Kinds of Prayer

There are several kinds of prayer all addressed to God, yet each of a different nature. The most common kind is that of a petition, wherein we ask God for some favor or a special blessing. We may pray for guidance, for protection, for success in an undertaking, for patience, for a deeper understanding of the things of God, or for any one of many other things. All such prayers are prayers of petition, and are acceptable to God. They are not used alone, but are generally blended with other prayers, such as those of thanksgiving, praise and adoration.

Prayers of Thanksgiving

Giving thanks to God for blessings received or for any other favors is most appropriate. Too often, we accept blessings from God as a matter of course and forget to give thanks for them. Once Christ cleansed ten lepers and sent them to show themselves to the priests. Of these, ten only one returned to give thanks to God. Said Jesus, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save the stranger. And He said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith had made thee whole.” Luke 17:17-19. Paul exhorts us to give “thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20.

The pages of Scripture are embellished with prayers of thanksgiving. The psalms contain songs and prayers of thanksgiving to the Lord:

“O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;

for His steadfast love endures forever!

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,

Whom He redeemed from trouble.” 

“Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love,

for His wonderful works to the sons of men!

Let them extol Him in the congregation of the people,

And praise Him in the assembly of the elders.”

         Psalm 107: 1,2,31, 32, RSV.

In our prayers, we generally thank God for His many blessings; but often the thanksgiving is a routine form without any deep feeling. Saying grace at meals, thanking God for daily food, is a commendable practice; but that also may become a form without any real spirit of thankfulness. In war concentration camps many learned to give thanks to God for any little morsel of food, and when liberated were perplexed that some seemed to take food for granted and were not especially thankful for the bounties set before them.

Prayer of Adoration

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14. This is a good example of prayers of adoration. The angels were not asking for any special favor; they were simply ascribing praise to God for His wonderful gift to the children of men. When the angels sing one to another, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts;” and when we on earth join in worshiping God and giving glory to His holy name, we are uniting in a prayer of adoration. Isaiah 6:3.

The angel who is seen flying in the midst of heaven, saying, “Fear God, and give glory to Him” (Revelation 14:7), is calling on men to adore the Most High. Prayer of adoration is one of the highest forms of prayer. It is not asking for anything. It is God’s approved way of having us declare our love for, and loyalty to, Him.

Intercessory Prayer

Intercessory prayer is so called because in it we are praying for others. When Moses prayed, “Yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin-; and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written,” his prayer was one of intercession. Exodus 32:32. So was Paul’s, when he prayed, “I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” Romans 9:3. Christ’s prayer on the cross, “Father forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), was likewise intercessory, as was also His high-priestly prayer recorded in John 17.

We have mentioned these different kinds of prayers not to show that one kind is better than another, but rather to point out that true prayer may consist of any one kind or of all kinds blended, and still be acceptable to God. The one who prays will not decide that he will use a certain kind today and another tomorrow. He simply opens his heart and expresses his inmost desires, and then thanks God that He has heard him. Paul gives good advice and encouraging counsel to such as feel that they are not able to express to God all they would like to or in the way they would like: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit Itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26,27.

“We know not what we should pray for,” or, as the margin has it, “We know not how to pray as we ought.” Both renderings contain truth. We know neither how to pray or what to pray for, as we ought. But in this statement of Paul’s, God gives the precious and wonderful promise that the Spirit will help our infirmities, and that though our words but poorly express our desires, the Spirit knows what is in our minds, and will make intercession for us with groaning that cannot be uttered. His pleadings are always “according to the will of God.”  

Effective Prayer

These two verses quoted, Romans 8:26,27, contain the secret of effectual and fervent prayer, prayer that will be heard and answered. Our words may not express correctly what we have in mind; in our ignorance of what is for our good we may ask for that which is not best and for which we would not pray if we knew the future; but the Spirit knows what we mean, and our prayers will come up before God so worded that they will harmonize with god’s will and we ask for that which is for our good.

Paul’s statement of what the Spirit will do with our prayers is a precious one. With this in mind, we can come with all boldness and present our case to God. Our words may be crude; but the Spirit rewords them, they ascend as sweet incense before God and reach the throne of the Most High. We may not have known what we should seek. We may have asked for that which would do us definite harm had our prayers been answered. However, the Spirit knows the real desire of our heart even if our words do not rightly convey the meaning. Could we hear our prayer as changed by the Spirit, we might not recognize it as our prayer. God and the Spirit work together and the prayer presented before God is in harmony with Their will. Therefore, God will answer the Spirit’s request, which expresses our deep need. What we get is “according to the will of God.”  In addition, if so, all is well.

I visit a person in the hospital. In my conversation, I find that he has a most intense craving for sweets, and so I leave an order at the desk to have a pound of candy delivered to the patient’s room. I do not know that sweets are strictly forbidden the patient. I meant to do him a little favor, and I most certainly had no intention of doing him harm; but before the order is sent out, the doctor learns of what I have done, cancels the order, and uses the money for something that will do good and not harm. When I hear of what has happened I thank the doctor and assure him I appreciate his catching my mistake in time.

This illustration is a weak one, but it does bring to mind that we may make a serious mistake even when we mean to do well. God knows what we have in mind, and He is too good and too wise to give us that which in the end will be harmful for us. So in answer to our prayer, He may give us that for which we never asked, and we are greatly surprised at what God sent us when we asked for something else. This may explain how at times we think God did not hear our prayers when in fact He did hear and answer, though we failed to understand that what God sent was the answer.

Paul had some hard lessons to learn in this respect. While still in the full strength of manhood and while planning a worldwide gospel campaign, he was imprisoned in Jerusalem, carried from prison to prison, and at last taken to Rome. We may well believe that both Paul and the church sent earnest petitions to God for his release. But God did not answer their petitions. Year after year, Paul languished in prison at the time when the church sorely needed him. Doubtless both he and the church, wondered why God did not hear their united prayers.

God knew what He was doing. The church did need Paul’s guiding hand in the difficult period of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. However, God also knew that Paul needed time to be alone, time for prayer and reflection, time to prepare the documents and epistles that the church would use until the end of time. Had Paul not been imprisoned, we might never had the precious documents that are known as the “prison epistles,” and the valuable counsel contained in the book of Hebrews. What the church lost while Paul was in prison has been the gain of the church for two millenniums. God knew that Paul wanted above all things to serve where he could do the most good. That place was in prison. When this became evident to Paul, he was content. The “ambassador in bonds” could write, “Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:20,21. He was “ready to be offered,” he said, “and the time of my departure is at hand.” 2 Timothy 4:6.

Therefore let all take heart. God knows what we mean; Hw knows what we need; and, whatever comes, we know that it will work together for the good to them that love God. Let us be of good cheer. God is at the helm!

Memory Verse:

“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.  2 Timothy 4: 6-8.



1.   What is intercessory prayer?



2.   What part does the Holy Spirit do when we pray?




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