What are the fundamentals of prayer?

Question:  “What are the fundamentals of prayer? Its general considerations, limits, requirements, and steps to effective prayer?”


Bible Answers

Prayer is the mechanism by which we communicate with God. Prayer is one of the greatest privileges and most awesome power available to man.  Effective prayer requires a relationship with God.  We develop a close relationship by approaching God with a pure heart, free of unforgiveness and sin, and filled with a love for God in which God is first in our life.  

While many consider prayer requesting something from God, prayer actually encompasses: thanking God, praising God, worshipping God, talking with God, repenting of sins, and then asking something of God for ourselves and others.  One of the secrets of prayer is to spend more time praising God than we spend asking.

God delights in answering the prayers of His children. …the prayer of the upright is His delight (Proverbs 15:8b).

Do you have any Right to Pray to God

Satan would have you believe that you are just a worthless, insignificant dog with no right to approach God. However, God says everyone may approach Him for salvation and that Christians may approach Him for other needs because of who you are in God.  Scripture says you are His beloved, forgiven, joint-heir with Christ, righteousness of God in Jesus, temple of the Holy Spirit, have power over all the power of the enemy, can do all things through Christ who strengthen you, Christ lives in you, God's child, a friend of Jesus Christ, united with the Lord, one with Him in spirit, adopted as His child, a citizen of heaven, and have direct access to the throne of grace through Jesus Christ.  You can come to God in prayer because you are His son or daughter and God created you to have have a loving relationship with Him.

Preparing to pray

We prepare to pray by:

  1. Entering God’s Presence with thanksgiving and praise.
  2. Having a relationship with God in which God and His Word are the most important in our life.   
  3. A heart that is pure – free of unforgiveness and unrepented sin.
  4. Knowing God’s will - by following the Holy Spirit and the Holy Word.

The most affective way to pray is when we depend on the Holy Spirit.  …praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication (Ephesians 6:18).  

While these steps for affective prayer may sound simple, for the apostles, after having spent nearly three years with Jesus, they still felt a need to ask, Lord, teach us to pray (Luke 11:1).

Jesus’ Answered with the Lord’s Prayer

In what is called the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus answers the apostle’s request, teach us to pray.  The Lord’s Prayer is both a prayer and a guide demonstrating how to pray.  It gives us the “ingredients” that should go into prayer.  He said, In this manner, when you pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Holy be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us our daily bread.  And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive everyone that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen (Matthew 6:9-13).


Up to this point, the entire prayer has been directed toward God.  Only after we have praised and worshipped God by putting Him and His will first, do we come to Him with our needs.

The Lord’s Prayer leads us in four steps.  Worship God, a pure heart relationship with God, knowing God’s will, then our requests.

Pure Heart

When we walk before the Lord with a pure heart, 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). A person has a pure heart when their heart is free of unforgiveness and sin, and they have surrendered their life to the Lord.

Does this mean that we must always spend time thanking and praising God before bringing our request before Him? If we only pray once a week, the answer is yes.  We need to spend time repenting of our sins and reestablishing a relationship with God. If we go through each day free of unrepented sins, thanking and praising God, then we already have an ongoing relationship with God.

Prayer guarantee

We cannot take one verse and base our theology on it without considering other related verses. There are many verses in the Bible regarding prayer, and they must all be considered. The following somewhat summarize most promises regarding prayer.  

Combining these three verses may provide a clearer picture. When combined, we have:

If you ask anything, in my will, in my name, and do not doubt, but believe what you say, you will receive.

This is God’s guarantee and the foundation for our prayers. Jesus said you are to ask.  You can ask anything that is within the will of God and His timing, don’t let doubt kill your faith and belief, you need to say it, and you will receive.  Picture it, believe it, and receive it.  This is the approach to the Lord’s promises.

God will answer immediately, later, with a different answer than you requested, or with a no because your prayer is not best for you or others, or within God’s plans.

Nine Steps for Requesting Prayer

The following steps are to prepare us to offer God our request.

  1. Be sure your heart is pure so that you may approach God.
  2. Decide what you want from God.  Be specific.
  3. Ask the Lord how you should pray about your issue.
  4. Is your request within the will of God?  Find the scriptures that promise it.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help and guide you.  If it’s not an emergency, take time to be guided by the Holy Spirit and to find and meditate on relative scriptures so that His Word will abide in you. You will be more effective praying after the Word of God gets into your heart, as it dispels doubt.
  5. Stand on the promise in prayer.  Believe you will receive.
  6. See yourself with the answer.  Picture the requested results that you are praying about.  
  7. Pray in the name of Jesus.  …always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20).    
  8. After praying, pray in your heavenly language so the Holy Spirit can pray for you. Click for more information.
  9. Continually thank God for the answer, in trust, in faith, believing that God is answering you in His own perfect timing.


What if you cannot find scripture that promises what you are looking for

When you cannot find scripture covering what you want to request, then you need Godly wisdom.  If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you (James 1:5).  

False Assumptions about God’s will

We sometimes falsely assume that we know God's will, that the verse we stand on is the only right "answer." While it is often the right verse, other times it may not be the verse that God is looking at. God is not going to do anything simply because we determine that it must be His will.  He will only do those things that are within His will and plans for us as individuals and for the world. God sees the whole picture, and sometimes He lovingly refuses to give us what we have requested because He has a better plan. As we develop a relationship with God and His Word, the Holy Spirit will help us to know God’s will by Asking God to fill me with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding (Col. 1:9).  Even when we are correct about God’s will, we must still trust God with His timing.  


If you believe that you are in God’s will, then pray believing and trusting that God will do what is best for you.

We should always pray our hearts desire within what we believe is God’s will and Word, but when we pray an indecisive prayer, we should end our prayer as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane, by saying, your will be done (Matt 26:42).  God can then give us what we asked, something greater, something different, but always what is best, either now or in the future.


Prayer unleashes God's power so that He is able to work on our behalf.  Prayer opens the channels of God's blessing. Prayer is how God accomplishes the things that he wants to see happen in our lives, and in the lives of others.

We pray to praise God, to learn God’s will, for daily needs, for forgiveness, for protection, for peace of mind, for strength, for opportunity, for boldness, for wisdom, for healing, for peace, and to thank God for His being and His blessings.

Since God respects our freedom of choice and free will, prayer enables Him to step into our lives. God has limited His powers in our lives to the importance that we place on prayer.  Prayer gives God permission to do what he has been longing to do all the time.  Even when we do not see anything significant occurring, God is still at work solving the problem. When there are apparently no answers, God is waiting for the proper time to give us the solution.  Prayer opens new doors of opportunity for God to move.

Prayer includes spoken words, written words, thoughts, meditating on the Word, song, and speaking in tongues. God desires us to commune with Him.  We are to pray with thanksgiving, thanking Him for His will and for what He is going to do.  Most people get this backwards.  They spend all their prayer time asking and begging, and very little time worshipping and loving God.  Many effective prayer warriors spend up to 80% of their prayer time in worship and speaking in tongues.  This deepens their relationship with the Father and increases their faith.

Many people think of prayer as being one-direction, we talking to God.  Yet prayer can, and should be bi-directional, in which we talk to God and God talks to us. God can speak to us through the Bible, through others, through circumstances, but especially through His Holy Spirit, who can put specific words, thoughts, and visions in our minds (1 Samuel 3:4-14, Psalm 18:13, Luke 3:22, Acts 9:4, 2 Peter 1:18).  God will sometimes speak immediately and other times later.

What do We do After Praying

The time after praying is almost as important as the time of praying, for many will approach God with faith, but quickly lose their faith when they do not see the answer to their prayer.  As God answers some prayers within minutes, some may not be answered for years.  We must always remember that God has heard our prayers and that He is on the job, but how He answers and when He answers is entirely in His hands.

Paul said, I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation (2 Corinthians 7:4).  How could he be exceedingly joyful in all of his tribulations?  Because Paul had learned a very valuable lesson, he had learned to trust God, to keep his eyes on God and not the problem.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways ask him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).  I love Proverbs 3:5-6 because it gives us the complete secret to a relationship with God. We do not need understanding; we only need to turn it over to God in prayer, completely trusting God that He will manage everything in His perfect way, in His perfect timing.  He is God, He is above everything else.

God will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Him: because he trust in Him (Isaiah 26:3). Only by surrendering our problem to God can we experience His peace and keep our mind on Him, our problem solver and King.  If we do take the problem back, then we again need to surrender it in prayer.

Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him (Psalms 37:7). And as we patiently wait, we keep praying for our desire in His will and we keep thanking God that He is answering our prayer.  Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever (I Chronicles 16:34).  We do not live by what we see in the physical world, but we live by what we know, by faith, in the spiritual world.  For we live by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).

Confessing the Answer

We should daily, in faith, confess the answer to our prayer. “God is providing the needed finances.”  “God is manifesting His healing in my body.”  “My body is healed in the name of Jesus.”  “God is strengthening me.”  “God is blessing my family.”  “I believe that God is providing the answer to my problem.”  “Thank you Lord for…”  We should say, “Lord, I claim that I am receiving ______”. Confessing God’s Word is one of the most forceful ways we have to stop ourselves from praying the problem.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).


Why Are Prayers Not Answered

There are conditions we must meet for God to answer our prayers.  Sometimes our prayers are not answered and we need to search for the hindrance.  

Some possible hindrances include:

Rather than focusing on God with praise and worship, we charge in, “This is my problem and this is what I want you to do about it.”  Not praying in God’s will, not praying in faith, not praying with a pure heart, not putting God first in your life, not approaching God with humility, not praying in Jesus’ name, not maintaining faith while waiting for God’s timing, not thanking Him for His blessings and answering our prayers, and not forcefully fighting the advances of the devil.  Many have lost their faith because they believe Satan’s lies.  With the authority given us by Jesus, we should say, “In the name of Jesus, I rebuke that lie and command it to leave.”

James understood the problem of wrong praying when he wrote James 4:3.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly.  

You may be saying, “I am doing everything correctly and my prayer is still not being answered.”  And maybe you are, but God is sovereign and He holds time in His hand. Some answers may come instantly and others may not come for years.

If you are still wondering about what is hindering your prayers, ask the Lord if you have any stumbling blocks. Ask Him what you should do.  Sometimes His answer may be “be patient.”

Sometimes, we may feel that God has not delivered within our time limit and that we need to find our own way.  Don’t do it.  Don’t try to help God.  God doesn’t need your help or solutions.  He wants your faith, obedience, and trust.  

Some may say, “I am not sure I can completely trust God.” Let me challenge you to a little competition between you and God.  Between you and God, who is more knowledgeable?  Who is more powerful? Who knows more about the future?  Who loves you more?  Who died for you? Who is more trustworthy?  I submit, in comparison, you have no one else to trust but God.

It can also be agonizing to seek God’s will when we want something passionately. Our emotions try to convince us there is no possible way we can give up our desire.  Only when we realize that the infinite God who loves us more that we can imagine is trustworthy and wants what is best for us, can we trust God and surrender our will to Him.

Do not cast away your confidence if your prayer is not immediately answered.  Rather, holdfast to your faith in the Word of God and stand upon God’s promise and guarantee. For he is faithful that promised (Hebrews 10:23).

Faith, Believe, and Doubt

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. James 1:6-7. Whenever we pray, we must have faith to believe.  We must pray expecting.  However, for many people, faith is not the problem; their problem is doubt.  When they do not get what they want when they want, they start questioning, “Is God going to answer my prayer?”  “Does God really care?” “Maybe I am not worthy?” Our doubt quickly kills or quenches our faith.  We must be constantly on guard against doubt and cast it away as soon as we recognize it.  We need to keep our attention on God and not our problem.  He will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Him: because he trust in Him (Isaiah 26:3).

I believe God will always turn to meet you if you dare to believe Him.” Faith is a mighty key to receiving. Rather than believe the devil’s fiery darts of doubt, believe in God, believe in His love for you, believe that He wants to answer your prayer, and believe that He will answer your prayer. There is nothing in this universe more powerful and dependable than God.

Spiritual Aspects of Praying

God is Spirit and we are spirit in a temporary physical body. We most effectively communicate with the Father through the Spirit.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests (Ephesians 6:18). God is calling His people to pray, and God will move on behalf of our family, church, and nation when His body prays.  If you believe that American churches are failing and that America has turned from God, then you know that American Christians have not been passionately praying for our churches and country.

The spiritual world also contains the enemy who is working overtime to distract us from fervent prayer and to fill us with doubt and unbelief.  For our spiritual protection, it is important to Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11-17).  Our battle is in the spiritual, and all answered prayers come from our spiritual God.

Prayer Against Satan

We are commanded to pray for God’s protection from the evil one, but no place in the Bible are we commanded to pray that God would cast Satan out for us because Jesus gave us authority in God’s power to cast Satan out. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions [evil spirits], and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Luke 10:19.  It is our responsibility to bind and cast our enemy out in the name of Jesus.  Jesus has given us all the authority He had when He walked the earth as a man. However, to walk in that power, you have to believe that you have it and exercise it against the enemy every time he attacks you and your family with any thought that is contrary to the Word, any thought of sin, financial problems, or others attacks such as depression.  Click for more information.

Does Prayer Change God's Mind

Prayer does not change God’s mind or His character.  God is changeless. Our prayers will not change God’s will. For I am the Lord, I change not (Malachi 3:6).   Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance. Prayer is laying hold of God's will and promises.

When praying, it is not how many words we speak or how eloquently we speak that impresses God, or even what position our body is in, but that we are speaking from our heart, a pure heart in conformity with His will.   

God will do things for us when we ask in prayer that He will not do if we do not ask in prayer!  You do not have, because you do not ask (James 4:2-3).  The only thing that lies outside of prayer is that which lies outside the will of God.

Why pray for what God already wants

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest (Matthew 9:37-38). Why, because Jesus tells us to pray earnestly that our prayers may move the hand of God.  And Jesus, as our example, spent a great deal of His time in prayer and so should we.

Prayer is less a means of getting God to do our will on earth, and more a means of getting God's will done on earth.  Prayer changes us and circumstances.

Thank God ahead of receiving

If a friend or a relative says they will bake you some cookies, you start smelling the cookies, you start seeing the cookies all golden brown on a plate, even before they are baked.  It’s the same with prayer.  You make your petition and start seeing the results before they are manifested.  In the same way that you thanked the person for baking the cookies when they first told you about them, you start thanking God in faith, that in His timing, you will receive what you have asked.

Mental Picture and Thoughts

Have a mental image of what you are praying for.  For example, if your home is in foreclosure, picture money in your bank account rather than picturing yourself on the street.  While a positive picture does not guarantee you will receive, a negative picture promotes doubt that kills faith and is much more likely to ensure failure.  When you pray, stand on the Word of God and picture the desired results.

In faith, we are to be the voice of faith speaking God’s will. I am God child and I can have what God says I can have.

For many, their faith is limited because they picture God as a stern taskmaster waiting for a chance to punish them. A reluctant God they must beg and plead with to receive. This is not the God of the Bible.  Our heavenly Father is just that, our Father.  And as our Father, He loves us and loves to bless us, including blessing us with answered prayers.  Like any good father, He sets conditions that we need to meet first. Picture God as your loving Father who wants you to live a holy and righteous life so that He can bless your prayers. It is God’s pleasure and desire to bless you, but all of God’s promises come with conditions that must be met.

Prayer Guidance

We often approach prayer like a machine gun. Pray, pray, pray, and out the door.  Is that communicating with God? Is that showing God respect?  Is that learning what God wants from us or how He wants us to pray in a specific situation?  God is the source for all good things in our life. Unlike what some prosperity preachers preach, we should be seeking the giver, not the gift.

Start your prayer with thanksgiving and praise.  Then ask the Lord how you should pray about a situation or what you need to pray about.  Give Him a few minutes to answer. Show God some respect by waiting patiently on Him to lovingly guide you.  Then present your request.

When we do not know what to pray about, we can pray in the Spirit (Rom. 8:26).

Prayer Before a Commitment

Before any commitment, be it buying a house, a used car, an investment, or before marrying someone, ask the Lord for His guidance and pray, For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open (Luke 8:17). That everything hidden would be revealed and that any hidden agenda would come to light.

Relationship with God

The primary reason for prayer is to honor and worship God with thanksgiving.  In the entire universe, only God is worthy of adoration.  Prayer is not an equal talking to an equal.  There can be no demanding of God.  There can only be asking.  This means that we are approaching God with respect and humility. Like a respectful child speaking to his Father.  When Abraham was pleading with God for Sodom and Gomorra, he said, I have ventured to speak to the Lord though I am but dust and ashes (Gen. 18:27).

We have a correct relationship with God when we continuously praise Him, free of unforgiveness and sin, when we love the Lord and spend time daily with Him and His Word.  When the most important thing in our life is the Lord, then we are truly ready to pray and receive.

Continues Prayer

1 Thes. 5:17 says to, pray continually.  How do we pray continually?  Throughout the day, we can praise the Lord. In our mind, we can even be praising God while we work. Second, we should pray as each situation arises throughout the day.  When a co-worker brings a problem or you have a problem, ask the Lord.  “Lord, give me wisdom to know how to handle this problem.”

Every circumstance of our life should call forth prayer so that we are involving the Lord in every aspect of our life. Continuously asking, “Lord, should I do this or that?” “Lord, what would you have me do?”  “Lord, what is best?”  

We should not give up because we do not see the answer, but continue to trust God and His perfect timing. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9). When a church elder was asked about praying, he said, “I pray until God speaks to me.”    


While many techniques have been discussed, be sure not to become so engrossed with the technique that you lose sight of who answers our prayers. Techniques are useful, they have there place and help build our faith, but it is the Lord, not techniques that answers our prayers.

The most important approach of prayer is to approach God, our Father, with thanksgiving and praise, with faith and trust, with worship and love, with a pure heart, and with requests that are within His will. When you do, you will see great things happening.

If you ask in His will, in His name, and don’t doubt but believe what you say, you will receive.

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