THE CHURCH: Lord, Teach Us to Pray

by Robert Harkrider

Synopsis: Prayer is one of the greatest privileges of a Christian. Nevertheless, to be assured that God hears us, we must apply the Lord’s teaching regarding acceptable prayer.


When the disciples asked the Lord, “Teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1), we do not find them saying, “Lord, teach us to be eloquent; help us to word beautiful prayers to be heard of men.” They must already have known something about prayer, especially so, since they were Jews and knew the Hebrew custom of worship. Yet, they saw in the life and manner of Jesus an application of prayer that they did not possess on their own. They recognized their own inept and inadequate prayer life.

Prayer may be one of the most neglected subjects among God’s people today. We sing, “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” but spend maybe five minutes in prayer. In olden days, the mid-week assembly was described as a “prayer meeting,” yet, in such circumstances, prayer was rarely the primary purpose in our gathering. The apostles gave themselves “continually to prayer and the ministry of the word of God” (Acts 6:4). How many of us give even as much as half an hour a day to prayer?

Prayer is one of the highest privileges of a Christian. Having the assurance that God hears and answers prayer lifts one up in times of distress and comforts the heart in times of loneliness. Prayer is much more than formal words to be read or spoken from memory. Prayer is man’s way of talking to God and should be the expression of one’s heart. To enjoy the assurance that God hears us, we should apply what the Bible says about God’s will concerning our prayers. To this end, let us consider “Seven Keys of Acceptable Prayer.”

1. Ask (Matt. 7:7-11)

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

God knows what we need even before we ask, but it is an act of faith to appeal to Him. You may know what your child wants, but it is far more gratifying to provide it when he acknowledges his dependence on you as the one who is able to supply it and his appreciation for you when you do. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:6-7).

2. Ask as a Righteous Person (1 Pet. 3:12)

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.

Perhaps some are surprised to read in Isaiah 1:14-15 that God “hates” hypocritical worship and will not hear the prayers of those who so worship Him. He will not hear the prayer of sinners (John 9:31; Prov.28:9; 15:29). It is not that God demands sinless perfection, for Elijah was a man of “like passion as we are” (Jas. 5:17). Yet, the attitude of one’s heart is the point. The righteous will seek to obey God (1 John 1:7-10), whereas the wicked man “regards iniquity in his heart” (Ps. 66:18). “And whatever we ask we receive from Him because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3.22).

3. Ask According to His Will (1 John 5:14-15)

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

We must have a vision of God’s purposes. No matter what the precise thing is for which we are asking, we are really expecting God to answer the prayer for His glory instead of our selfish good. We must always pray like Jesus, “Thy will be done” (Matt. 26:39, 44). There is no need for us to pray for a million dollars if we are prompted by covetousness (Jas. 4:3). There is no need to ask for forgiveness if we are unwilling to obey (Luke 6:46).

4. Ask in the Name of Christ (John 14:13-14; 15:16)

And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.

This involves more than a formality of words included in the prayer. It acknowledges an understanding of our relationship that we are able to approach the Father through His Son (1 Tim. 1:5; Heb. 7:25; Rom. 8:34). By the authority of Christ, and through Him as our High Priest, we can come boldly to the throne of our Father (Heb. 4:15-16).

5. Ask in Faith (Jas. 1:6-7)

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.

Unwavering faith is based on something secure (Rom. 10:17). The Bible assures us that God answers if we pray according to His will. That means, of course, that God will not grant our selfish desires, nor desires that are not suited to our good or His glory. Yet, He will grant our desires that are “according to His will.” Our mountains may be removed quickly, or the answer may be long delayed, but faith is not influenced by circumstances at hand, for it rests in the promise and integrity of the One who has promised. “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18).

6. Ask for Definite Things (Luke 11:11-12)

If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?

All great men of the Bible were praying men through whom God gave great blessings and great deliverances. Elijah prayed that it not rain, and for three and a half years, it rained not (Jas. 5:18). God delights to give us precisely what we ask if it is good for us and to His glory. Sometimes we may not know what to pray for as we ought (Rom. 8:26-28). A significant part of prayer is quietly communing with God, meditating upon His will and word, patiently waiting upon Him, and humply asking Him to help us to acquire wisdom and enlarged horizons of vision.

7. Ask with a Thankful Heart (1 Thess. 5:17-18)

Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

If we maintain clear vision, no hour is so dark, and no struggle is so hard that they offer no occasion for thanksgiving. Paul and Silas sang praises and prayed while in jail (Acts 16:25)! Some blessings abide, which no man can rob from us: forgiveness of sins through Christ, the promise of heaven in the world to come, and God’s constant care and supply of our daily needs.


Following these seven keys of successful prayer will enrich our lives. What a privilege we have in Christ! “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).

Author Bio

Robert served with the South Bumby church in Orlando, FL for thirty years. He now lives in near Atlanta. He can be reached at