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.™

Jesus Taught Us How to Pray:
Matthew 6:5-8

Jesus Taught Us How to Pray
Part 1

by Trisha L. Knaul

What did God tell us about prayer?

If we want to know what God told us about prayer, we must listen to what Jesus—God the Son—told us. There are several passages where Jesus prayed, all of which give us examples of what and how God Himself modeled prayer for us. (We will explore those another time.) However, the gospels also record the times when Jesus actually taught his disciples about prayer. So, what did Jesus teach about prayer?

Matthew 6:5-8

We find Jesus’ first prayer teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, the longest sermon (or collection of teachings) by Jesus recorded in the Bible. It covers everything from adultery to fasting, from blessings to worry. This sermon also contains the longest recorded teaching on prayer. In the very middle of his sermon, Jesus taught the crowd:

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 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. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:5-8)

We are expected to pray.

Jesus introduced his teaching on prayer by saying, “when you pray.” When, not if. We are expected to pray. It is not an option for those who follow Jesus Christ. Jesus did not command us to pray; he expected us to be praying. This passage is not a call to prayer. It is instruction (for those who should already be praying) on how to effectively pray.

We are to be real when we pray.

Jesus continued with a warning that we are “not to be like the hypocrites.” The Greek word for hypocrite was the same word used for an actor on a stage. A hypocrite was someone who played a part for the benefit of those watching—what others saw was not who they really were. The rewards for an actor were self-satisfaction and recognition.

Jesus told his followers not to pray in a way that sought or brought recognition for themselves. People who pray in such a way, will receive the same recognition as an actor—self-satisfaction and recognition. Sadly, that is the only reward they will receive. Although public prayer should be done, praying for the praise of men instead of for the glory of God results in nothing but the puffing up of our own pride. The only reward that prayer will receive is the momentary praise of men. We must be ever vigilant of the temptation to shift our focus from God to ourselves when we pray, especially in a group setting.

Prayer is between you and God–private.

How should we pray, then? “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” Unlike the hypocrite who is seeking recognition, we are to seek God. Most prayer should be between us and God alone—private. While I don’t want to minimize the importance of praying with others, it needs to be stressed that God wants alone time with us. Our prayers should always be about God, not ourselves.

Once we approach God with the right attitude, “your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Seek God, not accolades from others. The best way to do that is to pray where others cannot see us. When we approach God in this way, God will reward us.

Right prayers are rewarded.

What will that reward be? When Jesus said that the hypocrite only receives the reward of men’s praise, the Greek word for reward is misthos. It is a reward “that appropriately compensates a particular decision (action).” (https://biblehub.com/greek/3408.htm) In other words, they will get what’s coming to them, i.e. nothing but the momentary praise of men.

By contrast, when Jesus told us that God will reward the ones who pray in secret, the word for reward is apodidómi which means “to return, in relation to the source of the giving back.” (https://biblehub.com/greek/591.htm) The ones who pray for God (not for men’s praise) will receive in relationship to what they gives.  The ones who pray with the right attitude will be rewarded in relationship to the honor given to God—God will honor their prayers as they have honored Him.

God hears our prayers.

Jesus ended this teaching by cautioning us to consider our words carefully when praying. We cannot convince God to listen to us by “babbling like pagans.” God knows what we need (and want) before we even ask. We are to be confident that God hears us. Although there is a time to “not give up” (We will talk about that passage in part 4.), prayers are always to mean something. They are not to be mindless chatter. Prayers that only drone on and on and do not engage the heart and mind of the one praying are just gibberish. The key is personal engagement and relationship with God. He always hears and rewards real, heartfelt prayers offered in humility.

Things to think about:
    • How does it make you feel to know that God expects you to be praying?
    • If you have ever caught yourself acting when you pray, how did the realization affect you?
    • Describe your private place of prayer.
    • What rewards have you experienced through prayer?
    • Do you find comfort in the thought that you don’t need to use a lot of words when you pray?


Continue reading Jesus Taught Us How to Pray:
Part 2: Matthew 6:9-15
Part 3: Mark 11:22-25
Part 4: Luke 18:1-8
Part 5: Luke 18:9-14
Part 6: John 14:13-14
Part 7: Conclusion

Read the full article, here.

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Download all the Project Prayer extras here.


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.™