praying in the Spirit requires dependence on the Holy Spirit.

  • The key to praying in the Spirit is the recognition of our absolute dependence on the Holy Spirit, while seeking to know and relate to Him intimately.

2. Praying in the Spirit is a biblical truth.

  • However, many Christians have struggled with this subject. Some Christians choose to avoid the subject, viewing it as something practiced only by the "super-spiritual saints" and  highly emotional "charismatics." Others claim they are praying in the Spirit while their practice of praying in the Spirit is not consistent with the pattern of praying men and women as recorded for us in the Scriptures.
  • A biblical approach to understanding praying in the Spirit must begin with what both the Lord Jesus and Apostle Paul said about the role of the Holy Spirit in the believer's life.
  • The Holy Spirit is our Helper and Teacher and Guide, who leads us into all truth (John 14:1626).
  • The Holy Spirit helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should (Romans 8:2627).

3. What then does it mean to pray in the Spirit?

    • It is to pray according to the leading and teaching of the Spirit.
    • It is to pray with the help and assistance of the Holy Spirit.
    • It is praying with power from the Holy Spirit.
  • It is praying with the perseverance of the Spirit.

4. Living in the Spirit is necessary for praying in the Spirit.

    • A person who is not submitted to the Spirit of God will not have the thoughts and desires of the Spirit. Therefore, he will not be able to pray in a way that honors the Lord. Not only that, but God wants those who approach Him to come humbly with a yielded heart (Romans 8:5).
  • The one who is yielding Himself to the Spirit will follow Him, obey Him and listen to Him. Therefore, he will be able to do what is pleasing to the Lord and to pray according to the will of the Lord (Galatians 5:16-1725).

5. Praying in the Spirit is fundamental to a powerful prayer life.

    • When we pray in the Spirit, we will pray for the right things and in the right way.
  • Prayer in the Spirit is true prayer, for the indwelling Spirit of God initiates and inspires it in the believer.

6. The Word of God is essential to praying in the Spirit.

  • When one knows the Word of God, he is equipped to pray in the Spirit.
  • It is more important for us to know what God says to us than for us simply to say things to God.
  • What we say to God in prayer will be determined by what God says to us in His Word.
  • In the context in which Paul exhorted believers to pray in the Spirit (see Ephesians 6:10-18), we learn the following essentials:
  • One must be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might.
  • One must put on the full armor of God which involves girding up one's loins with truth, taking up the shield of faith, taking the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. The full armor of God is the Lord Jesus Himself.
  • One must persevere in prayer.
  • In the context in which Jude encouraged believers to pray in the Spirit (see Jude 1:17-21), we note the necessity of building ourselves up on our most holy faith.
  • The phrase most holy faith refers to the teachings of God's Word.
  • Faith cannot be holy without the Word of God.
  • Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ (see Romans 10:17).
  • When one studies the Word of God, one pursues a relationship with the Holy Spirit.
  • Those who do not have true faith, which is built on the Word of God, do not have the Spirit, and therefore cannot pray in the Holy Spirit.
  • Praying in the Holy Spirit goes hand in hand with keeping oneself in the love of God (see Jude 1:21).

B. The Place of Obedience in Prayer

"Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight" (1 John 3:21-22).

"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you" (John 15:7).

1. God is more than willing to respond to our prayers. He promises to hear them.

  • However, He expects us to listen and respond to all that He instructs and commands us.
  • Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, John gave believers the assurance that God will respond to their prayers.
  • He then gave two very important requirements for that assurance:
  • Keeping His commandments.
  • The Greek word translated keep is tereo, which also means to watch; to observe, as one observes commands.
  • Obedience to God's Word is the main issue.
  • Obedience plays a unique role in receiving answers to prayers.
  • Obedience to the truth of God cannot therefore be neglected by believers if they expect God to honor their prayers.
  • The Greek word translated abide is meno, which means to remain, abide, dwell.
  • The Lord Jesus spoke of His word remaining or abiding in the believer.
  • This means that the truth of God becomes a living reality in the believer.
  • The only way the Word of God becomes a living reality in our lives is by obeying it.
  • Doing what is pleasing in the sight of God.
  • The Greek word translated pleasing is arestos, which means to please one; doing something which pleases somebody. It is in this sense that it is used in 1 John 3:22, distinguishing between claim or requirement and satisfaction, the claim being the commandments and the satisfaction being those things we do out of the love that we have for God.
  • To experience the confidence in our hearts that God will respond to our prayers, we should learn to do those things that delight God's heart.

2. God's word states very strongly that obedience is the only path to blessing (see Deuteronomy 28:1-14).

  • Indeed, the believer experiences abundant blessing in his prayer life when he lives by the Word of God and out of his love for God does those things that please Him.

3. One act of obedience with a simple prayer is responded to by God more than many years of praying with unconfessed sins and acts of disobedience.

C. The Role of Faith in Prayer

"And Jesus answered saying to them, Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, Be taken up and cast into the sea and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it shall be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted you" (Mark 11:22-24).

"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let that man not expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways" (James 1:5-7).

1. Prayer that is effective and powerful must be offered in faith.

  • The ultimate object of faith is the living God of the living Word.
  • Faith is an abiding and absolute confidence in the totality of the Person of God.
  • Trust in the Person of God arouses trust in the promise of God.
  • The believer is instructed to fix his eyes of faith on God more than on the thing promised (see Mark 11:22-24).
  • The believer's faith is to be exercised continuously with expectation.
  • A deficiency in faith renders prayer ineffective (James 1:6).

Andrew Murray also wrote: "Faith in the promise is the fruit of faith in the one who promised. The prayer of faith is rooted in the life of faith. So faith that prays effectively is a gift of God.... Learn to believe in God, take hold of God, let God take possession of your life, and it will be easy to take hold of the promise. He who knows and trusts God finds it easy to trust the promise too."

Curtis Mitchell wrote: "It is not faith in faith or faith in your request but faith in God that is an effectual condition to successful praying."

  • Faith is not trying to believe something you want to believe.
  • In no case does real faith come by simply determining that you are going to receive what you want to have.

R. A. Torrey wrote: "Let us say with all emphasis, it cannot be pumped up. Many a one reads about the prayer of faith and then asks for the things that he desires and tries to make himself believe that God has heard the prayer. This ends only in disappointment, for it is not real faith and the thing is not granted. It is at this point that many people make a collapse of faith altogether by trying to work up faith by an effort of their will, and as the thing they made themselves believe they expected to get is not given, the very foundation of faith is oftentimes undermined."

  • Real faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans10:17). The one who will possess an unshakable faith in God is a diligent student of the Word, discovering what God has promised and simply believing the God of the promises.

D. Being Definite in Prayer

"And answering him, Jesus said, what do you want Me to do for you? And the blind man said to Him, Rabboni, I want to regain my sight! And Jesus said to him, Go your way; your faith has made you well. And immediately he regained his sight" (Mark 10:51-52).

"Behold, there came a synagogue official, and bowed down before Him, saying, My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live" (Matthew 9:18).

1. What does it mean to be definite in prayer?

  • It does not mean that we try to convince God to come to our viewpoint.
  • It means finding out what God is willing and waiting to give us in order to glorify Himself.
  • As we seek God in prayer, the Holy Spirit lays His will on our heart, because God wants us to ask and is ready to respond.

2. Christ responds to definite requests with definite answers.

  • Praying men and women of old came to God with definite requests on their hearts.
  • The synagogue official and two blind men approached Christ with definite requests (see Matthew 9:18-2520:30-33)
  • The Syrophoenician woman also brought a definite request before the Lord Jesus (see Matthew 15:21-28).
  • These all received definite answers to their definite requests.

3. What are the weaknesses of indefinite prayer?

  • It is vague and general without anything definite being asked.
  • Indefinite prayer is often a mere formality.
  • Indefinite prayer reveals that there is no burden, no urgency in the heart.
  • It proves that we have not searched and found out the will of God.

4. It is important to be definite in prayer.

  • Definite prayer teaches us to know our own needs better.
  • It enables us to find out whether our desires are honest and real.
  • It searches us and puts us to the test to see if our requests conform to God's truth.
  • It prevents us from babbling and vain repetitions.
  • It helps us to wait for the definite answer.
  • We are aware of the answer when it comes, and thus thank God definitely.

5. How can we learn to be definite or specific in prayer?

  • Search the Word of God and find in it the will, heart and purpose of God.
  • Weed out any objects of prayer about which you are not definite.
  • Take time to wait on God for the Holy Spirit to reveal to you what you ought to pray for.
  • Develop the discipline of recording your prayer requests.

E. Praying in the Name of Christ

"And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it" (John14:13-14; cf. John 15:16).

1. Prayer in the name of Jesus Christ is powerful and effective.

  • The repetition of the phrase in My name is for emphasis.
  • The expression in my name is a translation of the Greek word onoma, which means character described by the name, reputation, authority. It is used as the substitute or representative of a person.

2. What does it mean to pray in Christ's name?

  • The name represents the Person of Christ, that is, His character, purpose, authority and work.
  • The use of the name always signifies the surrender of our interests to Him whom we represent.
  • The Father is always willing to give what Christ asks.

  • To pray in the name of Jesus means:
  • It is to pray according to all His name stands for.
  • It is to approach and appeal to God on the basis of Christ's merits alone.
  • It is to pray in a way that is consistent with Christ's character and His interests.
  • It is to seek what would glorify the Father.
  • It is to pray with confidence that the Father will grant the request for Christ's sake.
  • To pray in the name of Christ requires our union with Him.
  • God will do whatever is conformable to Christ's character and His purpose, not simply what we ask.

Saphir wrote: "In all prayer, the one essential condition is that we are able to offer it in the name of Jesus, as according to His desire for us, according to the Father's will, according to the Spirit's teaching. And thus praying in Christ's name is impossible without self-examination, without reflection, without self-denial; in short without the aid of the Spirit."

Torrey also wrote: "To pray in the name of Christ is to pray on the ground, not of my credit, but His; to renounce the thought that I have any claims on God whatever, and approach Him on the ground of Christ's claims. Praying in the name of Christ is not merely adding the phrase "I ask these things in Jesus' name" to my prayer. I may put that phrase in my prayer and really be resting on my own merit all the time. On the other hand, I may omit that phrase but really be resting on the merit of Christ all the time. But when I really do approach God, not on the ground of my merit, but on the ground of Christ's merit, not on the ground of my goodness, but on the ground of the atoning blood (Heb. 10:19), God will hear me. Very much of our modern prayer is vain because men approach God imagining that they have some claim upon God whereby he is under obligation to answer their prayers."

F. The Chief End of Prayer

"Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (John 14:13).

"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. By this is My Father glorified."(John 15:7-8).

1. The essential aim in any petition must be the glory of the Father.

  • The Greek word translated glorified in from doxazo which means to invest with dignity, give anyone esteem or honor by putting him in an honorable position.
  • In the writings of John, the glory of God is the revelation and manifestation of all that He has and is. When God is said to be glorified, it means that His innate glory is brought to light, made manifest.

  • Christ Himself has left us an example in this.
  • He sought only the honor of the Father, not His own in all He did (John 5:30).
  • In His high-priestly prayer His burning desire and passion was for the Father to be glorified (John 17:1).

  • What is the strongest motive urging us to pray? Is it the glory of the Father?
  • Some of us will confess that self-will and self-interests are the strongest motives urging us to pray.
  • We can please Christ by making the Father's glory our chief object in prayer.
  • When the Father's glory is our chief concern in our prayers, they will be answered.
  • The distinct, conscious longing for the glory of the Father must be what animates our prayers.
  • May our lives and prayers refuse to see or seek anything other than the glory of God.

  • We are to do all to the glory of God, and ask all to the glory of God.

"Let us make His aim ours. Let the glory of the Father be the link between our asking and His doing. Prayer like that must prevail. It is a duty to live and pray so that our prayer can be answered and glorify God. For the sake of God's glory, let us learn to pray well." - Andrew Murray

God Bless You.