What Prayer IS – and What It’s NOT

(What Prayer IS – and What It’s NOT) Bible Lesson. Teen Bible Lesson.


Prayer Is . . .


It’s impossible to have a conversation without another person. (Unless, of course, you talk to yourself!) A conversation involves dialogue – each person speaking. Otherwise, it’s a monologue with one person doing all the speaking; it’s also about listening. We listen by being silent and receptive to God’s Spirit. His Spirit may bring a godly thought to your mind or give you greater understanding as you read the Bible or prick your thoughts with the realization that your words or actions aren’t Christlike.


There are many levels to prayer; from a quickly breathed “help” to an extended praise session. In prayer, we make requests for ourselves and others, we praise God for who He is and what He has done for us. We confess our sins, and we thank God for answered prayer and His blessings in our lives. Some prayers are one-time; others are prayed over and over. You can pray Scripture, read prayers someone else wrote, or pray from your heart. There is no “right” way to pray.


Prayer isn’t something that comes naturally. It’s part of our sinful nature as humans to be more focused on ourselves than we are on God. Prayer is an acquired discipline that takes practice. We have to make an effort each day to spend time in prayer. When you get used to a faithful prayer life, it feels odd when you don’t take time to pray.


God knows all about us, so we can’t hide anything from Him. Even when we don’t admit all of our sins, He knows what we’re not admitting. So if God knows anyway, then it’s best to be honest and ask Him for forgiveness and help! Get real with God as you pray. Tell Him your fears and frustrations as well. He’s ready to listen and help.


Jesus is our best example for prayer. Jesus prayed during the time of temptation in the wilderness, before His arrest, and during the crucifixion. From Jesus’ example, we learn to pray about many things, in various locations, and in all situations.

  • Mark 1:35 says Jesus got up very early in the morning to pray.
  • Luke 5:16 says He withdrew from those around Him to pray.
  • Luke 6:12 tells us Jesus prayed all night.
  • In Matthew 19:13, He prayed a prayer of blessing.
  • In Matthew 6:9 – 13, Jesus taught His disciples using a model prayer that highlighted how to pray.
  • In John 17, near the end of His ministry, Jesus prayed for His disciples and for those who would become followers after He was no longer on earth.


Once you get to know God better, you’ll want to talk to Him about everything. Instead of trying to figure out things on your own, you’ll immediately take concerns to God in prayer. Philippians 4:6, 7 reminds us to pray about everything rather than being anxious and upset. We’re promised peace if we take our concerns to God in prayer. A key element of prayer is humility, realizing that God is holy and we are not. Prayer can be a sweet, private, treasured time of fellowship with God.


You know how it is when you really like someone. You want to spend as much time as possible with the person, getting to know him or her better and cultivating a relationship. When you set aside time to pray, you develop a close relationship with God.


Prayer Is Not . . .


Many times we pray with an expectation of gain. We view prayer as a way to get a little extra assurance that we’ll get what we want. Sometimes God’s answer is not what we want to hear or is different from what we expect. What makes sense to us may not be God’s best plan. But we need to try to trust God even when it’s a challenge!


Sometimes there’s a temptation to tell God you’ll do something for Him if He’ll do something for you. But God doesn’t work that way. He knows what’s best for us and can’t be bribed.


Sometimes people use public prayer as a way to draw attention to themselves. Jesus tells a parable about a man who loudly prayed in public that he was better than other men. He cloaked a bragging session by adding the words “I thank God” to the front of his pronouncement (Luke 18). But when we are truly thankful to God, we can express that thanksgiving to Him in private. Matthew 6:6 suggests that we pray privately to God.



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