What is Prayer?

This entry is part 42 of 44 in the series What are Catechisms?

What is Prayer?1

Prayer is an offering up of our desires to God, for things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins and thankful acknowledgment of His mercies. (1 John 5:14; 1 John 1:9; Philippians 4:6; Psalm 10:17; 145:19; John 14:13-14)

To whom should we pray?2

We should pray to the true God only, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, not to idols, saints, or anything God has created (Psalm 65:2; 1 John 5:20-21; Revelation 22:8-9). Bible narratives: Elijah and the priests of Baal (1 Kings 18:25-29, 36-39). Daniel in the lions’ den (Daniel 6:1-23). Paul in Lystra (Acts 14:8-18). Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer (John 17).

What belongs to a prayer which pleases God and is heard by him?3

First, we must from the heart call upon the one true God only, who has revealed himself in his Word, for all that he has commanded us to pray (Psalm 145:18-20; John 4:22-24; Romans 8:26-27; James 1:5; 1 John 5:14-15; Revelation 19:10). Second, we must thoroughly know our need and misery, so that we may humble ourselves before God (2 Chronicles 7:14; 20:12; Psalm 2:11; 34:18; 62:8; Isaiah 66:2; Revelation 4). Third, we must rest on this firm foundation that, although we do not deserve it, God will certainly hear our prayer for the sake of Christ our Lord, as he has promised us in his Word (Daniel 9:17-19; Matthew 7:8; John 14:13-14; 16:23; Romans 10:13; James 1:6).

How should we pray?4

We should pray:

  • With attention;
  • With a sense of our own helplessness and dependence upon God;
  • With a great desire for the graces we beg of God;
  • With trust in God’s goodness;
  • With perseverance.

What should be the content of our prayers?5

In our prayers we should ask for everything that tends to the glory of God and to our own and our neighbor’s welfare, both spiritual and bodily blessings. We should also praise and thank God for who He is and what He has done (Philippians 4:6; Psalm 136:1).

For whom are we to pray?6

We are to pray for the whole church of Christ upon earth; for magistrates, and ministers; for ourselves, our brethren, yea, our enemies; and for all sorts of men living, or that shall live hereafter; but not for the dead, nor for those that are known to have sinned the sin unto death.

Where should we pray?7

We should pray everywhere, especially when we are alone, with our families, and in Church (1 Timothy 2:8; Matthew 6:6; Luke 5:16; Acts 12:5).

What are the principle kinds of prayer?8

The principle kinds of prayer are adoration, praise, thanksgiving, penitence, oblation, intercession, and petition.

What is adoration?9

Adoration is the lifting up of the heart and mind to God, asking nothing but to enjoy God’s presence.

Why do we praise God?10

We praise God, not to obtain anything, but because God’s Being draws praise from us.

For what do we offer thanksgiving?11

Thanksgiving is offered to God for all the blessings of this life, for our redemption, and for whatever draws us closer to God.

What is penitence?12

In penitence, we confess our sins and make restitution where possible, with the intention to amend our lives.

What is prayer of oblation?13

Oblation is an offering of ourselves, our lives and labors, in union with Christ, for the purposes of God.

What are intercession and petition?14

Intercession brings before God the needs of others; in petition, we present our own needs, that God’s will may be done.

What is it to pray in the name of Christ?15

To pray in the name of Christ is, in obedience to his command, and in confidence on his promises, to ask mercy for his sake; not by bare mentioning of his name, but by drawing our encouragement to pray, and our boldness, strength, and hope of acceptance in prayer, from Christ and his mediation.

Why are we to pray in the name of Christ?16

The sinfulness of man, and his distance from God by reason thereof, being so great, as that we can have no access into his presence without a mediator; and there being none in heaven or earth appointed to, or fit for, that glorious work but Christ alone, we are to pray in no other name but his only.

How does the Spirit help us to pray?17

We not knowing: What to pray for as we ought, the Spirit helps our infirmities, by enabling us to understand both for whom, and: What, and: How prayer is to be made; and by working and quickening in our hearts (although not in all persons, nor at all times, in the same measure) those apprehensions, affections, and graces which are requisite for the right performance of that duty.

How does God answer prayer?18

God hears the prayers of all Christians and answers in His own way and at His own time (Isaiah 65:24; 2 Corinthians 12:8-9). Bible narratives: Jesus healed a centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-13). Jesus healed a paralytic (Matthew 9:18). The Lord planned to rescue Israel from Egypt (Exodus 3:7-10). The parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8).


Series Navigation<< What is Everlasting Life?What is the Lord’s Prayer? Introduction >>

What are Catechisms? (44 articles)


  1. Baptist Catechism (1677), Question 109.
  2. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 195.
  3. Heidelberg Catechism (1563), Question 117.
  4. Baltimore Larger Catechism (1885), Question 307.
  5. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 197.
  6. Westminster Larger Catechism (1647), Question 183.
  7. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 202.
  8. Episcopal Catechism (1789), Question 80.
  9. Episcopal Catechism (1789), Question 81.
  10. Episcopal Catechism (1789), Question 82.
  11. Episcopal Catechism (1789), Question 83.
  12. Episcopal Catechism (1789), Question 84.
  13. Episcopal Catechism (1789), Question 85.
  14. Episcopal Catechism (1789), Question 86.
  15. Westminster Larger Catechism (1647), Question 180.
  16. Westminster Larger Catechism (1647), Question 181.
  17. Westminster Larger Catechism (1647), Question 182.
  18. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 200.

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