In Matthew 6:7-15, we see Jesus

  • telling his disciples to not use vain repetitions as the heathens do

  • giving a specific example of how to pray

It's furthermore noted that prayer is a rather powerful technique given:

I get the impression that prayer is something that:

  • was very important to Christ and his disciples

  • unfortunately, for some reason, not explained explicitly in the Bible (i.e. no 8-step prayer program)

There are other Biblical truths that are "hidden" -- like Trinity / TULIP -- they're in the Bible, but often times hard to see unless someone shows it to you. Prayer seems to be along these lines.


Who were the most influential Church fathers on how we should pray? And what did they say about it? [Please cite resources.]

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    What is TULIP?? Aug 11, 2012 at 15:22
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    @MonikaMichael - Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistable Grace, Perseverance\Preservation of the Saints; aka The 5 Points of Calvinism
    – warren
    Aug 11, 2012 at 17:59
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    This question is extremely broad; since the Bible says so much about prayer, a comprehensive answer is likely not possible in a format suitable for an SE Q ... could you focus this question more?
    – warren
    Aug 11, 2012 at 18:01
  • @warren: changed form "prayer" to "how we should pray" -- does this need to be narrowed more?
    – user1694
    Aug 11, 2012 at 21:12
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    Ok - by the way you are very normal in your reaction to Owen, the english in universities around that time is hard to read especially his very long senteneces. I am the only person I know who 'suffers the pain' of regularily reading his works :) BTW you have had a string of brilliant questions recently, it makes me think God is truly working in your life. I find it hard to understand how one person can have so many insightful questions in such a short period otherwise. Reccomend you read Luther's Commentary on Galations if you want many subconcious questions, answered, all at once. Cheers.
    – Mike
    Aug 12, 2012 at 6:42

4 Answers 4


The subject of prayer during the reformation also took on a revised meaning. The reference I think best illustrates this is John Owen’s Works Volume 4 - ‘A Discourse of The Work of The Holy Spirit in Prayer; With a Brief Inquiry into the Nature and Use of Mental Prayer and Forms.’

In this work Owen makes several key concepts, which to me, represent the ‘reformed view’ of prayer and opposed some previous traditional views that were seen as apostasy from the biblical view. The traditional views being rejected by Owen were any view that pretended of some ‘secret steps’ to prayer as possibly proposed by monkish institutions or ‘prayer books’ that sought to replace the personal need of prayer according to ones own peculiar situation.

In this work Owen argues the following basic tenants.

First Owen uses a prophecy in Zechariah to stress that prayer is a general work of the Holy Spirit in all believers. Not only so but it is a primary function of the Spirit in our lives and hence of our faith itself.

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. (NIV Zechariah 12:10)

He further establishes the root of his argument here:

Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” (NIV Galatians 4:6)

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. (NIV Romans 8:26)

To reduce his many words into a summary, this lays the foundation of the reformed view, for basically as the Spirit is the Spirit of the ‘Son’ and of ‘supplication’, prayer is what binds us into communion with God by faith in Christ whereby we learn what to pray and how to pray and are enabled to do so with a Christ centered faith and power.

First of all without the Spirit we do not know what to pray. Inwardly the Spirit desires that we conform to the image of Christ by faith, but we are not even aware of our own sins or needs, without the Spirit groaning for our deliverance with in us and manifesting our needs to us.

Secondly, the Spirit makes know to us how the atonement and work of Christ is able to provide an answer to what we need. As we learn what our needs are and bring them to God and the study of his word, the Spirit by faith in Christ opens up his word and assures us in particulars, according to our private needs, what God’s will is and that he is able to supply all our needs accordingly.

Third, the Spirit makes us feel as God’s children with ‘bold-free access’ to God. Children trust that their parents will help them and so frequently approach them with all their requests over and over. Often it is ‘hidden guilt’ that keeps us from coming to the throne of grace boldly, which explains our atheistic prayer-less life. This is actually unbelief and I have made a very very long post against the work of guilt and fear in our secret hearts here and is related to our desire to approach God by prayer. With guilt we may be compelled to the duty of prayer but will never know what it is to pray in the Spirit, for that work will be a work of the flesh.

The end result of a reformed view of prayer is that it is entirely connected to our relationship with God. Prayer takes the gospel, digests it and expresses the desire for God’s will and kingdom in our lives, in the desire, love and earnest seeking of his will for ourselves and our neighbors – it is our 'faith-pulse' even if we are barely ware of it.

The result of prayer, therefore, is that our whole state of faith depends on it, and if our faith is weak, we need quite time with God to strengthen it in order to do the more difficult matters such as the reference made to casting out a powerful demon, which the Apostles who were at the time weak in faith, we not able to do. This type of prayer, though extending into verbal public prayers as occasions will require, cannot be replaced by any supposed ‘secret method’, or published ‘prayer book’ but is the most intense, intimate and personal aspect of our relationship with God and his word. Some of the best types of prayers, as illustrative examples, are those offered by the Apostle in some of his epistles.

  • Yet, Christ gives us a very specific model to pray by with the Lord's Prayer, so what's wrong with following a general structure? What about the singing of the psalms? In the very early days of the church, the psalms were sang every day (and til this day) and most of the psalms are considered to be prayers in their own right, so Book of Psalms is the earliest example of a "prayer book" being used in the church. Very well spoken on behalf of the Spirit however. I think this question could be even two separate issues, "How should the Church pray together" and "How should we pray privately?"
    – user1946
    Aug 13, 2012 at 12:53
  • @treehau5 - Yes you have a point. The reformers did not oppose the use of new reformed books of prayer and all reformers have viewed the Lord's prayer as the best model. Owen's main point was not in 'opposing' prayer books but opposed making them 'mandatory' or of 'first importance'. He encouraged 'free' corporate prayer based on the peculiar needs of a congregation and present struggles that he thought could not be replaced by general prayers written by others. In this sense personal prayer is extended into united corporate prayer in the Spirit, under the same principles of private prayer.
    – Mike
    Aug 13, 2012 at 14:05
  • @Caleb - Was there not a big bounty coming my way in this question?
    – Mike
    Aug 31, 2012 at 1:55

As pointed out Paul Washer and John Piper, the correct way to pray is to pray for the kingdom of God.

Specifically, instead of "God, please let X happen" pray "God, if X will glory you, let X happen; if !X will glorify you, let !X happen."

Furthermore, prayer is for advancing the kingdom of God, not our personal needs (i.e. Piper's line on war time walkie talkie, not home butler service.)


Who were the most influential Church fathers on how we should pray?


MARK 11:23
For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, Be removed and be cast into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will come to pass, he will have whatever he says.

Jesus talked to things and taught that a mountain is any obstacle that stands in your way.

Most Christians pray to God but Jesus told us to speak directly to the obstacle and tell it to be removed.

So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, `Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.

According to Jesus, unbelief keeps us from speaking to our mountains.

Prayer is important but also needs to be followed up by speaking to the "mountain" - then believe that it has already been removed.

See: Jesus gives instructions concerning the mountain or problem

  1. to believe that you receive when you pray [Mark 11:24, Matthew 21:21]

  2. to speak to the mountain or problem you have; rebuke, give directions to the problem, and cast out the problem from you body, circumstance, or environment [Mark 11:23, Matthew 21:21, Matthew 17:20, Luke 17:6, Mark 16:17, Luke 11:20, Matthew 12:28].

  3. to say what you want to come to pass, into existence [ginomai] [Mark 11:23]. It shall be done [ginomai], according to God's Word [Matthew 21:21]. O woman, great is your faith! Let it be [ginomai] to you as you desire [Matthew 15:28]. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, be it done unto thee [ginomai] [Matthew 8:13].

Jesus promises "it will be done" [Matthew 21:21], it "shall come to pass" [Mark 11:23], it will "obey you" [Luke 17:6], and "it will move" [Matthew 17:20]. Jesus says that it is the believer's responsibility to speak to the mountain.


POINT: in all cases, prayers are answered; my point being there is no absolute specific syntax for prayers; everyone's different. God knows, understands and accepts that, thus he has no syntax that we "should" use, just pray in the style that suits you, that you're comfortable with, and God will listen.

EVIDENCE: In the bible Jesus will often pray in the same way as I (and the church, etc) do. that is, Jesus will just say "winds be still" and the wind will die down, "demons, come out" and the possessed are freed from the demons. this suggests that, according to the bible, like I said, it does not matter how you pray

COMMENT/CONCLUSION: i don't follow any specific syntax with my prayers. at school, they do the sign of the cross before and after prayers, and the actual prayer is spoken in a "traditional" sort of voice if you know what i mean. i don't use the sign of the cross (at school i do, otherwise i get in trouble), i just say "Jesus, [whatever i want to say]". at church, they don't use the sign of the cross either. they just speak, and often times they will get a little bit louder, and louder and firmer before finishing off with "i ask you, Jesus christ AMEN!" in a relatively loud and very firm voice. some people pray by saying, for example "Yo God, mah man! how's stuff up there? listen i have a favour to ask. i inadvertently let slip a cuss, will ya forgive me? thanks man! catch ya later dude!"

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    Welcome, I'm afraid you didn't actually answer the question "what does the bible say about how we should pray and instead have just given your own personal advice. Please keep your answers scoped to the questions. Feel free to edit and expand this to support your advice biblically
    – wax eagle
    Aug 25, 2012 at 14:08
  • sorry, i edited it so it now answers the question better using the point/evidence/comment format
    – Sylvester
    Aug 26, 2012 at 2:40
  • There's still no references in your answer - can you add some?
    – warren
    Aug 26, 2012 at 6:05