QUESTION: What Different Types Of Prayers Can Believers Pray?
ANSWER: Those who have trusted Christ as Savior have the privilege and the right of approaching God through prayer. From Scripture, there are a number of types of prayers that can be prayed by believers in Jesus Christ. They include the following.
1. The Prayer Of Confession
While Jesus Christ has forgiven Christians of all of their sins, no believer ever lives a perfect life. We all still commit sin. There are no exceptions to this. These sins need to be acknowledged before God. Consequently prayer should often involve confession of our sin.
Indeed, Jesus told us to pray a prayer of confession. In the Sermon on the Mount, He told us to pray in this manner.
Pray then like this . . . forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matthew 6:9,12 ESV).
The psalmist likewise emphasized the need for confession of sin. He wrote.
Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not conceal my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and You took away the guilt of my sin (Psalm 32:5 HCSB).
David confessed his great sin to the Lord.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge (Psalm 51:1-4 NIV).
The prophet Daniel confessed his sins as well as those of his nation. We read of this in the following manner.
While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God (Daniel 9:20 ESV).
Daniel recognized the importance of confession.
We discover in Proverbs that confession, and the forsaking of sin, will cause the Lord will show His mercy. It says.
He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy (Proverbs 28:13 NIV)
Ezra the scribe confessed for the sins of his people. In doing so, he humbled himself before the Lord. The Bible records it as follows.
At the evening sacrifice I got up from my fasting, with my garments and my mantle torn, and fell on my knees, spread out my hands to the LORD my God, and said, “O my God, I am too ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens” (Ezra 9:5,6 NRSV).
We not only should pray for the sins we remember, we also ought to pray for those sins that we do not remember. The psalmist asked the Lord to cleanse him from his hidden faults, those faults that were perhaps unknown to him. He said.
How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults (Psalm 19:12 NLT).
This is certainly something which is important for us to remember. There are likely many sins which each of have that we may be unaware of. We should ask the Lord to show us these hidden faults.
The Lord has promised to forgive our sins when we confess them to Him. John wrote the following to the believers.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (1 John 1:8-10 NASB).
Confession of sin helps us with our daily relationship with the Lord. All of us should want to walk worthy of our high calling in Christ Jesus. Confession of sin gets us back on to the straight and narrow way that the Lord has for each of us. Therefore, confession of sin, in our prayers, is essential.
2. The Prayer Of Asking Something For Others (Intercession)
Sometimes our prayers are not for ourselves but rather they are for the needs of other people. This is also known as intercessory prayer. We find a number of examples in Scripture of those who prayed, or interceded for the needs of others. Paul wrote the following to the church at Thessalonica.
To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith (2 Thessalonians 1:11 NRSV)
Paul indicated that he constantly prayed for the Thessalonians. He would continually ask the Lord to meet their needs.
This prayer of intercession may be for an entire city or an entire nation. The psalmist declared that we should pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper (Psalm 122:6 NLT).
Intercessory prayer is not necessarily something which is only to be done on behalf of our friends and loved ones. Indeed, we are also told to pray for our enemies. Jesus said.
Pray for the happiness of those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you (Luke 6:28 NLT).
This is difficult for us to do. Indeed, we need direction from the Spirit of God to be able to pray for those with whom we are enemies.
In the letter to the Colossians, Paul writes that a man named Epaphras prayed for the church at Colosse to know the will of God.
Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God (Colossians 4:12 NKJV).
This is consistent with the life and ministry of Jesus. It can be summed up in one word: others. Matthew wrote.
For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28 NLT).
Paul also emphasized this in his letter to the Philippians. He wrote.
Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing. Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had (Philippians 2:4,5 NLT).
We should ask the Lord for a number of things when we pray to Him. This includes the needs of others.
3. The Prayer Of Asking For Something For Ourselves (Petition)
Much of pray is asking for things for ourselves. This is nothing wrong with this. In fact, James says we do not have sometimes because we do not ask.
You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous for what others have, and you can't possess it, so you fight and quarrel to take it away from them. And yet the reason you don’t have what you want is that you don't ask God for it (James 4:2 NLT).
Yet sometimes we do not receive what we asked for because we have the wrong motive. James also wrote.
And even when you do ask, you don’t get it because your whole motive is wrong - you want only what will give you pleasure (James 4:3 NLT).
The key is to ask for the things that God wants for us. The psalmist wrote about this. He put it this way.
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act (Psalm 37:4,5 NRSV).
We should want the same things that God wants. These godly desires should be expressed in our prayers.
4. There Is A Prayer Of Worship, Praise And Thanksgiving
There are times when our prayers consist of worship, praise and thanksgiving. Jesus began His model prayer for His disciples with praise for God.
Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored (Matthew 6:9 NLT).
Consequently, we can begin our prayers with words of praise and worship to the Lord. Indeed, it is only fitting.
The psalmist wrote about the need to bow down and kneel before our God. He said.
Come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker (Psalm 95:6 NASB).
We should always pray with a thankful and humble attitude before the Lord. This is especially true when we remember all that He has done for us.
For example, the children of Israel were told to always remember what the Lord has done for them. In the Book of Exodus it says.
Then Moses said to the people, “Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the LORD brought you out of it with a mighty hand” (Exodus 13:3 NIV).
The Apostle Paul says that we should give thanks in all things. He emphasized this as he wrote to the Thessalonians.
Keep on praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:17,18 NLT).
He also told the church at Thessalonica that he constantly gave thanks to God as he continually prayed for them.
We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers (1 Thessalonians 1:2 NKJV).
Thankfulness and praise should be part of our prayer life.
5. The Prayer Of Benediction (Blessing)
There is also what is known as the prayer of benediction. This means a prayer of blessing for others. Paul wrote to the Philippians.
And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God (Philippians 1:9-11 NRSV).
This is the type of prayer that we should often pray. We should desire for God’s blessings to be bestowed upon others.
6. Our Prayers Can Contain All Of The Above Elements
Much of the time when we address the Lord in prayer, it is likely that our prayer will contain each of these elements.
For example, when we pray, it is probable that we will confess our sin, pray for others, pray for ourselves, give thanks to God and pray a specific prayer of blessing for others. While this is not the case with every prayer we pray, these elements will certainly be in most of our prayers.
The psalmist wrote.
Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me. I cried aloud to him, and he was extolled with my tongue. If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has given heed to the words of my prayer. Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me (Psalm 66:16-20 NRSV).
The prayers that we make should contain these elements of confession, intercession, thanksgiving, blessing and praise.
Truly, this is the biblical way in which we should pray.
Summary To Question 2 What Different Types Of Prayers Can Believers Pray?
The Bible tells us to pray. As we examine the Scripture, we find a number of different types of prayers which we can pray. This includes the following.
First, there is the prayer of confession. In this prayer, we acknowledge our sins before the living God and ask for His forgiveness. Confession of sin is crucial if we are to talk to God with honest and open hearts. Consequently, the prayer of confession is essential.
There is also the prayer of intercession. This prayer is for the needs of others. This is another important type of prayer. Intercessory prayer emphasizes that we are not merely to address the Lord for our needs. We need to think about others. Jesus, our example, did this and so should we.
Then there is the prayer of petition. This consists of asking for things for ourselves. It is not wrong to ask for our own needs. In fact, Scripture commands us to do so. However, we want to ask for genuine needs; we should not be greedy.
Next, there is the prayer of worship, praise, and thanksgiving. The Lord is deserving of our worship and praise.
Consequently, we should use part of our prayer time to thank Him for who He is as well as what He has done for us. He is truly worthy of our praises.
Finally, there is the prayer of benediction, or blessing, for others. We need to ask for God’s blessings upon others.
In any given prayer, all of these elements may be present. The important thing is this: we need to pray.
This question is from my forthcoming book “Prayer”