23 Prayer Principles
from the Prayers of Jesus


Did Jesus pray? Yes. Yes! Yes!! Although we are not given very many examples of prayers Jesus spoke, they are there, and they reveal a lot about how we should pray. We are not going to spend time dissecting his prayers for their spiritual meaning. Our purpose here is to discover principles that we can apply to our own prayers.

Principle #1
Acknowledge what God is doing in your situation and agree with His plan.

Matthew and Luke both recorded the first example of a prayer from the lips of Jesus. (Matthew 11:25-26 and Luke 10:21) Jesus began this prayer with praise. The Greek word for praise here is eksomologéō which means “fully agree and to acknowledge that agreement openly (whole-heartedly); hence, to confess (“openly declare”), without reservation (no holding back).” [https://biblehub.com/greek/1843.htm]

Jesus was saying that he agreed with what God was doing and whole-heartedly acknowledged it. He recognized and accepted God’s will in the situation which led to this prayer. So the first principle we discover about prayer is that we should acknowledge that God knows what He is doing and agree that His will in our situation is best. 

Principle #2
Recognize your relationship with God.

The second principle we learn from this prayer is that we need to recognize our relationship to God. In all the prayers of Jesus, except one, he began by addressing God as Father. He also honored God as “Lord of heaven and earth”—the master and ruler over all. Finally, in one of the 3 prayers Jesus uttered from the cross, he prayed to “my God.” (Matthew 27:46) At the same time that he recognized God as holy and transcendent (above all), he recognized God as a personal God—my God.

God is indeed our Father and the “Lord of heaven and earth.” He is capable of taking care of us now and in the future. We can each say he is my God because He desires a personal relationship with us. Recognizing the variety and depth of our relationship with God will help us to pray for the right things and with the right attitude.

Principle #3
God always hears your prayers.

The next prayer of Jesus (John 11:41-42) was made when he went to the tomb of his dear friend, Lazarus. We again see Jesus recognizing his relationship with God. God is The Father (Principle #2). The third principle we find in Jesus’ prayer was the knowledge that God hears—always. While He may not give us what we think we need, He does always hear.

Principle #4
Public prayers benefit those listening.

In this prayer we also find our fourth principle: public prayers benefit those listening, specifically unbelievers. The hope of public prayers in certain situations is that those who have no relationship with Jesus may see who he is and believe in him.

Principle #5
Recognize God as the source of everything you need.
Principle #6
God will provide what you need in order to honor Him.

Jesus’ next recorded prayer is a short one: “Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:28) Jesus was predicting his death when he interrupted himself to utter this prayer. He knew what was about to happen, and he did not want to go through it. In spite of his feelings about the way he would die, Jesus still wanted God to be honored through that death so he asked God for help.

The fifth and sixth principles revealed by this prayer of Jesus are that we need to recognize the source of our help–The Father–and the reason he helps–to point others to Him. God our Father will help us to bring glory—honor and fame—to Him, if we only ask. He is the source of our strength, and the reason we need that strength is to honor Him and to share Jesus.

John also recorded the longest prayer of Jesus. (John 17). In this lengthy prayer of Jesus we see several of the principles we’ve already discussed. He began by recognizing God as his father (Principle #2). When he asked God to glorify him so that he might glorify God, Jesus was asking God to provide what he needed in order to honor Him (Principle #6).

Principle #7
You can and should review your situation with God.

This prayer also shows us that it is acceptable (maybe even expected) to review what we have done for God (or He has done for us) as a way to introduce a new request. This is an effective way of reminding ourselves of what God had done for or through us in the past and of His ability to help us going forward. 

Principle #8
Pray for protection of believers.

Jesus listed things he had done for God (possibly for the benefit of those listening—Principle #4). As he finished that list, he prayed for the believers. And, it wasn’t just any prayer. It was a prayer for protection of their unity in him (verse 11) and protection from evil (verse 15). We should be praying for protection for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Principle #9
Pray to be molded more and more into the image of Christ.

Jesus continued by praying for our sanctification (that we would be set apart for His work and that we would become more and more like him). Principle #9 is that we should be praying for our faith and life to continue to grow more and more into the image of Christ. That should be our prayer not only for ourselves but also for our fellow Christians.

Principle #10
Pray that others see Christ in the way you live and through your story.

Jesus’ prayer continued with a plea that others would be united to him through the message—testimony—of the believers. This prayer changed to focus on how the believer lived so that others could see him. The principle here is that we ask God to help us live in such a way that others see Christ and that our message would spread and be accepted.

Principle #11
Express your longing to be with God forever.

Jesus concluded this prayer by expressing a desire for believers to be with him. We should be longing for eternity with Jesus and our prayers should voice our longing to be with God in His kingdom forever.

Our next prayer principles come from the 3 prayers Jesus uttered in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Garden of Gethsemane Prayers)

Jesus began this series of prayers acknowledging his relationship with God, something he did in every prayer we have looked at thus far. God was his Father. Abba (Mark 14:36) is a Greek word for father which emphasizes an intimate, dependent relationship. Jesus recognized that God was his father, God loved him, and God could be depended on. (Principle #2)

Principle #12
You can repeatedly ask God for what you want—as long as you are willing to accept His will.

The next principle is that we can ask God for what we want (repeatedly)—as long as we are willing to accept His will if He does not grant our request. I find it encouraging that when God did not grant Jesus’ request, He sent an angel to strengthen him for what was to come. God will help us to bear what we think we cannot.

In addition to the 3 prayers in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed 3 times while hanging on the cross. (Jesus’ Prayers from the Cross)

Principle #13
Pray that God will forgive those who hurt you—that they will come to a saving relationship with God.

Principle #13 is that we should pray for God to forgive those who hurt us. (Luke 23:34) We should want them to be forgiven—saved—and we should pray that they would come to that saving relationship with God. If Jesus could pray that for those who tortured, reviled, and murdered him, we can do it for those who hurt us.

Principle #14
It is okay to cry out to God.

From these 3 prayers we discover that we can cry out in pain and frustration. (Matthew 27:46) Jesus already knew why, but he cried out anyway. Sometimes we just have to cry, and that’s okay. 

Principle #15
Trust God and let Him know it.

We also discover is that we can trust God, and we should let Him know it. We should trust Him enough to commit our spirits into His care and let Him know that we are doing it. (Luke 23:46)

Principle #16
You should pray often.
Principle #17
You can pray any time.
Principle #18
Prayer length does not matter.
Principle #19
Prayer is between you and God.

The other things we learn about prayer from the prayers of Jesus is that we should pray often (Luke 5:16). We can (and probably should) pray early in the morning before the demands of the day (Mark 1:35) and into the night (Luke 6:12). Our prayers can be long (Luke 6:12) or short (John 12:28). And, prayers are private encounters with God (Luke 5:16).

Principle #20
You should pray for others.
Principle #21
You should thank God for your meals.
Principle #22
Temptation should motivate you to pray.
Principle #23
Prayer results in strength to fulfill your God-given purpose—pointing others to God through Jesus Christ.

Finally, Jesus interceded, or prayed on behalf of others (Luke 22:32). On several occasions we see him offering a blessing before a meal (i.e. Luke 24:30). He prayed when he was faced with temptation (John 6:15) and when he needed strength (Luke 22:42-43).

Jesus did indeed pray. Between specific teachings of Jesus (discussed here) and his examples of prayer, we learn so much about how to talk with God. We would love to hear from you. Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

What principle(s) were new to you?
What principle(s) are the most challenging for you?
Which principles(s) do you find the most comfort in?

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Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

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