An Investigation of Prayer: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How?

This is an outline from the first sermon on prayer in the series Wave Upon Wave. We pray that the scripture passages and brief notes will bless your prayer life. 


Wave Upon Wave 1: An Investigation of Prayer 


What a man is alone on his knees before God, that he is, and no more.” – Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Prayer: What is it exactly? Is it only for the super religious? Do you have to change your voice to sound holy and serious for your prayer to be heard? Is God withholding good from us until we pray?

We’ll seek to answer these questions and more during this series, but one thing is for certain: Intimacy with God is directly related to your life of prayer.

Prayer is access to the great treasures of God: It is where you find hope when you are destitute, peace when you are anxious, joy when you are miserable, rest when you are weary, wisdom when you are baffled, comfort when you are troubled, encouragement when you are broken, and limitless goods and mercies – our needs are His fullness.


Spurgeon Sermon: How is it that we deny ourselves the great treasure of prayer. We don’t forget to eat, we don’t forget the business deal we are doing, we don’t forget to sleep, and yet, we so easily let the work of prayer go undone.

Investigation of prayer: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.


   Does it matter whom we pray to in the trinity?

 o   This might seem like a novel question, but it does matter greatly in our understanding of God and what He is like.

o   Each person of the Trinity has a unique function that serves to magnify the glory of God.


So, how does Jesus teach us to pray?  …Our Father who is in Heaven, hallowed be your name.


   Why would we not pray to the Spirit or to Jesus?

o   6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (Jn. 14:6).

o    I tell you, whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. 24Until now you have not asked for anything in My name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete (Jn. 16:23-24).


o   Jesus’s role is always the road to God.

o   The Holy Spirit is always the motive driver. (Think fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, etc.)

o   God is always the destination.

o   When we honor these roles we begin to have a deeper understanding of the way God works in our lives.


o   An example of this is: God is the destination, Jesus is the road (the only road) to get there, and the Holy Spirit is the car and gasoline by which you travel.

o   This is our example in prayer, but it is also a model of our salvation. We have access to God only through Jesus, and faith in Him is a gift of the Spirit.


**We are praying to God, we can only get there by Jesus, and we only want to by the Spirit.


“Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Spirit, for such things as God has promised.” - John Bunyan



 Without babbling

o   7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words (Matt. 6:7).

God’s will and God’s word

o   14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us (1 Jn. 5:14).

God’s will be done

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


 With right motive

o   3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:3).


How do we know His will?

o   His word.


If you knew what God knows, you would wish for yourself the situation that you were currently in. - Tim Keller (rough quote)


“Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance; it is laying hold of His highest willingness.”  - Trench



Are we only supposed to pray after meals, before and after the sermon, as a transition between worship songs? Sometimes it can feel like those situations are the only times we pray – they can also make the use of prayer seem very narrow. God’s word and Jesus’ example is that we are to pray all the time.


 All occasions

o   18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people (Ephesians 6:18).

o   All kinds of requests: Biggest dreams and smallest details.

o   Pray for others.


 Constant Devotion

o   2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful (Col. 4:2).

o   Devote (be loyal, faithful, diligent, committed) yourself. Make this a habit. Make this apart of your personal and family culture.



 Again, sometimes it feels that our only times in prayer are at certain places (church, dinner, holidays, bedtime, etc.) and in public settings, but a vibrant prayer life is one that is cultivated in private prayer.

 In secret

o   5And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. Truly I tell you, they already have their reward. 6But when you pray, go into your inner room, shut your door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matt. 6:5-6).

o   16 But he (Jesus) would withdraw to desolate places and pray (Luke 5:16).

o   You can sit still and listen.

o   It won’t take long to get distracted and start thinking about lunch unless you bring God’s word with you, or a list of names and things to pray for.

o   Pray specifically through God’s word. He is the hardened anvil that you need to be bent and moulded around.



To know and to be fully known.

To know God

o   17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Ephesians 1:17-23)

To be fully known

o   God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).

o   God knows everything. You can’t hide, but you don’t need to. In Christ, you are fully known and fully loved. Let prayer be a celebration that God knows you and still loves you.


For the forgiveness of sins

o   if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. (2 Chron. 7:14-15)

o   9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 Jn. 1:9)


o   18 The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. (Ps. 145:18)

  To kill anxiety

o   6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7)


Never think that God’s delays are God’s denials – True prayer always receives what it asks, or something better.” – Tyron Edwards



With help

o   26 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. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Rom. 8:26-27)


Without doubt

o   5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 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. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. (James 1:5-8)


“Prayer is as much the instinct of my nature as a Christian, as it is a duty enjoined by the command of God. It is my language of worship, as a man; of dependence, as a creature; of submission, as a subject; of confession, as a sinner; of thankfulness, as a recipient of mercies; of supplication, as a needy being.” – Tyron Edwards.


o   This reminds us of our need to confess our sin in falling short of the command and the consistency in prayer.

o    But remember, 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 Jn. 1:9)