What does the Bible say about prayer? How can scripture encourage and guide our prayers to God?
Prayer is both marvelous and mysterious. The idea of communicating with the Creator of the universe seems almost ludicrous. And certainly presumptuous. Not to mention intimidating. Thankfully, the Bible gives us insight into the hows and whys of prayer.
Why would God want to talk with us? Is there a right and wrong way to pray? Why does God answer some prayers but not others? Does it matter that we only have a little faith We can find the answers to our questions about prayer in Scripture! Since God invites us to talk with him, it’s no surprise he gives us guidelines. I’ve compiled a list of what I consider the ten most important verses on prayer.
God is listening and ready to answer your prayers. May these Bible quotes about prayer strengthen your faith and deeper your relationship with your Lord and Creator.
1. Luke 18:13-14: “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
These verses, from the well-known story of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying in the temple, reveals the prayer that allows us to enter into a relationship with God: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The tax collector was honest with God about his sin. He humbled himself, repented, and acknowledged his need for God’s mercy. God answered his prayer and saved him.Bottom line—the first step in developing a prayer life is calling upon God for salvation.
2. Psalm 66:18: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”
This verse from David’s psalm shows us a major hindrance to God’s willingness to hear our prayers—unconfessed sin. Some might ask, “If sin prevents God from hearing our prayers, then none of us have a chance, because of we all sin, even after we’re saved.”
A careful reading of Psalm 66:18, however, draws our attention to the word “cherished.” “If I had cherished sin...” To cherish sin means to embrace it. To love it, hold on to it, and refuse to give it up. This is vastly different from committing a sin that we regret, confess, and forsake as soon as the Holy Spirit brings it to our attention. God doesn’t expect us to be sinless, but he does call us to deal with our sin as soon as possible (1 John 1:9).
Bottom line—we can’t live a consistently sinful lifestyle and expect God to hear our prayers.
3. Psalm 34:15: “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry.”
If we have a right relationship with God and are earnestly seeking to follow and honor him with our lives, we never have to wonder if he’s listening to our prayers. On the contrary, this verse assures us that he is carefully attuned to our lives and eager to hear every prayer that comes from our lips.
Bottom line—God hears the prayers of those who put their trust in him.
4. Daniel 9:18: “We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.”
This beautiful excerpt from Daniel’s prayer on behalf of the Jews exiled in Babylon shows us a profound truth about prayer—that God answers our prayers because of his mercy, not our good works. Many believers think their good works obligate or persuade God to act on their behalf. And while God does call us to live holy lives, it is not our obedience that moves God to answer our prayers, it is his great mercy toward us.
Bottom line—God’s mercy, not our goodness, is the basis for answered prayers.
5. Psalm 5:3: “In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”
The psalmist who penned Psalm 5:3 models the attitude we should have when we pray—that of eager expectation. We should believe God will answer our prayers and diligently watch for his hand at work. The psalmist also shows us that when we pray early in the day, we have the rest of the day to anticipate God’s answer.
Bottom line—when we pray, we can wait in eager anticipation for God to work on our behalf.
6. 1 John 5:14: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”
God delights in answering prayers that align with his will. But how do we know what God’s will is? The most reliable way to know is by reading his Word. As we seek God through Bible reading and prayer, we get to know his heart and gain wisdom and spiritual insight. This gives us a greater understanding of how to pray according to his will, and a greater chance of having our prayers answered.
Bottom line—God answers every prayer that aligns with his will.
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