7 Essential Elements of Prayer (plus free download)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).

Prayer is a vital, vibrant part of our Christian walk. Consequently, we need to answer the most obvious question first.

What is Prayer?

At its core, prayer is talking to God. Prayer is not meditation or still reflection. Prayer is direct communication with God.

Simply picture a girl or boy having a conversation with their father. They will ask their dad for all kinds of things they need. Later in life, they may also ask for direction or guidance. We can apply this scenario between the children of God and our heavenly Father.

Prayer is a two-way street. We pour out our burdens, struggles, and needs, then we also listen for His answers. Even though we do not hear God’s voice audibly as Moses did from the burning bush, He speaks to us through:

  • His Word
  • Other believers
  • His Creation

Being a bona fide music person, one might add music to that list, as well.

The Purpose of Prayer

Through daily prayer, we worship God, give Him thanks, and lay our requests at His feet. It is much more than a pre-recorded speech that we replay to God each time we hit our knees.

I confess that too often I have spent my prayer time reading off a list of what I wanted God to do for me and how I thought He should meet my needs.

Consequently, several years ago I assigned myself the task to learn the difference between merely saying a prayer and actually praying. I longed for meaningful fellowship with God and to discern God’s will for my life.

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You can approach God with any type of prayer: in time of need, a prayer of petition, a prayer of intercession, infinite wisdom, and asking for God’s strength, among many others. You do not have to use the right words or fancy words – simply use your own words.

I am sharing these seven elements (among others) with you because I believe they will add meaning and a personal relationship with God to your prayer time.

Prayer Will Change Your Life

Praying is hard at first – at least it was for me. Having a conversation with someone I could not see was challenging. However, understanding that He is with us and in us through the power of the Holy Spirit in everyday life helps remove that self-imposed stumbling block.

Over time, as prayer becomes part of our daily routine, God will strengthen our faith. We will notice how He has answered prayer and moved in certain situations. Often, He will bless us in ways we never even knew to ask.

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I love to see how God has moved in my life and in the lives of those I pray for, so I keep a prayer journal. It is a powerful tool for increasing our faith!

Prayer can be uttered both as a short prayer and long-term. Those quick, “Lord, give me the words to say” prayers are just as important to our faith walk as those long-term, “Lord, what is Your purpose in my life?” prayers.

How Do I Pray?

Prayer is truly a sacred act. It’s a conversation with the Creator of the Universe who knitted you together in your mother’s womb. It is both sobering and an incredible privilege in equal measure.

A daily, dedicated prayer time includes a few tried and true necessities:

  • Empty your mind so that you are fully focused on God. (Mentally setting aside our to-do lists takes some practice.)
  • Pick a place that is soothing and free from distraction.
  • Turn off the television and radio and leave your smartphone out of reach.

And just be real. He already knows everything in our hearts and minds. He simply desires that conversation with us.

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The Power of Prayer

Keep in mind that we do not pray alone. With seven billion people on earth, there are likely millions of people praying at the same time on various topics.

As Christians, we pray in the name of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit that lives inside of every believer.

Neither prayer nor church was part of my childhood. As an adult, the thought of approaching God in prayer was terrifying. I pictured Him sitting on a cloud, ready to strike me down with a lightning bolt.

Not so! He loves us more than we can possibly imagine. Through prayer, we worship God, give Him thanks, and lay our requests at His feet.

What Do I Say in Prayer?

Jesus’ disciples struggled with that very same question. Consequently, they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1). Thanks to their brave question, we have a prayer format that became known as The Lord’s Prayer:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

(Matthew 6:9-13)

From this model prayer, we can apply the acronym “F.A.C.T.S.” to our own prayers in order to include all of the key elements of prayer that Jesus outlined. Let’s take a closer look at these elements.

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Element #1: – Faith

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6).

Simply put, we need faith to pray. Faith given to us by God is the foundation of a believer’s life. Faith is known as the currency of heaven.

Only through faith in Jesus Christ, his life, death, and resurrection, can we approach God through prayer. He knows us by name and embraces us as His beloved children.

And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith” (Matthew 21:22).

Element #2: – Adoration

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9).

Worship and praise of God are certainly essential. Adoration focuses on the character of God and delineates the holy attributes that make Him worthy of all worship.

As we begin our prayer times, we focus on the ONE who hears our prayers rather than jumping straight to our list of needs.

“Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:11).

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Element #3: – Confession

And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

As we approach God in prayer, we do so with humility through confession. Over the years, I have realized that this confession element includes two specific kinds: (1) confess my sins, and (2) confess my dependence on God.

Confess my sins:

Jesus’ blood shed on the cross provided forgiveness for our sins. Scripture tells us that we are to continually confess our sins understanding that He has already extended forgiveness.  

Why is that important? If God only forgave sins we remembered to confess, we would be in a hot mess. He forgives the sins we confess and those we did not even realize we committed. He faithfully washes us white as snow.

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If we forget some of our sins, take heart! The Apostle Paul assures us: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).

Confess my dependence on Him:

Prayer is our white flag of surrender that acknowledges we cannot succeed on our own. We desperately need God to direct and nurture our lives.

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your steadfast love; according to Your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:1-3).

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Element #4: – Thanksgiving

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).

Living a life of thanksgiving and gratitude begins in prayer. All blessings come from God, whether we acknowledge them or not.

Thanksgiving carves out time to say a proper “thank you” to God. If you have children and you taught them to say “please” and “thank you,” that is the basic understanding of this element.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

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Element #5: – Supplication

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Like the “confession” prayer element, supplication includes two specific kinds: (1) our own needs, and (2) the needs of others (intercession).

Supplication:

This is the part of the prayer we lay before the Lord our own needs and struggles. This is not merely a “to-do” list for God; rather, an avenue to discern His will for our lives and to draw us closer to Him. He knows our desires and hurts, and He delights in hearing them from us.

Jesus demonstrated supplication in the Garden of Gethsemane shortly before He was crucified: ” My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).

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Intercession:

This is where we lay the needs of others before the Lord. This is a beautiful act of unselfish love for other people and the body of Christ.

God alone knows what each person needs and knows the best way to provide for them. Asking God to move and work on behalf of others is faith-filled love.

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ” (Colossians 4:2-3).

Beyond the F.A.C.T.S acronym, I have learned that there are two other important elements of a vibrant prayer life.

Element #6: – Submission

Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

Once you have finished praying, acknowledge God’s sovereignty in His answers. Declaring your surrender that His way is the best – even if He denies a heartfelt request – is a sure sign that you are trusting God and walking in obedience.

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Element #7: – Listening

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known” (Jeremiah 33:3).

Remaining spiritually alert to how God answers your prayers is another essential element of a vibrant prayer life. He may not bring about the result you want in exactly the way you asked Him to.

However, it is a beautiful privilege to watch how He moves and orchestrates solutions. Such diligent observation increases our faith that He has everything under control.

Simple Prayers

If you are new to prayer, this may seem like a daunting list. Been there. Done that. God still knows your heart.

Here is a list of 25 Simple Prayers of Hope, Trust, and Peace that you can download and tuck into your Bible.

Remember that there is no distance in prayer. There is no language barrier that prayer cannot overcome.

Like striking a match to generate light and heat, things start to change when you pray. The key is to keep praying and keep those lines of communication open with God.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

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Dear Pastor: Will You Forgive Us?

Pastors have answered a high and difficult calling. There are few things that boil my blood faster or put my feet on a soap box quicker than when I hear God’s people hurling mean-spirited or spiteful comments at God-loving, servant-hearted pastors.

It gets ugly when sheep turn on their shepherds. And Satan, along with the world, watches. Smiling.

I love to intentionally encourage my pastors. When I see them at some mid-week church function, I am fully aware that they may have faced strenuous spiritual warfare. The enemy has likely lobbed a stream of fiery darts at them, whether it’s tough counseling sessions, disheartening church politics, or the death of a member.

It’s critical to convey to our pastors and pastor friends just how vital they are to God’s work and His church — to let these grace-filled men of faith know how much they, their families, and their ministries mean to so many.

So…to my pastors, all my pastor friends, and your beautiful families:

You embrace the calling to be crucified with Christ, yet sometimes we are the ones pounding in the nails.

Please forgive us.

You take up the cross of Christ without hesitation because it is not merely your day job–it’s your very calling, passion and purpose. Yet sometimes we watch from comfortable pews without lifting a finger as you stumble under that staggering weight alone.

Please forgive us.

You love us enough to sacrifice family time, shorten vacations and make yourself available 24-7-365. Yet when you need to unplug and allow God to recharge you, we haughtily demand your instantaneous appearance.

Please forgive us.

When life blindsides us with loss, relationship difficulties, health scares or financial burdens, you are the first to offer prayer and call in the posse to help. Yet when you need us, we wear busyness as a badge to dodge.

Please forgive us.

You willingly live in a glass house with our noses pressed against it, gracefully shouldering our smart aleck remarks and quick judgments. Yet when you lovingly ask us accountability questions, our self-righteous indignation could choke God Almighty.

Please forgive us.

But I want you to hear loud and clear: You are not expendable.

You are VITAL.
You are VALUABLE.
You are LOVED.

As you stand at the vanguard of deadly spiritual warfare, it’s an amazing privilege to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you on God’s battlefield. To heartily encourage you when you are weary. To follow where God calls you to lead.

THANK YOU for your integrity and tireless commitment.

Church, when was the last time you prayed for your pastor?

When We Need To Know Who We’re Praying To

Whether it’s first thing in the morning, or before turning in for the night, prayer can be hard on some days.

Depending on our circumstances, some days we want God to be massive and huge. We need Him to take on our bullies and win with one hand behind His back.

Other days, we need Him close enough to catch our tears and hear painful words we can only whisper.

The good news is that He is both.

Simply looking at the universe confirms that God is far bigger than we can ever grasp. We live on a little blue globe that orbits in one of hundreds of billions of galaxies in the known universe.

In fact, Earth isn’t even the biggest deal in our own solar system next to Jupiter.

Yet Earth is the one privileged place where God chose to place His most precious creation: mankind.

We are the only things in ALL of creation made in His image.

Heaven’s expanse declares the size and glory of God. We cannot measure God with a tape measure, ruler or yard stick. In the economy of the universe, He is measured in light years. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second and one light year is 5.58 trillion miles.

Yet God didn’t even lift a finger to create the heavens and earth:

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth.” Psalm 33:6

Our God breathes stars and galaxies.

Yet in spite of God’s vastness, He chose to make us. Fragile, demanding, unruly, self-centered us.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made by God Himself.

Out of the seven billion people currently on Earth, no two are alike. For each person, God mapped out and wrote a brand new DNA code that had never before existed, nor will ever exist in the future. You and I are the definition of “custom made.”

Each of the 75 trillion cells in your body consists of a DNA that makes up unique, miraculous you.

You may not think that you are special, but you are a walking miracle.

God promised that for those who trust in Him, He will hold us in the palm of His hand and carry us all of the days of our life.

Even when we can’t fathom His bigness, even when we can’t feel His closeness, He promised us something incredible:

“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17

So when you’re facing your toughest day, your hardest trial, how do you know if God can hold you together?

Because He promised it.

He may not change your circumstances — He didn’t change them for Jesus — but He works in every circumstance to bring about good.

So as we pray, we are communicating with the universe-Maker who became mankind’s Savior.

The star breather who became our sin bearer.

And He holds you in the palm of His mighty hand …

… simply because of how much He loves you.

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