Category: What are the different types of prayer?


The Bible reveals many types of prayers and employs a variety of words to describe the practice. For example, 1 Timothy 2:1 says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” Here, all four of the main Greek words used for prayer are mentioned in one verse.

Here are the main types of prayers in the Bible:

The prayer of faith: James 5:15 says, “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” In this context, prayer is offered in faith for someone who is sick, asking God to heal. When we pray, we are to believe in the power and goodness of God (Mark 9:23).

The prayer of agreement (also known as corporate prayer): After Jesus’ ascension, the disciples “all joined together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14). Later, after Pentecost, the early church “devoted themselves” to prayer (Acts 2:42). Their example encourages us to pray with others.

The prayer of request (or supplication): We are to take our requests to God. Philippians 4:6 teaches, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Part of winning the spiritual battle is to be “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:18).

The prayer of thanksgiving: We see another type of prayer in Philippians 4:5: thanksgiving or thanks to God. “With thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Many examples of thanksgiving prayers can be found in the Psalms.

The prayer of worship: The prayer of worship is similar to the prayer of thanksgiving. The difference is that worship focuses on who God is; thanksgiving focuses on what God has done. Church leaders in Antioch prayed in this manner with fasting: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:2-3).

The prayer of consecration: Sometimes, prayer is a time of setting ourselves apart to follow God’s will. Jesus made such a prayer the night before His crucifixion: “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will’” (Matthew 26:39).

The prayer of intercession: Many times, our prayers include requests for others as we intercede for them. We are told to make intercession “for everyone” in 1 Timothy 2:1. Jesus serves as our example in this area. The whole of John 17 is a prayer of Jesus on behalf of His disciples and all believers.

The prayer of imprecation: Imprecatory prayers are found in the Psalms (e.g., 7, 55, 69). They are used to invoke God’s judgment on the wicked and thereby avenge the righteous. The psalmists use this type of appeal to emphasize the holiness of God and the surety of His judgment. Jesus teaches us to pray for blessing on our enemies, not cursing (Matthew 5:44-48).

The Bible also speaks of praying in the Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:14-15) and prayers when we are unable to think of adequate words (Romans 8:26-27). In those times, the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us.

Prayer is conversation with God and should be made without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). As we grow in our love for Jesus Christ, we will naturally desire to talk to Him.

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Is corporate prayer more powerful than an individual praying alone?

Corporate prayer is an important part of the life of the church, along with worship, sound doctrine, communion, and fellowship. The early church met regularly to learn the doctrine of the apostles, break bread, and pray together (Acts 2:42). When we pray together with other believers, the effects can be very positive. Corporate prayer edifies and unifies us as we share our common faith. The same Holy Spirit who dwells within each believer causes our hearts to rejoice as we hear praises to our Lord and Savior, knitting us together in a unique bond of fellowship found nowhere else in life.

To those who may be alone and struggling with life’s burdens, hearing others lift them up to the throne of grace can be a great encouragement. It also builds in us love and concern for others as we intercede for them. At the same time, corporate prayer will only be a reflection of the hearts of the individuals who participate. We are to come to God in humility (James 4:10), truth (Psalm 145:18), obedience (1 John 3:21-22), with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6) and confidence (Hebrews 4:16). Sadly, corporate prayer can also become a platform for those whose words are directed not to God, but to their hearers. Jesus warned against such behavior in Matthew 6:5-8 where he exhorts us not to be showy, long-winded, or hypocritical in our prayers, but to pray secretly in our own rooms in order to avoid the temptation of using prayer hypocritically.

There is nothing in Scripture to suggest that corporate prayers are “more powerful” than individual prayers in the sense of moving the hand of God. Far too many Christians equate prayer with “getting things from God,” and group prayer becomes mainly an occasion to recite a list of our wants. Biblical prayers, however, are multi-faceted, encompassing the whole of the desire to enter into conscious and intimate communion with our holy, perfect, and righteous God. That such a God would bend an ear to His creatures causes praise and adoration to pour forth in abundance (Psalm 27:4; 63:1-8), produces heartfelt repentance and confession (Psalm 51; Luke 18:9-14), generates an outpouring of gratitude and thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6; Colossians 1:12), and creates sincere intercessory pleas on behalf of others (2 Thessalonians 1:11; 2:16).

Prayer, then, is cooperating with God to bring about His plan, not trying to bend Him to our will. As we abandon our own desires in submission to the One who knows our circumstances far better than we ever could and who “knows what you need before you ask” (Matthew 6:8), our prayers reach their highest level. Prayers offered in submission to the Divine will, therefore, are always answered positively, whether offered by one person or a thousand.

The idea that corporate prayers are more likely to move the hand of God comes largely from a misinterpretation of Matthew 18:19-20, “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” These verses come from a larger passage which addresses the procedures to be followed in the case of church discipline of a sinning member. To interpret them as promising believers a blank check for anything they might agree to ask God for, no matter how sinful or foolish, not only does not fit the context of church discipline, but it denies the rest of Scripture, especially the sovereignty of God.

In addition, to believe that when “two or three are gathered” to pray, some kind of magical power boost is automatically applied to our prayers is not biblically supportable. Of course Jesus is present when two or three pray, but He is equally present when one believer prays alone, even if that person is separated from others by thousands of miles. Corporate prayer is important because it creates unity (John 17:22-23), and is a key aspect of believers’ encouraging one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11) and spurring one another on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).

The phrase “the prayer of faith” comes from a passage in James 5, which says that “the prayer of faith [or “the prayer offered in faith,” depending on the translation] will save the one who is sick” (James 5:15, ESV).

Some Christians believe this verse means that, if only one prays with enough faith, healing for the sick person is guaranteed. Others believe that “the prayer of faith” simply refers to the prayer offered by the elders of the church, and the word save refers sometimes to the spiritual and emotional comfort of God, rather than physical healing (see 2 Corinthians 1:3–5).

Here is the context of the verse: “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:14–16).

The “prayer of faith” is made by the elders of a church visiting a sick person under their spiritual care. The prayer, accompanied by an anointing with oil, is offered “in the name of the Lord”; that is, in the Lord’s authority and subject to His will. Prayer is made in full confidence of God’s power to heal. If the particular illness is the result of personal sin, then confession and repentance of that sin is also called for.

The “raising up” of James 5:15 is not necessarily physical—if it were, then no believer should ever die! Many Christians do die from disease or injury every year, but this doesn’t mean they are lacking faith or that those praying for them lack faith. It simply means that it was not the Lord’s will to heal in that particular instance (see 1 John 5:14). The prayer of faith is offered in faith, and part of faith is trusting that God knows best. Those who pray should be unwavering in their confidence that God will always do what is right. Having prayed the prayer of faith, we can cheerfully commit our lives into God’s hands. The restoration of the sick one that James 5:15 guarantees as a result of the prayer of faith includes emotional, spiritual restoration that comes in the form of God’s comfort and peace.

Jesus talked to His disciples repeatedly about prayer. He told them to pray for God’s kingdom to be represented on earth and for His will to be done; He told them to pray for their daily sustenance, for forgiveness, and for strength against temptation (Matthew 6:9–13). He also told them that anything they asked for in His name, for God’s glory, would be done for them (John 14:13–14), and He assured them that God knows how to give good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11). All of these passages emphasize God’s goodness and concern for us, but none of them guarantee physical healing. We ask for God’s will, we plead for what we desire, and we pray in His name, but sometimes physical healing is not His plan for us.

We come to God in prayer for a variety of reasons—to worship Him, to confess our sins and ask for forgiveness, to thank Him for His blessings, to ask for things for ourselves, and/or to pray for the needs of others. The Hebrew and Greek words most often translated “supplication” in the Bible mean literally “a request or petition,” so a prayer of supplication is asking God for something. Unlike the prayer of petition, which is praying on behalf of others, the prayer of supplication is generally a request for the person praying.

The Bible includes many prayers of supplication. Numerous examples are found in the Psalms. David’s psalms are filled with supplication for mercy in Psalm 4:1, for leading in Psalm 5:8, for deliverance in Psalm 6:4, for salvation from persecution in Psalm 7:1, and so on. When Daniel learned that King Darius had issued an edict prohibiting prayer to any god but the king, Daniel continued to pray to God with prayers of thanksgiving as well as prayers of supplication for His help in this dire situation.

In the New Testament, Jesus tells us to ask for our daily bread in Matthew 6:11, which falls into the category of a prayer of supplication. In addition, in Luke 18:1-8, Jesus teaches us not to give up praying for what we need. James says that: on the one hand we don’t receive because we don’t ask (James 4:2). On the other hand, we ask and don’t receive because we are thinking only of our fleshly desires (James 4:3). Perhaps the best way to approach supplications is to ask God in all honesty as children talking to their kind-hearted Father, but ending with “Your will be done” (Matthew 26:39), in full surrender to His will.

After describing the need to take up the “full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:13-17), the apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesians (and us) to remain alert and to pray in the Spirit, “making supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). Clearly, prayers of supplication are part of the spiritual battle all Christians are engaged in. Paul further exhorts the Philippian church to relieve their anxieties by remaining faithful in prayer, especially prayers of thanksgiving and supplication. This, he concludes, is the formula for ensuring that “the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Here we see another crucial aspect of the prayer of supplication—the necessity of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who belong to Christ also have the indwelling Holy Spirit who intercedes on our behalf. Because we often don’t know what or how to pray when we approach God, the Spirit intercedes and prays for us, interpreting our supplications so that, when we are overwhelmed by trials and the cares of life, He comes alongside to lend assistance with our prayers of supplication as He sustains us before the throne of grace (Romans 8:26).

Speaking of Jesus, the writer to the Hebrews says, “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). This verse (and others like it) tells us that although Christ’s work to secure the salvation of the elect was completed on the cross, as evidenced by His cry “It is finished!” (John 19:30), His care for His redeemed children will never be finished.

Jesus did not go to heaven after His earthly ministry and ‘take a break’ from His role as eternal Shepherd to His people. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10 emphasis added). If when humble, despised, dying, and dead, He had the power to accomplish so great a work as reconciling us to God, how much more may we expect that He will be able to keep us now that He is a living, exalted, and triumphant Redeemer, raised to life and interceding on our behalf before the throne (Romans 8:34). Clearly Jesus is still very active on our behalf in heaven.

After Jesus ascended to heaven and was seated at the right hand of God the Father (Acts 1:9; Colossians 3:1), He returned to the glory He had before His incarnation (John 17:5) to carry on His role of King of kings and Lord of lords—His eternal role as the second Person of the triune God. While this old earth continues to be “won” for Christ, Jesus is the Advocate for Christians, meaning He is our great Defender. This is the intercessory role He currently fulfills for those who are His (1 John 2:1). Jesus is always pleading our case before the Father, like a defense lawyer on our behalf.

Jesus is interceding for us while Satan (whose name means “accuser”) is doing that very thing, accusing us, pointing out our sins and frailties before God, just as he did with Job (Job 1:6-12). But the accusations fall upon deaf ears in heaven, because Jesus’ work on the cross completely paid our sin debt in full; therefore, God always sees in His children the perfect righteousness of Jesus. When Jesus died on the cross, His righteousness (perfect holiness) was imputed to us, while our sin was imputed to Him at His death. This is the great exchange Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 5:21. That took away forever our sinful state before God, so God can accept us as blameless before Him.

Finally, it is important to understand that Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. No one else—not Mary, not any previous Christian saints, not angels—has the power to intercede for us before the throne of the Almighty. Christ alone mediates and intercedes between God and man. “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).

First of all, let’s define imprecatory prayer. To imprecate means “to invoke  evil upon or curse” one’s enemies. King David, the psalmist most associated with  imprecatory verses such as Psalm 55:1569:28, and 109:8, often used phrases like, “may their path be dark  and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them” (Psalm 35:6) and “O God, break the teeth in their mouths;  tear out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD!” (Psalm 58:6).

Psalms 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 109, and 139 were written by David to ask  God to bring judgment upon his enemies. (The other two imprecatory psalms, 79  and 137, were written by Asaph and an unknown psalmist.) These prayers were  written not so much to exact revenge upon one’s enemies, but rather to emphasize  God’s abhorrence of evil, His sovereignty over all mankind, and His divine  protection of His chosen people. Many of these prayers were prophetic and could  be seen taking place later in the New Testament in actual historical events.

When David prayed for God to shatter the teeth of his enemies, likening  them to young lions pursuing him to his death, he was making the point that God  is holy, righteous, and just, and He will ultimately judge the wicked for the  evil they do. Jesus quoted some of the imprecatory psalms during His earthly  ministry. In John 15:25,  Jesus quotes Psalm 35:19 and 69:4, and  Paul did so as well in Romans  11:9-10, which is a quote of Psalm  69:22-23. Since Jesus and Paul quoted verses from these imprecatory psalms,  it proves those psalms were inspired by God and removes all doubt that they were  sinful or simply selfish prayers of revenge.

Using imprecatory prayers  for our circumstances today is unjustifiable, as it would require taking these  prayers out of context. In the New Testament, Jesus exhorts us to pray for our  enemies (Matthew  5:44-48; Luke  6:27-38), but praying for their death or for bad things to happen to them  isn’t what He meant. Instead, we are to pray for their salvation first and  foremost, and then for God’s will to be done. There’s no greater blessing than a  personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and that’s what Jesus means by praying  for and blessing those who curse us.

Praying in that manner allows God  to work in our own lives to soften our hearts toward our enemies so that we’ll  have compassion on them for their eternal destiny, and to remove bitterness and  anger from our hearts. Praying for God’s will to be done means we agree with God  and are submitting ourselves to His divine sovereignty, despite not always  understanding perfectly what He’s doing in a particular situation. And it means  we have given up the idea that we know best and instead are now relying on and  trusting in God to work His will. If a personal wrong has truly been done to us,  we seek God in prayer about it, and then leave room for God’s judgment and trust  Him to do what is best. That is the way to be at peace with God and all men (Romans 12:17-21).

Many people ask, “Is there a prayer I can pray that will guarantee my  salvation?” It is important to remember that salvation is not received by  reciting a prayer or uttering certain words. The Bible nowhere records a  person’s receiving salvation by a prayer. Saying a prayer is not the biblical  way of salvation.

The biblical method of salvation is faith in Jesus  Christ. John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that  whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Salvation is  gained by faith (Ephesians  2:8), by receiving Jesus as Savior (John 1:12),  and by fully trusting Jesus alone (John 14:6; Acts 4:12), not by reciting a  prayer.

The biblical message of salvation is simple and clear and  amazing at the same time. We have all committed sin against God (Romans 3:23). Other than Jesus Christ, there is no one  who has lived an entire life without sinning (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Because of our sin, we have earned  judgment from God (Romans  6:23), and that judgment is physical death followed by spiritual death.  Because of our sin and its deserved punishment, there is nothing we can do on  our own to make ourselves right with God. As a result of His love for us, God  became a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a perfect life  and always taught the truth. However, humanity rejected Jesus and put Him to  death by crucifying Him. Through that horrible act, though, Jesus died in our  place. Jesus took the burden and judgment of sin on Himself, and He died in our  place (2  Corinthians 5:21). Jesus was then resurrected (1 Corinthians 15), proving  that His payment for sin was sufficient and that He had overcome sin and death.  As a result of Jesus’ sacrifice, God offers us salvation as a gift. God calls us  all to change our minds about Jesus (Acts 17:30)  and to receive Him as the full payment of our sins (1 John 2:2).  Salvation is gained by receiving the gift God offers us, not by praying a  prayer.

Now, that does not mean prayer cannot be involved in receiving  salvation. If you understand the gospel, believe it to be true, and have  accepted Jesus as your salvation, it is good and appropriate to express that  faith to God in prayer. Communicating with God through prayer can be a way to  progress from accepting facts about Jesus to fully trusting in Him as Savior.  Prayer can be connected to the act of placing your faith in Jesus alone for  salvation.

Again, though, it is crucially important that you do not base  your salvation on having said a prayer. Reciting a prayer cannot save you! If  you want to receive the salvation that is available through Jesus, place your  faith in Him. Fully trust His death as the sufficient sacrifice for your sins.  Completely rely on Him alone as your Savior. That is the biblical method of  salvation. If you have received Jesus as your Savior, by all means, say a prayer  to God. Tell God how thankful you are for Jesus. Offer praise to God for His  love and sacrifice. Thank Jesus for dying for your sins and providing salvation  for you. That is the biblical connection between salvation and prayer.

Quite simply, intercessory prayer is the act of praying on behalf of others. The role of mediator in prayer was prevalent in the Old Testament, in the cases of Abraham, Moses, David, Samuel, Hezekiah, Elijah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. Christ is pictured in the New Testament as the ultimate intercessor, and because of this, all Christian prayer becomes intercession since it is offered to God through and by Christ. Jesus closed the gap between us and God when He died on the cross. Because of Jesus’ mediation, we can now intercede in prayer on behalf of other Christians or for the lost, asking God to grant their requests according to His will. “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). “Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34).
A wonderful model of intercessory prayer is found in Daniel 9. It has all the elements of true intercessory prayer. It is in response to the Word (v. 2); characterized by fervency (v. 3) and self-denial (v. 4); identified unselfishly with God’s people (v. 5); strengthened by confession (v. 5-15); dependent on God’s character (vv. 4, 7, 9, 15); and has as its goal God’s glory (vv. 16-19). Like Daniel, Christians are to come to God on behalf of others in a heartbroken and repentant attitude, recognizing their own unworthiness and with a sense of self-denial. Daniel does not say, “I have a right to demand this out of You, God, because I am one of your special, chosen intercessors.” He says, “I’m a sinner,” and, in effect, “I do not have a right to demand anything.” True intercessory prayer seeks not only to know God’s will and see it fulfilled, but to see it fulfilled whether or not it benefits us and regardless of what it costs us. True intercessory prayer seeks God’s glory, not our own.
The following is only a partial list of those for whom we are to offer intercessory prayers: all in authority (1 Timothy 2:2); ministers (Philippians 1:19); the church (Psalm 122:6); friends (Job 42:8); fellow countrymen (Romans 10:1); the sick (James 5:14); enemies (Jeremiah 29:7); those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44); those who forsake us (2 Timothy 4:16); and all men (1 Timothy 2:1).
There is an erroneous idea in contemporary Christianity that those who offer up intercessory prayers are a special class of “super-Christians,” called by God to a specific ministry of intercession. The Bible is clear that all Christians are called to be intercessors. All Christians have the Holy Spirit in their hearts and, just as He intercedes for us in accordance with God’s will (Romans 8:26-27), we are to intercede for one another. This is not a privilege limited to an exclusive Christian elite; this is the command to all. In fact, not to intercede for others is sin. “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you” (1 Samuel 12:23).
Certainly Peter and Paul, when asking others to intercede for them, did not limit their request to those with a special calling to intercession. “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him” (Acts 12:5). Notice it was the whole church that prayed for him, not just those with a gift of intercession. In Ephesians 6:16-18, Paul exhorts the Ephesian believers—all of them—on the fundamentals of the Christian life, which includes intercession “on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” Clearly, intercessory prayer is part of the Christian life for all believers.
Further, Paul sought prayer on his behalf from all the Roman believers in Romans 15:30. He also urged the Colossians to intercede for him in Colossians 4:2-3. Nowhere in any biblical request for intercession is there any indication that only a certain group of people could intercede. On the contrary, those who seek others to intercede for them can use all the help they can get! The idea that intercession is the privilege and calling of only some Christians is without biblical basis. Worse, it is a destructive idea that often leads to pride and a sense of superiority.
God calls all Christians to be intercessors. It is God’s desire that every believer be active in intercessory prayer. What a wonderful and exalted privilege we have in being able to come boldly before the throne of Almighty God with our prayers and requests!

If you’ve ever been  confused about how to intercede for someone, Paul’s prayer in Colossians is  appropriate for every person and every situation. Because it fits perfectly  with God’s will, you can ask these requests with great confidence–both for  yourself and for others:

To  be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and  understanding. Not only do we need to know God’s plan for our lives;  we also require discernment to distinguish His guiding voice from our own  self-directed notions.

To  walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in all respects. Our  lives should be patterned after the One we follow, with the goal of bringing  Him glory and delight.

To  bear fruit in every good work. Instead of being wrapped up in our  own jobs, possessions, pleasures, and plans, we should be contributing to  others’ lives.

To  increase in the knowledge of God. By reading His Word, applying it  to our lives, and observing His ways, we’ll gain a deeper understanding of the  Lord.

To  be strengthened with His power in order to remain steadfast. The Christian life  can be lived only with the Holy Spirit’s power.

To  joyously give thanks for all He’s done for you. Believers should be  characterized by joy and gratitude.

Too often we focus our requests on important  temporal needs but miss seeing the deeper spiritual work God wants to do.  Imagine how effective your prayers will be if  you’ll shift the emphasis of your petitions to the Lord’s desires. He’ll transform you and the people for whom you intercede.