Christian Prayer Breakfast Fort Worth Tarrant County

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Different Ways to Pray to God in Different Situations

Communication is vast. Think about all the different ways you communicate throughout a day or a week. You talk about your day with a friend or a spouse. You might help your children with homework or give them advice to guide them. You might discuss a project with a coworker or manager. You possibly texted or emailed a long-distance friend. Called a grandparent, or using a social media channel, you might have sent a message to a friend from high school or college.

Each of these ways you communicate is different. It sounds different, and it has a different purpose.

In the same way, prayer can look different at different times in our life. When we’re young, we might be more focused on asking God to help us through school, ace a test, or get the job that we want. As we grow older, our prayers often mature and change. We’re thankful for what God has done, but our requests look different, too. We might be praying for others more than we think of ourselves.

Even during different parts of the day, prayer can look different. In the morning, we’re asking for help to get through the day. By evening, we’re reflecting on the day and what God has done. All of these are valid ways to pray.

The world acknowledges that prayer, as a concept, can take different forms. For Christians, prayer is how we communicate with our Creator. Every time we pray, God listens (1 John 5:14). He is always listening. He is always waiting for our prayers. But as we’ve described, prayer can take many different forms.

In the Bible, we see there are many different types of prayer. Today, we’ll take a closer look at five of the most common ways to pray.

1. A prayer of request

You might also see this type of prayer called supplication or petition. But in simple terms, it means asking God for something. This might be the most common type of prayer. It’s one of the most common prayers we see depicted in our culture. When prayer is portrayed in TV or movies, what is happening? Usually, the character is facing a challenge, finds an empty church, picks a pew, kneels, and asks God to help them through the situation.

However an over-the-top portrayal of prayer this might be, asking God for help is likely the most frequent type of prayer that we pray. And there’s good news, God wants to hear this prayer from us! Jesus says in Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV):

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

The Apostle Paul implores the church in Ephesus to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:18a NIV). Similarly, to the church in Philippi, he says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6 NIV).

What we can take away from these passages is that God doesn’t want us to hold back our requests. While this can’t be the only aspect of our prayers to God, it should be a regular part. On every occasion and without hesitation, we should bring our requests—both big and small—to God. He wants to know what is on our hearts.

2. A prayer of thanksgiving

Giving thanks to God probably feels like a natural follow-up to a prayer of request, and you would be right. However, it’s also a posture of your heart. A prayer of thanksgiving comes from being grateful for God—what he’s done, what he is doing, and what he will do. It goes beyond just a “thank you note” for the things God has done. We see this spirit exemplified in Psalm 100:4 (NIV):

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”

The picture here is of someone coming to God with a grateful spirit. It isn’t that we come to God, he grants our request, and then we are grateful. No, we “give thanks to the Lord, for he is good” because “his love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1).

Pray to God and acknowledge his goodness, his grace, and his mercy, while also thanking him for the good things he is doing, has done, and will do in your life.

3. A prayer of praise

Thanksgiving and praise can easily be confused. While thanksgiving comes from gratitude toward God, praise comes from awe and reverence for God. That distinction is vital. If we ask God for things and thank him but never acknowledge the greatness of who he is, we aren’t giving God the honor he deserves.

Nehemiah 9 provides a good example of how to praise God in verses 5b-6 (NIV).

“Stand up and bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise. You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.”

This recognition of who God is gives us a prayer that we can follow, reflecting on God’s nature, characteristics, and attributes. When you pray, give God the glory he deserves.

4. A prayer of confession

Paul says in Galatians 1:4 (NIV) that Jesus is the one “who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” We also know that “the death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God” (Romans 6:10 NIV). What does that mean? Our sin is forever paid for by Jesus’ death.

So, why do we still need to confess our sins? It might be most easily summed up by Proverbs 28:13 (NIV).

“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

There is freedom in handing our sins over to God.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

According to 2 Corinthians 7:10, “Godly sorrow brings repentance.” This type of sorrow is conviction. The passage goes on to say that “worldly sorrow brings death.” This type of sorrow is condemnation. Conviction leads to repentance and life. Condemnation leads to guilt and death. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” according to Romans 8:1 (NIV).

So, what should we do? Hide our sins from God? No, a prayer of confession to God should be a regular habit because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV). Mercy and freedom are waiting on the other side.

5. A prayer of intercession

What does intercession mean? Intercession is defined as a prayer to God on behalf of another. When you pray for someone who is in the hospital or when you pray for those in a tragic event, you’re praying a prayer of intercession.

But is this a necessary part of our prayer life? Isn’t praying for ourselves, confessing our sins, thanking God, and praising him enough? If we follow Jesus’ example, the answer is clearly no. In John 17, Jesus prays for his disciples and prays for all believers. We see other examples of prayers of intercession as well:

  • Moses prayed on behalf of Israel (Exodus 32)
  • Job lifted up a prayer for his friends (Job 42:10)
  • Paul prayed for the Ephesian church (Ephesians 1:15-23)
  • Jesus also intercedes for us (Romans 8:34)

Additionally, 1 Timothy 2:1 (NIV) urges that “petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for all people.” Looking outside of ourselves to the needs of others is following what Jesus commanded in Mark 9:35b (NIV).

“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Ask others how you can pray for them. Keep those who are sick or in a time of need in your prayers.

Keep all these different ways and types of prayer in mind as you communicate with God each day. You might pray different prayers at different times, but all of these ways of praying should be part of your prayer life. And if you’re having trouble figuring out where to start, check out these other blogs on the Lord’s Prayer or guides to prayer to help.

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