Various Elements of Prayer

By Joseph Ametepe

The need to learn to pray effectively is one of the greatest needs in the Church of God today. The disciples of old saw this need in their lives as they observed the effectiveness of their Lord's and Master's prayer life. They asked Him to teach them to pray. "And it came about that while He was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples" (Luke 11:1).

Please notice that the disciples did not request, "Lord, teach us to perform miracles." Even after hearing the greatest sermon ever preached  by the Lord Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount,  the disciples did not ask, "Lord, teach us to preach." Neither, they did ask Him, "Lord, teach us to prophecy." Our Lord's prayer life was what fascinated them the most. They knew that His preaching,  performance of miracles, and prophetic utterances were effective and life transforming because of His praying. So they asked, "Lord, teach us to pray." Indeed, Jesus alone, by His Spirit, can teach us to pray.

The time has come for us to re-evaluate our personal and individual prayer life. We ought to ask ourselves the painful and searching questions. Do I have a need to learn to pray effectively? Am I learning to pray effectively?

A. Prayer is Learned

1. Believers must enroll in the School of Effective Prayer.
  • There is nothing we need more than a School of Prayer. The disciples enrolled in the School of Prayer under our Lord's instruction. Similarly, believers today must enroll in this School. There is to be no graduation in the School of Prayer while here on this earth.

  • When we enroll in the School of Prayer, we enroll in it for life.

  • Christ, our Lord and Master is still the active Principal/Director of the School of Prayer, in partnership with the Holy Spirit.

  • Until He calls us home to Himself, we too are expected to be active and ever learning to pray effectively.

B. Characteristic Qualities of a Learner:

1. A humble spirit and attitude.
  • When the disciples approached the Lord Jesus to teach them how to pray, they demonstrated for us the spirit in which we must also seek to learn how to pray effectively. We must come with a humble spirit.

  • The Psalmist David knew this very well as seen in Psalm 25:9: "He leads the humble in justice, and He teaches the humble His way."

  • When we approach God, we must remember who He is and who we are in relationship to Him. God is a real Person who wants to be communicated with. He is not impressed by rituals used to convince Him to listen to us. Therefore prayer cannot be merely a repetition of words and phrases, even if the name of Lord Jesus is piously referred to. It must come from a humble heart that is seeking to submit to God.

2. A teachable spirit that recognizes its deep sense of not knowing how one should pray as he ought to.
3. Availability and willingness to be trained to pray effectively.
  • We must offer ourselves willingly as learners and give Christ time to train us in the highest and holiest work of the believer.

4. Faith in Christ and His Spirit as the perfect Teacher.
  • There is only One Teacher of true and effective prayer. That Teacher is the Lord Jesus Christ who is living in us, in the person, presence and power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

  • "And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words" (Romans 8:26).

  • The right Teacher, the Spirit of Jesus Christ will teach us to pray effectively, if we willingly and humbly approach Him to teach us. He prays so effectively and according to the will of God. He will teach us to be effective as He is.

  • Andrew Murray wrote of Christ as the only Teacher of true and effective prayer:

  • "He teaches not only by thoughts of what to ask or how to ask, but by breathing within us the spirit of prayer, by living within us as the Great Intercessor."

  • The greatest cry for the church today is, "Lord, teach us individually and corporately, to pray effectively, that we may prevail with God and with men."

  • Donald Whitney, in his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, writes: "To pray as expected, to pray as a maturing Christian, and to pray effectively, we must say with the disciples, 'Lord, teach us pray.'"

  • As soon as we ask with all our hearts and mean it with all our hearts, we will hear the voice of the Holy Spirit saying to us: "I am willing and more than able and ready to teach you this very thing you have asked of Me. Because it is the will of the Father that you learn to pray effectively and so experience His promise: "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much"(James 5:16).

C. Definition of Prayer

Prayer is a privileged spiritual communion which takes place in the context of relationship between the true and living God and the believer in Jesus Christ. It is inspired and directed by the Person Holy Spirit living in the believer. In this privileged communion, the believer expresses not only his hunger and thirst to know God more intimately and be changed into the image of Christ, but also his adoration, praise and worship to God, thankfully acknowledging His goodness, humbly and honestly confessing his sins and failures to Him, listening attentively to His voice in His written Word and the impression of His Spirit, and asking Him according to His promises in His Word to meet the needs in his own life and in the lives of fellow believers in the Church and others outside of the Church, as it is fit to bring glory and praise to His name and for the advancement of His kingdom.


D. The Various Elements of Prayer

1. Worship/Thanksgiving/Praise/Adoration.
  • Worship:
  • To worship God is to ascribe supreme worth to Him for He alone is worthy.

  • Praise:
  • Praise is vocal and public and must be genuine.

  • Thanksgiving:
  • It is acknowledging God's goodness and mercy etc.

  • Our first and foremost focus of thanksgiving or praise should be on God Himself.

  • True thanksgiving comes from a heart that recognizes its deep need of God and dependence on Him.

2. Confession
  • The words translated confess in the Old and the New Testaments are powerful terms.

  • The Hebrew yadah has the basic meaning of to know.

  • In certain contexts, though, yadah goes further: it means to know and respond to what one knows. Thus, someone knows God's goodness and declares or confesses it, or someone knows the seriousness of his or her sin and confesses it.

  • The Greek homologeo means literally to say the same.

  • Both yadah and homologeo portray the believer in action, boldly declaring his or her faith, or openly acknowledging failure and sin.

  • Openly confessing sin
  • Awareness of God's holiness leads to consciousness of our own sinfulness (Isaiah 6:5).

  • Healing power of confession of specific sins
  • 1 John 1:5-2:2 warns us against pretense in our relationship with God. We must evaluate ourselves and our actions honestly.

  • Confession offers more than forgiveness.

  • Confession restores fellowship with God and introduces hope.

  • The danger of unwillingness to confess sin
  • A person unwilling to acknowledge his faults and sins, to himself or to God, closes his or her life to the cleansing work of God's Spirit.

3. Petition/Supplication
  • Supplication or petition, is a specific request to God to meet a particular need, ultimately leading to the advance of the kingdom purposes of God.

  • As dependent children on a dependable God, we are encouraged to ask and keep asking that we may receive (see Matthew 7:7ff).

  • One key truth we must understand in approaching God to petition Him is that He is not a reluctant giver (see Matthew 7:7-11).

4. Intercession
  • Intercession is simply prayer to God for another person, usually to obtain God's help. In intercession, we look beyond ourselves and our needs and seek God's face for the needs of others whom God impresses on our hearts.

  • Intercession is embedded in the Old Testament concept of the priesthood, especially in the ministry of the high priest (see Hebrews 5:1).

  • The New Testament says because our high priest Jesus lives forever, "He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them"(Hebrews 7:25). In addition, the Holy Spirit, "Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express" (Romans 8:26).

  • Through intercessory prayer, believers uphold and encourage one another before the Lord touching each other's lives across the span of time and space.

5. Fasting
  • Fasting is the most neglected, feared and misunderstood of all spiritual disciplines. Yet, the Lord Jesus Himself both practiced fasting when He was led by the Spirit to do so. He also taught about fasting and made it clear that He expected His followers to fast (see Matthew 6 :16-18 and 9:14-15).

  • The saints of old fasted when they were led by the Spirit to do so. But what shall we compare our generation to? It is a generation, of potlucks, picnics, pizzas and prayer breakfasts. Ours is a feasting generation! We have not learned the truths that other saints have learned and practiced. "Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God"(Matthew 4:4).

  • Biblical definition
  • The Hebrew word for "fasting" literally means "to cover the mouth."

  • The Greek words used for "fast," or "fasting" mean simply, "not to eat."

  • But fasting is much more than abstaining from food.

  • As a matter of fact, fasting isn't confined to food and water, though that is its primary expression.

  • For example, by mutual agreement, a believing husband and wife may "fast" from sexual relations in order to devote themselves fully to prayer (see 1 Corinthians 7:5).

  • "A Christian's voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes. It is Christian, for fasting by a non-Christian obtains no eternal value because the discipline's motives and purposes are to be God-centered. It is voluntary in that fasting is not to be coerced." (Donald Whitney; Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life)

  • "As an act of faith, Christian fasting is an expression of dissatisfied contentment in the all-sufficiency of Christ. It is an expression of secure and happy longing for the all-satisfying fullness of Christ. Christian fasting does not tremble in the hope of earning anything from Christ. It looks away from itself to the final payment of Calvary for every blessing it will ever receive." (John Piper; A Hunger For God)

  • "Fasting is the voluntary abstinence of satisfaction from certain physical appetites, for spiritual reasons."(Ronald Dunn; Don't Just Stand There, Pray Something)

  • What fasting is not
  • It is not a meritorious act or a self-wrought discipline that tries to deserve more from God.

  • It is not a substitute for a heartfelt commitment to righteousness and justice (see Isaiah 58:2-3).

  • It is not a ritualistic act done to be seen by others (see Matthew 6:16-18).

  • Different kinds of fasts
  • Purposes for fasting
  • A biblical fast is one that is God-centered and must have a spiritual purpose. There are many purposes for fasting recorded or implied in Scripture. The following are some of them:



"Self-indulgence is the enemy of gratitude, and self-discipline usually its friend and generator. That is why gluttony is a deadly sin. The early desert fathers believed that a person's appetite are linked: full stomachs and jaded palates takes the edge from our hunger and thirst for righteousness. They spoil the appetite for God." - Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

"Whenever men are to pray to God concerning any great matter, it would be expedient to appoint fasting along."John Calvin.

"I set apart this day for fasting and prayer to God for His grace; especially to prepare me for the work of the ministry, to give me divine aid and direction in my preparations for that great work, and in His own time to send me into His harvest." - David Brainerd.

"The Bible does not teach that fasting is a kind of spiritual hunger strike that compels God to do our bidding. If we ask for something outside of God's will, fasting does not cause Him to reconsider. Fasting does not change God's hearing so much as it changes our praying." Donald Whitney.

"Faith needs a life of prayer for its full growth. Prayer needs fasting for its full growth. Prayer is the one hand with which we grasp the invisible, fasting, the other, with which we let loose and cast away the visible." -Andrew Murray

"More than any other discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside of us with food and other things."Richard Foster

"Fasting tests where the heart is. And when it reveals that the heart is with God and not the world, a mighty blow is struck against Satan. For then Satan does not have the foothold he would if our heart were in love with earthly things like bread...Fasting is a way of revealing to ourselves and confessing to our God what is in our hearts. Where do we find our deepest satisfaction in God or in His gifts? And the aim of fasting is that we come to rely less on food and more on God.... The supremacy of God in all things is the great reward we long for in fasting."John Piper

"Fasting can deepen hunger for God to work. Spiritual hunger and fasting have a reciprocal power. Each deepens and strengthens the other. Each makes the other more effective. When your spiritual hunger becomes very deep, you may even lose the desire for food. All the most intense forms of prevailing prayer... can be deepened, clarified, and greatly empowered by fasting."Wesley L. Duewel

"An old saint once said that fasting prevents luxuries from becoming necessities. Fasting is a protection of the spirit against the encroachments of the body."An Old Saint

"Fasting creates an atmosphere in which other spiritual exercises can be done more effectively; they flourish in a fasting climate. Fasting is the perfect environment for prayer and seeking the Lord. With fasting we detach ourselves from the earth, and with prayer we attach ourselves to heaven. It enables us to abandon ourselves more completely to God during times of intense spiritual devotion. Along with many others, I have found that during seasons of fasting, I have more liberty in prayer, more enlightenment in Bible Study, and a deeper sense of God's presence. Fasting under the Spirit's leadership heightens our spiritual understanding and makes us more sensitive to the things of God."Ronald Dunn

God Bless You.