The apostle Paul himself stated that the Holy Spirit has to pray for us since we don't know how to pray (Romans 8:26). It is therefore difficult for anyone to say exactly what prayer is.

I have been trying to answer this question for some time. Many say "prayer is talking to God". However, many times I speak to God and in no way is my prayer as effective as Elijah's prayer. That is, prayer is not simply talking to God, otherwise all prayers would be just as effective.

I am asking this question to try to understand why the prayers of believers are so ineffective. I believe that people don't understand very well what prayer is because if we have an Almighty God who answers our prayers then why can't Christians make a positive impact on the world? Atheists have more impact on the world than we do. Much of the knowledge needed to have a computer and things essential to modern life, for example, have been obtained by people who reject Christ as their savior. If we have God in our favor then we should realize remarkable facts. But instead of finding several Christians doing extraordinary things (like Jesus, Elijah, Elisha, Paul and Peter did) I found news like [1]. For this reason I want to know what exactly is prayer so that I can do it correctly.

Below are several questions. These questions are questions that arose when I tried to answer that question. For this reason I put them below because they will give you an idea of the answer I hope for.

  • What is prayer?
  • What is the first prayer in the Bible?
  • When it became clear in the Bible that prayer is obligatory or at least essential?
  • The New Testament makes it clear that we must pray for others (1Timothy 2:2). Is there a passage in the Old Testament that also shows that we should pray for others?
  • Why did Jesus take Peter, James and John to Gethsemane to pray with him? Was Jesus showing that God is more likely to answer prayer when more than one is praying? If so, why does the number of people influence God's answer?

I'm asking these questions because I really believe that there are people in this site who have excellent answers to these questions. However, the apostle Paul himself stated that the Holy Spirit has to pray for us since we don't know how to pray (Romans 8:26). It is therefore difficult for anyone to say exactly what prayer is.

[1] "Atheists are more intelligent than religious people, finds study"

  • Prayer is asking of God. God does not answer prayers that are not in line with His will. There is no need for miracles in these days. Miracles were done to make people believe. There is plenty of proof of the Holy Bible and Jesus Christ to those that seek the truth. I don't think prayer is obligatory but a Christian certainly should consider it an obligatory rule to themselves if they are smart. I dont multiple people praying together will affect whether a prayer will be answered or not. Prayers are all about faith. Perhaps praying with others would give confidence to your own prayer.
    – GFFG
    Commented May 17, 2019 at 20:03
  • 1
    Welcome to BHSX. Thanks for this question - migrated from CSX. Since this is not about a specific Bible passage, I do not think it can be answered here. Please do not forget to take the tour below.
    – user25930
    Commented May 17, 2019 at 20:40
  • I have edited the question as the material was all there to conform to the site, it just needed to be re-arranged a little. If the OP disagrees, they should feel free to remove my edit and rollback to their original post.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 17, 2019 at 22:28
  • This has the same problem it had at Christianity.SE: we don't allow verse search questions. We also don't allow general theological definition questions. Only the fifth question could be on-topic here, and it would need to be edited to be much more focused. If you want to focus on that you need to quote the actual verse you're asking about.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented May 19, 2019 at 13:56

2 Answers 2


Hannah's prayer was answered, that she should have a child after years of barrenness. In 'bitterness of soul' she prayed to the Lord and wept sore. But her voice was not heard. Only her lips moved, for :

she spake in her heart, I Samuel 1:13 KJV.

I think that is the first thing to realise about prayer. It is in, and it comes from, the heart : even if no words are actually uttered.

But when the disciples approached the Lord, saying :

Lord, teach us to pray, Luke 11:1 KJV

he told them that when they pray (and he does not specify when that is, he leaves it up to them) they are to address the Father.

They are not to address the Creator as creatures, they are to address the Father as sons of the Father. This implies justification, redemption, reconciliation, propitiation and remission - the whole gospel which results in sons being brought to the Father.

Then he gives them an extremely brief, succinct example of prayer. Elsewhere he warns against 'vain repetition', Matthew 6:7 KJV, so this prayer is not be slavishly followed or used as a ritual - it is an example.

He gives them three statements regarding the name of the Father, the kingdom of the Father, and the will of the Father in heaven.

Then four statements regarding their own daily sustenance, forgiveness of sins, temptation and evil.

Seven brief statements addressed to the Father.

And he adds, in another place, Matthew 6:5 and 6 KJV, an admonishment to avoid hypocrisy, again in terms of the Father:

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

These are the breathings of sons to the Father.

This is how Jesus, when approached as Lord, teaches the Father's sons to pray.


I will try to answer only the first of your questions.

When to bring the scatterred ideas in the Bible together we can see that prayer is answered only when:

  1. The person has a clear conscience:

Whenever our conscience condemns us, we will be reassured that God is greater than our conscience and knows everything. Dear friends, if our conscience doesn’t condemn us, we can boldly look to God and receive from him anything we ask. 1 John 3:20-22

  1. Does not doubt his/her request or that he/she is heared:

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 1 John 3:20-22

Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. Mark 11:24

  1. Is filled with the Holy Spirit:

We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. John 9:31

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:12

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7

that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 1 John 4:7-21

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. 1 John 3:14

A note. Sometimes our conscience is seared (it doesn't sense the undealt-with guilt that's present) or we feel guilty and do not quickly deal with it, such that this guilt, like hot coals burns a hole in the wineskin of the place in our souls where the Spirit dwells, which causes the Spirit to never be able to fill us to the brim because of the hole. The heart then can not be fully washed by this Blood. We are at such times not "spotless" before the Lord, yet nothing unclean can remain in His presence (Revelation 21:27), so He has to leave until we repent and amend our wineskin through reception of Christ's work by faith (sometimes only when we repent God gives us the sufficent assurance/faith in what Christ had alrady done, i.e. that He already washed the sins of all the world away with His Blood according to the Scripture, see 1 Corinthians 15:55-56). The undealt-with guilt, like old manna rots, gets worms, and starts to smell nasty, causing Moses (symbolizes God) to be angry (and obviously not willing to hear us) -- Exodus 16:20.

So, if whoever wants to be heard by God, they need to cleanse themselves of guilt (sin is a subjective term and really is just guilt, because nothing is unclean in itself, but to whom something is unclean, to them alone it is unclean -- Romans 14:14) and then -- to get filled with the Spirit through receiving the Spirit by faith (here we can just say "thank you, Lord Jesus, I now by faith receive the Holy Spirit" and then believe and praise that you have it; thanks is an action and it will make our faith about receiving alive and it will truly come to pass), or by speaking in tongues or joyfully praising the Lord, since only through the Holy Spirit we can do these things, since the Spirit would have to first fill us for that, because only out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks -- Luke 6:45). Confessing our faith among two or more witnesses also fills us with the Spirit because of Matthew 10:32 and Deuteronomy 19:15. Doing good things like helping people in need and especially Christian widows and children in need, needy Christians, pastors in need, etc. brings much favour with God, and He would be the more quick and willing to hear the person -- Isaiah 58:6-14.

It is important also to guard the heart from letting the lusts rein at large. Anger, envy, hatred, evil or harsh speach, evil thoughts, lusting after non-single women/men, especially if you have a partner, etc. -- all these most likely will create guilt that's hard to notice, but that'll not only jeopardise God's presence inside, but also will make the person feel bad when the Spirit of true comfort leaves, since these things are destructive to the gentle fibres of the human soul.

I hope that's a sufficient answer from the more allegorical-type interpretation of the Bible (2 Corinthians 3:6).

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