Prerequisites to Prayer

By Joseph Ametepe


To efficiently and effectively carry out a task, one must not only know its importance, but also, certain necessary steps and requirements for its accomplishment. Prayer, the highest and holiest service of the believer, has certain prerequisites that make its labor and toil more fruitful and efficient.

What preparations should we make before approaching God? Do we rush unpreparedly into the presence of God? When we learn the necessary preparations that need to be made before approaching God, diligently applying them while in His presence, prayer will be more effective and fruitful in our lives.

A. Realizing the Presence of God

"And the LORD said to him, I have heard your prayer and your supplication, which you have made before Me" (1 Kings 9:3).

"Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us" (Psalm 62:8).


1. It is in the presence of the true and living God that we truly pray effectively.


  • Our proper place in prayer is truly before God. Our prayer must be "before God" to be an acceptable prayer.
  • Unfortunately many pray, but not in God's presence, even when the prayer is offered in the temple.
  • The Pharisee prayed in his own esteem, but he left the temple (the most holy place) without justification (see Luke 18:9). His prayer was not heard as King Solomon's was. He had not prayed "before God" despite making his prayer in the temple.


2. The major point of this prerequisite is knowing who your audience is.


  • Who are you conscious of when praying? The believer should endeavor in prayer to realize the presence of God and direct his prayer to Him alone.
  • You are praying before God when you have realized and have become very aware of His presence.
  • Charles Spurgeon wrote:

    "It is not because you enter a church and sit in a pew that you are before God. To seek the shrines that have been most eminently regarded by the church, to stand by the site of that little skull-like hill called Calvary and pray there, to go to Olivet and bow your knee in Gethsemane, does not necessarily bring you before God. The nearer we are to the church, sometimes, the farther we are from God. We can be in the very center of the prayer meeting and not be "before God" at all. Praying before God is a more spiritual business than is performed by merely turning to the east or to the west or bowing the knee or entering within the walls hallowed for ages."


3. The prayer that is made before God hears the assuring voice of God saying, "I have heard your prayer and supplication, which you have made before Me."


B. Revering the Person of God


"Guard your steps as you go to the house of God, and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil. Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on earth; therefore let your words be few" (Ecclesiastes 5:1-2).
"Let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:28-29).


1. Anyone who prays effectively approaches the presence of the living God in reverence and awe.


  • Believers have been given a glorious privilege to draw near to the God of all grace.
  • Yet we must remember that the God we approach is also holy, righteous, and Most High over and above all.
  • We have lost our awe of God, hence our attitude toward God has become very irreverential and casual.


  • Bethel is the Hebrew expression for the house of God.
  • The first occurrence of this term in the Bible is found in Genesis 28:17,19.
  • God had revealed Himself to Jacob in a dream.
  • Jacob's response was one of awe and prayer.
  • It is therefore noteworthy that the house of God is a house of prayer (see Isaiah 56:7Luke 19:46).


2. According to King Solomon, all who approach God without a reverential attitude receive this strong rebuke: "they do not know they are doing evil."


  • Many of us have "offered the sacrifice of fools" in the presence of God, thinking we are really praying.


  • In what ways do we "offer the sacrifice of fools"?
  • By being hasty in word (literally, with our mouth) in the presence of God.
  • Bahal is the Hebrew verb which means to be quick, overhasty; to accelerate, to do something hastily. It also indicates panic.
  • By being impulsive in thought (literally, hurry your heart).
  • We make requests without careful thinking and diligent seeking of the will of God.


3. In what ways do we show Him our reverence?


  • By recognizing that He is exalted above and over all. "God is in heaven and you are on the earth."
  • By employing the help of the Spirit in restraining our hearts and minds and mouths:
  • From being hasty. We should endeavor not to say to Him what we don't sincerely mean from our hearts.
  • From babbling in prayer. We should let our words be few.
  • We should not use the name of the Lord as a fillerin every sentence of our prayer.
  • God is never impressed by many words that lack the commitment of our heart and soul.


  • By being attentive listeners in His presence. "Draw near to listen."


4. Prayer is not only talking to God, but also listening attentively to what the Spirit of God has to say to us.


  • "Shama" is the Hebrew verb meaning to hear intelligently (with attention or obedience), to give undivided listening attention.


  • The Psalmist declares "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).


C. Reflecting on the Person of God and His Word


"For You ,Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You. For You are great and do wondrous deeds; You alone are God. But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth" (Psalm 86:5,10,15).

"I will meditate on Your precepts, and regard Your ways"(Psalm 119:15; cf. vv. 23274878148).


1. Meditation is an essential requirement to effective prayer.


  • No other man has pursued this godly discipline more fervently and fruitfully than King David. Most of the psalms he wrote are the result of his reflection upon the Person of God and His Word.


  • Meditation cannot be neglected, neither can it be secondary. To pray effectively, we should be people who take the discipline of meditation seriously.
  • "Siyach" is the Hebrew verb meaning to ponder, to meditate, to muse; to pray, to talk to oneself (i.e., to meditate upon divine things).
  • The word conveys the idea of going over a matter in one's mind, i.e. rehearsing it, whether inwardly or outwardly.


  • In his book, Knowing God, J.I. Packer defines meditation as follows:
    "Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God. It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God as a means of communion with God, and to let His truth make its full and proper impact on one's mind and heart. It is a matter of talking to oneself about God and oneself; it is, indeed, often a matter of arguing with oneself, reasoning oneself out of moods of doubt and unbelief into a clear apprehension of God's power and grace. Its effect is to ever humble us as we contemplate God's greatness and glory, and our own littleness and sinfulness and to encourage and reassure us-comfort us in the old, strong Bible sense of the word-as we contemplate the unsearchable riches of divine mercy displayed in the Lord Jesus Christ."


2. Meditation enlarges our understanding of who God is, His character and ways.


  • When we meditate on the greatness of God, One who is infinite in power and absolute in faithfulness, the great mountains of troubles and heartaches in our lives shrink as we see them in the light of the presence and greatness of God.
  • Because the discipline of meditation is foreign to most of us, we easily focus on our difficulties to the point of intensifying and enlarging the problem. The result is that we end up feeling overwhelmed, discouraged, depressed and weakened in faith.


3. By meditating on God and recalling the promises He has given us in His Word, our faith grows and our fears dissolve.


  • Our troubled hearts are set at rest in God as we gain new confidence in Him.
  • We are enabled then to make our prayers with great confidence and conviction that please God.


"And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).


D. Remaining in God and His Word


"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine-dresser. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless youabide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he whoabides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me,he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; they gather them, and cast them into fire, they are burned. 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, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples" (John 15:14-8).


1. An important condition which Christ taught as a prerequisite to effective prayer is abiding.


2. Definition of the Term abide.


  • Meno is the Greek word meaning to remain, abide, dwell, endure, last.
  • The word abide is always followed by the preposition in in this passage.
  • Therefore, abide in is the total concept.
  • The idea is to remain in vital contact with someone or something.
  • The abide in construction is used to depict the spiritual relationship existing between Christ and the Father, and between Christ and the believer.
  • The concept depicts one person wholly joined with, totally submissive to and dependent upon another.
  • It involves being under the power and influence of another.


  • To abide in Christ is to be so connected to Christ as to have uninterrupted fellowship with Him.
  • The second clause in verse 7, "and My words abide in you" is a further explanation of what it really means to abide in Christ.
  • It is remaining in reliance upon Him, of being open to receive from Him the spiritual vitality for successful fruit bearing.


  • Abiding involves the perpetuation of a close, communal relationship between Christ and the believer.
  • An obvious implication of abiding is submission to Christ and His words.


  • A carnal Christian is not an abiding Christian, and, therefore, cannot lay claim to the prayer promises of Christ.
  • In simple terms, abiding in Christ is, in reality, practicing the words of the old hymn Trust and Obey: "Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."

  • Believers who seriously take this prerequisite to effective prayer, abiding in Christ and in His words, and diligently apply it in their lives will find the promise is sure and steadfast: "Ask whatever you wish and it shall be done for you" (John 15:7).

E. The Practice of Prayer

Many believers know more about prayer than they ever practice in their own lives. We have attended many seminars on prayer and read many books on prayer, but we have practiced very little of it. Sadly, there is no consistency in our practice of prayer to the detriment of our own spiritual growth. The Lord Jesus taught about prayer. But more importantly He practiced it also. The apostles followed in the footsteps of their Lord and Master. They not only taught about prayer, but also, they diligently and devotedly practiced it. They learned that the best way to learn to pray is to commit oneself to the practice of prayer.
1. Times of Prayer

"As for me, I shall call upon God, and the LORD will save me. Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur, and He will hear my voice" (Psalm 55:1617; cf. Daniel 6:10).

"And early in the morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there" (Mark 1:35).

"Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer" (Acts 3:1).


  • We should and must pray, and must deliberately make time to pray.
  • Christ and other praying saints of old often had to make time to pray and we must also.
  • Neither Christ nor the apostles designated a specific hour of the day for the practice of prayer.
  • Although David and Daniel were men of prayer, they did not specify a particular hour of the day at which we should pray.


  • The enemy of our soul will rarely allow times for prayer to be convenient and comfortable for us.
  • He knows how crucial they are for believers and hence gives us many excuses why we should not pray.
2. Places of Prayer

"Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish, and he said,I called out of my distress to the LORD, and He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice" (Jonah 2:1-2).

"And He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there" (Mark 1:35).

"Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer" (Acts 3:1).

"Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour (noon) to pray" (Acts 10:9).


  • The most important principle Christ preached and practiced regarding the place of prayer is seclusion.
  • We have already stated that the proper place to pray is before God.
  • Christ, our true model of effective praying prayed, in a great variety of locations, namely, in the wilderness (see Matthew 4:1,2), on mountain tops (see Luke 6:12), and in gardens (see Luke 22:39-45).
  • The praying men and women of the Old and New Testaments prayed in all kinds of places.
  • The prophet Jonah prayed in the most obscured place, in the belly of the fish. And yet his prayer was heard by the Lord his God. This clearly shows that God is ready and willing to hear the humble prayers of His people, no matter where they cry to Him from.
  • The clear implication is that prayer can be offered at any physical and geographical location.
  • There are so many things that easily distract our focus in prayer. Seclusion eliminates most of these distractions. This, however, is not to say that public prayer is illegitimate or ineffective.
3. Posture in Prayer

"Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously" (Daniel 6:10).

"Then he stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands. Now Solomon had made a bronze platform... and he stood on it,knelt on his knees ... and spread out his hands toward heaven" (2 Chronicles 6:12,13).

  • It is the heart attitude, not the physical position, that makes prayer effective and fruitful.
  • The position of the body in prayer is, at best a secondary issue.
4. Duration of Prayer

"They read from the book of the law of the LORD their God for a fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshipped the LORD their God" (Nehemiah 9:13).

"He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God" (Luke 6:12).

  • We are to pray as long as the Holy Spirit directs us and as we have earnest needs to lay before God.
    • The Bible has not specified how long one should pray in a day. It however teaches consistency in prayer.

  • "If you are tuned in spiritually, you will be sensitive to needs and driven to prayer with increased frequency and intensity. If this is not true in your life, it probably indicates that spiritual stagnation has set in." -Curtis Mitchell




"Our speaking to ourselves in meditation, should go before our speaking to God in prayer." - Richard Baxter

"Meditation is the best preparation for prayer, so prayer is the best issue of meditation. Meditation and prayer go together." - Matthew Henry

"Meditation is a middle sort of duty between the word and prayer, and hath respect to both. The word feedeth meditation, and meditation feedeth prayer. These duties must always go hand in hand; meditation must follow hearing and precede prayer. To hear and not to meditate is unfruitful. We may hear and hear, but it is like putting a thing into a bag with holes... It is rashness to pray and not to meditate. What we take in by the word we digest by meditation and let out by prayer. These three duties must be ordered that one may jostle out the other. Men are barren, dry, and sapless in their prayers for want of exercising themselves in holy thoughts." - Thomas Manton

"What is the reason that our desires like an arrow shot by a weak bow do not reach the mark? but only this, we do not meditate before prayer...The great reason why our prayers are ineffectual, is because we do not meditate before them." - William Bates

"Do you think anyone of us spends enough time pondering and marveling over God's exceeding great glory? And do you suppose that any of us has grasped the full meaning of the word "grace"? Are not our prayers so often ineffective and powerless because we rush unthinkingly and unpreparedly into God's presence, without realizing the majesty and glory of the God Whom we are approaching and without reflecting upon the exceeding great riches of His glory in Christ Jesus, which we hope to draw upon? We must "think magnificently of God." May we then suggest that before we lay our petitions before God we first dwell in meditation upon His glory and then upon His grace, for He offers both. We must lift up the soul to God. Let us place ourselves, as it were, in the presence of God and direct our prayer to the "King of kings, and Lord of lords, who only has immortality, dwelling in light unapproachableŠ to Whom be honor and power eternal" (1 Timothy 6:16). Let us often meditate upon Christ's glory, gaze upon it and so reflect it and receive it." - An Unknown Christian

"As it is the sister of reading, so it is the mother of prayer. Though a man's heart be much indisposed to prayer, yet, if he can but fall into a meditation of God, and the things of God, his heart will soon come off to prayer...Begin with reading or hearing. Go on with meditation; end in prayer...Reading without meditation is hurtful; to meditate and to read without prayer upon both, is without blessing." - William Bridge

"To read the Bible and not meditate was seen as an unfruitful exercise: better to read one chapter and meditate afterward than to read several chapters and not meditate. Likewise to meditate and not to pray was like preparing to run a race and never leaving the starting line. The three duties of reading Scriptures, meditation, and prayer belonged together, and though each could be done on its own, as formal duties to God they were best done together." - Peter Toon

"Before this time my practice had been, at least for ten years previously, as an habitual thing, to give myself to prayer after having dressed in the morning. Now, I saw that the most important thing was to give myself to the reading of God's Word, and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that thus, by means of the Word of God, whilst meditating on it, my heart might be brought into experimental communion with the Lord. I began therefore to meditate on the New Testament from the beginning, early in the morning. The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words of the Lord's blessing upon His precious Word, was to begin to meditate on the Word of God, searching as it were into every verse to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word, not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon, but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul... I scarcely ever suffer now in this way (i.e. wandering of mind). For my heart being nourished by the truth, being brought into experimental fellowship with God, I speak to my Father and to my Friend(vile though I am, and unworthy of it) about the things that He has brought before me in His precious Word. It often now astonishes me that I did not sooner see this point...And yet now, since God has taught me this point, it is plain to me as anything that the first thing the child of God has to do morning by morning is to obtain food for his inner man. Now what is food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God; and here again, not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water passes through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it and applying it to our hearts... Now prayer, in order to be continued for any length of time in any other than formal manner, requires generally speaking, a measure of strength or godly desire, and the season therefore when this exercise of the soul can be most effectually performed is after the inner man has been nourished by meditation on the Word of God, where we find our Father speaking to us, to encourage us, to comfort us, to instruct us, to humble us, to reprove us. We may therefore profitably meditate with God's blessing though we ever so weak spiritually; nay, the weaker we are, the more we need meditation for the strengthening of our inner man. Thus there is far less to be feared from wandering of mind than if we give ourselves to prayer without having had time previously for meditation." - George Mueller


God Bless You.