What is a proper style or format for Biblical prayer?

Does God hear and answer improper prayers?

Is prayer addressed to Jesus proper?

We are encouraged in the Bible to pray to God in faith. Prayer occurs in the Bible from Genesis through Revelation. Proper prayer is always directed to God the Father in Jesus' name. The format for a proper prayer is clearly given in Scripture. Jesus said to pray to our Father in heaven.

Matthew 6:6 "But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who [is] in the secret [place]; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7 "And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen [do]. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 "Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. 9 "In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as [it] [is] in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Although Jesus gave a sample prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 He also instructed us in Matthew 6:7 not to use vain repetitions. Therefore, this sample prayer should not be vainly repeated as is so often done in many churches.

Jesus also instructed us to pray, asking "in My name." This can be done by ending the prayer "in Jesus' name," "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," or by using similar titles that refer properly to Jesus Christ.

John 14:13 "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 "If you ask anything in My name, I will do [it]. 15 " If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever-- 17 "the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. 19 " A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. 20 "At that day you will know that I [am] in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.

We are also told by the Apostle Paul how to pray in this Dispensation of Grace. We are to bow our knees in prayer to God the Father who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think by Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:14-21).

Ephesians 3:14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what [is] the width and length and depth and height-- 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

The Holy Spirit also intercedes in the prayers of those of us who are indwelt with the Holy Spirit to assist us in ways we do not understand and to carry out the desires of God. Those who reject God and Jesus Christ do not have the Holy Spirit, and their prayers go unanswered. Those who place themselves back under the Old Testament dietary laws, observance of Jewish religious days and the Ten Commandments have "fallen from grace." They do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit does not intercede with God on their behalf. God does not hear their prayers.

Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

We cannot become clean enough, repentant enough, or become righteous enough to approach the Almighty Holy God directly. God has the unsaved person on mute. This is why Jesus Christ is our Advocate between us and God. This is why we pray in Jesus' name. In prayer we are asking Jesus to take our message to God. If one does not have Jesus he has no advocate, and God does not hear his prayer. The proper format for a prayer is a serious matter. We are to pray to God the Father in Jesus' name because Jesus is the Advocate and Intercessor between Spirit-filled believers and God the Father.

1 John 2:1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

Romans 8:34 Who [is] he who condemns? [It] [is] Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

The Holy Spirit can also make intercession to God the Father for us. This form of prayer is generally called "praying in the Spirit."

Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit [is], because He makes intercession for the saints according to [the] [will] [of] God.

We are instructed in Scripture to pray without ceasing. This does not mean we are to spend all day on our knees in prayer because doing so would be legalistic and improper in this Dispensation of Grace. We are to keep an attitude of being in contact with God through the Holy Spirit in all things and at all times. We should be dependent on God and walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh.

1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

Being thankful for our food is great, but forcing oneself to pray in public before each meal is another common form of legalism. Giving thanks in a silent prayer is the proper way. Jesus criticized the Pharisees because they prayed in public simply to be seen of others.

Matthew 6:5 "And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 "But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who [is] in the secret [place]; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7 "And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen [do]. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 "Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

Many pastors and churches use the excuse that prayer to Jesus is OK because He is one in the Godhead. They claim this is the same as praying to the Father. This doctrine is false for reasons stated above. Others use the excuse that grace gives a license to pray to Jesus alone, but this excuse is false doctrine also.

A prayer by an unbeliever is a hopeless effort because all prayer must be "in Jesus' name." The first prayer accepted by God from a new believer is the prayer of salvation confessing faith in Jesus and praying in Jesus' name or in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  "Yes, I want to pray to God for salvation."

Prayer in the modern Christian church is in a state of severe apostasy. Christians in centuries past did not address prayer directly to Jesus as many do today because it is contrary to Scripture. Pastors and people have drifted away from a proper prayer format against all clear instructions given in Scripture. A typical example of a seriously defective prayer has been copied from the website of a well known Christian radio talk show host. This prayer is typical of many heard on television, radio and in churches and prayer groups.

Example of an incorrect prayer format.

"Lord Jesus, I need you. Thank you for dying on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins. Thank you for offering me Your life. I now ask You to come into my heart as my Lord and Savior. Take control of my life and make me into the new creation You want me to be. I now thank You for coming into my heart and giving me eternal life."

Aberrant prayers are so common that many people see nothing wrong with the prayer above. They see it as a typical prayer heard often in their church and among their Christian friends. The problems with the format of this prayer are many.

The above example prayer has other serious problems that leave salvation in doubt. The prayer was given on the website of the Christian radio talk show host as an sample prayer for salvation. However, it does not contain the gospel. The phrase "ask Jesus into your heart" is not in Scripture. The concept of asking Jesus into one's heart is not in Scripture. This cliché has become popular only within the last few years. Early church fathers for nearly 2000 years never taught this false concept.

Many pastors and church members pray to Jesus in "His" name. This prayer indicates a strange relationship as if Jesus is the Advocate to Himself. We should not pray to Jesus in Jesus' name. We should pray to God in Jesus' name. This sloppy inattention to Scripture exposes the lack of concern for accuracy in understanding doctrine. The contents of these prayers generally show that the person praying does not know the gospel either.

This incorrect example prayer above says nothing about the resurrection of Jesus which is the heart of the gospel, "believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved." The gospel is clearly presented in Romans 10:9-10.

Romans 10:9-10 That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

We are instructed in the Bible to make prayer a personal communication with God while avoiding a public display.

Matthew 6:5 "And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 "But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who [is] in the secret [place]; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7 "And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen [do]. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 "Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

The "Prayer of Jabez" is another example of incorrect prayer.

Books have been written suggesting that we should pray daily the "Prayer of Jabez" as found in the Bible.

1 Chronicles 4:10 And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, "Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep [me] from evil, that I may not cause pain!" So God granted him what he requested. 

The "Prayer of Jabez" was a very good prayer for Jabez to pray, and God honored his prayer. But it is not a prayer that we should repeat, neither once nor with repetition. God already knows the "Prayer of Jabez." He doesn't need to hear it again and again every morning. You should stop repeating the "Prayer of Jabez" if have have fallen into this false teaching. Talk to God from your heart. He wants to hear from you. He wants to hear your prayer of thanks for the blessing He has given you, and He wants to hear your concerns and desires from your heart.

We certainly can direct praise and thanksgiving to Jesus or to the Holy Spirit during a prayer to God in Jesus' name, but the focus of our prayer should be toward God in the name of the Son as stated in Scripture.

Click here to say, "Yes, I want to pray to God for salvation."

Click here to say, "I just prayed to confess Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior."

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