What is Prayer? Definition, Meaning, and Examples

Prayer is a time we speak to our Heavenly Father and communicate with Him with devotion and intentionality.

When was the last time you prayed? Whether your answer is “a minute ago,” “last year,” or even “never,” you’re probably familiar with the concept of prayer. Prayer is the most typical and frequent practice of faith among American adults. This data may not be surprising because we lift many things in prayer – from thanksgiving to requests for provision. In this article, we dive into prayer to know its what’s, why’s, and how’s.

What is Prayer?

Prayer is one of the spiritual disciplines a believer does in his faith journey. It isn’t merely a ritual of closing eyes, arms together, with knees hitting the floor. It is a means to communicate with God with devotion and intentionality. 

Just as a son/daughter goes to their father to verbalize something, prayer is a time we speak to our Heavenly Father. This communication is possible anywhere, anytime, alone or with other people. Such 24/7 access to God was made possible through the finished work of Jesus in Calvary. Because of Christ, we can go to the Father, through prayer, confidently and without shame and hesitation.

What the Bible Says about Prayer

Prayer

Prayers from the Bible

The Lord’s Prayer

Many individuals know the Lord’s prayer. In Luke 11:1-4 and Matthew 6:9-13, one disciple asked Jesus how they should pray. The Lord’s prayer was the answer of Jesus. Through this prayer, Jesus teaches us to worship and give praise to God and recognize His sovereignty. Jesus also says that we need to confess and repent from our sins. And, of course, we can go to God and ask Him for our needs.

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:9-13

Jonah’s prayer

Many of us can resonate with Jonah’s regret and shame as he turned away from God’s command. We can pray this prayer as we recognize our sins and ask for mercy from God.

“In my distress, I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight, yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains, I sank down; the earth beneath barred me forever. But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit.

When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’” Jonah 2:2-9

Hannah’s prayer

Hannah’s prayer is a prayer of praise and worship for the God who answers prayers.

“My heart rejoices in the Lord! The Lord has made me strong.
Now I have an answer for my enemies; I rejoice because you rescued me.
No one is holy like the Lord! There is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.

“Stop acting so proud and haughty! Don’t speak with such arrogance!
For the Lord is a God who knows what you have done; he will judge your actions.

The bow of the mighty is now broken, and those who stumbled are now strong.
Those who were well fed are now starving, and those who were starving are now full.
The childless woman now has seven children, and the woman with many children wastes away.

The Lord gives both death and life; he brings some down to the grave[b] but raises others up.
The Lord makes some poor and others rich; he brings some down and lifts others up.
He lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the garbage dump.
He sets them among princes, placing them in seats of honor.
For all the earth is the Lord’s, and he has set the world in order.

“He will protect his faithful ones, but the wicked will disappear in darkness.
No one will succeed by strength alone.
Those who fight against the Lord will be shattered.
He thunders against them from heaven; the Lord judges throughout the earth.
He gives power to his king; he increases the strength[c] of his anointed one.”
1 Samuel 2:1-10

Jabez’s prayer

Jabez was an honorable man whom we can find in the book of Chronicles. Jabez’s prayer shows his view of God – the authority of his life, provider of his needs, and protector of his soul.

“Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.” 1 Chronicles 4:10

Psalm 23 prayer

Psalm 23 reminds us that God is trustworthy and good in all circumstances, even in dark days and death.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23

Bible verses about prayer

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”  Ephesians 6:18

“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” James 5:13

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

“During the days of Jesus’s life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his fervent submission.” Hebrews 5:7

“And when you pray, do not be like hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6: 5-6

“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:4

Why is Prayer Important?

Prayer

It is a way of Christlikeness

During His life and ministry on earth, Jesus prayed. He reclined into obscurity to pray, prayed for others, and prayed among others. Prayer was a vital part of the life of Jesus. Especially during the most challenging periods of His ministry, Jesus called on His Father through prayer. Jesus showed us how it is to be a faithful Christian. To be a true Christian, one cannot do away with prayer.

It shows our reliance on God

One of the most celebrated values in the modern world is self-reliance and independence. Though these values prove beneficial at times, God can accomplish much more than we can ever do in this lifetime. He is the sovereign God, the beginning and end. Therefore, before we can even dream of our future, He is already there. 

Prayer is recognition of the authority of God over our lives. When we pray, we acknowledge that God is the author of our stories. When we pray, we humbly rely on His grace and love to see us through our every day.

It is an act of submission and obedience to God

We seek, know, and draw close to God in many ways. Prayer is one powerful way to do so. Scripture clearly says that prayer is a command by God. Believers of Christ know that when God commands something, it is also for our good. If we do not pray, we disobey what God calls us to do. 

It allows us to intercede for others

We live in a world that desperately needs the loving and saving grace of Christ. People will never run out of needs and problems. Wars, pandemics, economic crises, mental anguish, and moral conflicts surround us daily. Christians are called to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Lifting our family, friends, and neighbors in prayer is a powerful way to show love.

How to Start a Prayer

Enter the presence of God in all humility

When we pray, we behold the holiness of God and recognize our depravity. As we repent of our sins, we know that we cannot save ourselves from the ultimate affliction of our soul. Only Jesus Christ can do that. Praying is an act of humility and gratitude that we can commune with the Father because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

A.C.T.S.

If you’re the type that appreciates systems and processes, you can do the A.C.T.S method when you pray. A.C.T.S. stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication.

Start your prayer by praising God, then ask for His forgiveness for your sins and iniquities. After which, verbalize your gratitude to God. Thank Him for His love, compassion, mercy, and provisions. Lastly, express your needs and cares. Bring the desires of your heart to God according to His will.

Immerse yourself in Scripture

Prayer is not just speaking to God but also listening to Him. There can be ways that God might speak to us – through preaching, a friend, an insight, and change in our circumstances. But the only reliable and unfailing way He communes with us is through His word – the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16). 

Read the Bible before praying. Whether it’s a verse or an entire chapter, reading Scripture inclines our ears to God. It is also good to try praying the Scripture. This action means you read Scripture and allow it to form your prayer. By immersing yourself in Scripture, you will know the heart and will of God. As you mature in faith, you will find yourself praying according to His word.

Use devotionals and prayer journals

Devotionals are a beneficial tool that can help in your prayer life. They allow you to digest the Scripture better. They even include a prayer you can say. But don’t feel restricted by it. Feel free to reference back to your Bible and tell your prayer.

Some also find prayer journals helpful. Your prayer journal can include a list of people you want to pray for and your requests. It’s also good to jot down the date of your prayers and note when and how the answer comes. Keeping track of your prayers will allow you to remember your prayers. Imagine rejoicing in the answers God provides for you.

Examples of Prayer You Can Say Today

Serenity prayer

The Serenity Prayer is attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, who wrote it in the 1930s. The prayer is also part of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. 

“God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world

As it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right

If I surrender to His Will;

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life

And supremely happy with Him

Forever and ever in the next.

Amen.”

A short morning prayer

Lord, You alone can command darkness to turn to light into a new morning. Thank you for giving me breath today. Thank you for the new mercies that come with the rising of the sun. Yesterday has ended and you give me the blessed opportunity to experience your grace again on this day. 

As I tread the rest of the day, allow me to live out the truth of the gospel of Christ. Teach me how to love in the way you love. Please give me the discernment and the wisdom to venture into godly opportunities. Plant in my heart the desire to expand your kingdom in the place where you put me. Today, my Lord, I say yes to you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

A prayer for thanksgiving

Almighty God, I give thanks and lift my praises to you. You have always been faithful to me, even when I was not. Your presence brings me comfort during days I am overcome with loneliness and despair. Only by your grace can I accomplish what I need and want to do. 

Thank you for your tireless work in and through me. Thank you for the life you have given me, not just here on earth. But most importantly, for eternal life, I will share with you through the blood of your Son, Jesus Christ. My heart is complete in thankfulness and joy for your undying love. I pray all these in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

A prayer for guidance and protection

Lord Jesus, I come before your throne of grace in all humility. There are so many things happening that scare me. Every day I am reminded of how fallen this world is. But I am also reminded every moment that you have overcome the world. Give me the strength that comes from the power of your glory and resurrection. Protect my mind and heart from the schemes of the enemy. Point me in the direction of your heart. Teach me and give me the courage and boldness to tread this world with the whole armor of God. In Jesus’s Name. Amen.

Prayer

In Summary

Prayer is a believer’s communication with God. It is a powerful tool that allows us to connect to heaven. Prayer is a command written in Scripture. However, there are no strict rituals when it comes to prayer. The resurrection of Jesus paved the way for praying anytime and anywhere, whether alone or in the company of others. 

Saying a short prayer when walking in the park or praying at church is speaking to God all the same. It only matters that one’s heart is humble and surrendered to the Lord. Since prayer is communication, listening to what God is saying is also essential. Read the Scripture and be discerning when it comes to God’s leading.

Make prayer a part of your everyday. Be persevering and steadfast in praying. Pray with confidence and assurance that your words are not falling on deaf ears. Remember that the Lord cares for you, and He hears your prayers.

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Alex Shute
EDITOR
Alex Shute, MBA
Alex is a family man and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. His passion is to serve the global Church and bring people of diverse backgrounds together to learn & grow.