Ask, and it shall be given you;
seek, and you shall find …
4 Basic Forms of Prayer Every Believer Must Know
Prayer is an absolutely necessary means of obtaining everything we need (and want … so long it is God’s will) this side of Heaven. In light of this, every believer should know, at the very least, the four most basic forms of prayer.
The promises made of prayer came from Jesus Christ Himself. Just like He said to His apostles centuries ago, He still says to all of us today: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; and he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened” (Matt 7:7-8).
His promise is a solemn one by which He pledges His divine Word. It is undoubtedly a comprehensive and unconditional promise, limited only by our own lack of faith.
In addition to prayer obtaining all that we need, it also brings about miracles: “If you ask the Father anything in My Name, He will give it to you … Ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.” So how do we ask? Well, first we should strive to be (and remain) in a state of grace. Then we must pray to Him from our heart. To this end, there are four notable ways to pray that every Christian should know.
In this article we will look at the 4 Basic Forms of Prayer Every Believer Needs to Know. As you read them over, keep in mind that prayer is infallible. That is, it will always be heard; not because of any power on our part, but because of Christ’s power and His promise that can not be broken. So then, as you pray believe that your Father in Heaven will hear and answer you because He will.
4 Basic Forms of Prayer
The Four Basic Forms of Prayer are prayers of blessing and adoration (praising God), prayers of petition (asking for what we need, including forgiveness), prayers of intercession (asking for what others need), prayers of thanksgiving (for what God has already given and done).
Prayers of Blessing and Adoration
In prayers of blessing and adoration we express praise and honor to God. We praise Him for giving us life, for the wonder and beauty of the world around us, and for all the many blessings we get to enjoy because of His goodness. Through prayers of adoration, we open ourselves up to praise and adore God for all the wonders of His unfathomable creation. This form of prayer often encourages bodily expression such as standing with arms raised, singing, or even prostration before a crucifix. Whatever it is that expresses your heart to God is sufficient so long as it comes from a place of love.
Prayers of Petition
This is probably the most familiar form of prayer. We are often taught from an early age to ask God for the things we need (and want), but asking and praying are not necessarily the same. When we pray our petitions, we are asking God, who loves us very much, for something that we believe is good and is for the greater good. By using this form of prayer we are mindful of the needs of others as well as our own.
In addition, we are aware that God desires for us to bring our problems and worries to Him in prayer. We believe moreover, that He will always hear and answer our petition so long as our hearts are sincere and it (our petition) is in alignment with His divine will. Be warned, however, that God may answer our prayers in different ways than what we had hoped. He may also answer in a different speed than what we would have liked. But we can rest assured that He will always answer us with what we need and when He knows is best for us.
Prayers of petition also serve as a reminder that God expects us to care for one another and for all His creation. In these prayers, we can pray about the ordinary experiences of life, such as for people who are sick, for someone who needs a job, for help in our school work, for a safe trip, etc. We can also pray for peace in our families and in our world. In these types of prayers, we can (and we should) express our sorrow and contrition to God as well.
Prayers of Intercession
Prayers of intercession are prayers on behalf of others. This form of prayer is no doubt a source of serious blessing upon others, the Church and our world – as well as on ourselves. This kind of prayer is highly charitable and thus, oftentimes filled with blessing. In addition, because we know that Our Lady and the saints intercede for us before God, the Church encourages us to pray and ask them to intercede for us. Just like we would pray to our neighbor, we pray to Our Lady and the saints; the only difference is, Our Lady and the saints are perfectly holy! So their prayers will obviously be more pure and powerful than our neighbors before the Throne of grace.
Intercessory prayer brings to each of us great strength and courage. Through these prayers, we will also find great peace of mind and heart. If you have someone who prays for you, thank them. It is a true gift from God. Make sure to pay it forward and pray for others as well (including the holy souls in purgatory!) as often as possible.
Prayers of Thanksgiving
Prayers of Thanksgiving help us to be grateful for God’s many blessings, spiritual and temporal, and helps us to recognize and appreciate all the good things He has given us. Reserving some time to praise and thank Him for His gifts — the gift of life; the gift of our families and friends; the gift of charisms and vocation; the gift of food, clothing and shelter; and the numerous other gifts we often take for granted — helps us to form a true ‘spirit of gratitude’ for our Lord and in our every day lives all the days of our lives.
Tips for Praying
Find a quite place and time
Prayer can be done anywhere but it is good to have a place that is conducive to relaxing and focusing all your attention on God. Finding a regular time to pray each day is also helpful in making prayer an important part of your every day routine. When something becomes routine, you are far more likely to stay with it.
Calm yourself and put away distractions
It is important to be relaxed and focused on God when you pray. To do so, find a comfortable place and position your body in a way that is also comfortable. Sometimes getting into a pious posture such as on our knees in front of a crucifix for example, helps to calm our minds and focus our energy on God.
Use formal prayers or speak freely from the heart
It is important to note here that there is no “right” way to pray. There are of course more powerful and perfect ways to pray such as praying alongside the universal Church in the Divine Office, but when it comes to personal prayer — to each his own. The most important aspect is that you are not distracted and that you are able to focus your heart and mind solely on God.
This is why it is helpful to experiment with different styles and forms of prayer. What captures your heart the most? For some it is repeating the Our Father; for others it is sharing with God honestly what is on their heart at the moment. For others still, singing hymns to Him makes them feel closest to Him. As stated, there is no right or wrong way to pray a personal prayer. What is most important is knowing that you are speaking directly to God and that through prayer, you are developing an even deeper relationship with Him. What a gift!
Take time to listen
This is very important. There are many times in life when we should be listening more than speaking. In prayer is definitely one of these times. Never forget that Almighty God speaks to us during our prayer time so we need to be sure we are listening for His voice.
Take some time while praying to be still and just listen. Don’t say anything, and try to clear the mind. Be open to what He might tell you rather than what you want Him to say or what you would like to say to Him. Part of our walk with God is humbling ourselves to the point of knowing that we do not have the answers. God does. He alone knows what is best for us. While listening for His voice, He may just surprise you.
Use the Bible in your prayers
Speaking the Word of God back to Him and in prayer is one of the most powerful ways to not only speak with God, but to get His attention. We have been given the written holy Word of God as an aid to our prayer lives and we should most definitely be using it!
Have a proper attitude
Powerful prayer requires having an openness to God and a desire to worship and get to know Him better. As you begin to pray, assess your attitude. Are you praying in faith? Do you have a positive attitude of gratitude? Or are you having a bad day and feeling negative? Assess your state of mind and begin your prayer by saying, “Lord Jesus, I give it all to you; and I trust you.” This simple phrase is sometimes all we need in order to get our minds in the right place before approaching the Throne of grace.
While God wants to hear everything that is on our heart, He also needs us to recognize all the great blessings around us; giving Him thanks for them and letting Him know that no matter what we go through, we trust that He is bigger. Never forget that it is your faith that will move those mountains!
Meditative and Contemplative Prayer
Meditation (and contemplation) is one of the many styles of prayer we have at our disposal. It engages our head and heart while we seek a deeper union with God. Meditation also enables us to slow down and quiet our hearts so that we can hear God’s voice and communicate with Him in an even deeper and more meaningful way. It can last a few minutes or a few hours, and will allow us to hear things from God we may have missed otherwise.
The process of meditation will oftentimes involve several different steps.
First, we should find a time and place that is conducive to mediation. Pick a time when you are alert and able to focus, as well as a place that is comfortable and quiet. The less distractions, the better!
You should then prepare for meditation by completely relaxing your body. This will help direct your heart, mind and soul to prayer. Sometimes simply saying the name Jesus a few times slowly will help center your spirit for meditative and contemplative prayer.
Once you have the environment ready and focused on God, choose a word or phrase to focus your attention on. Some people use the Name of Jesus as already suggested, or they will say a short phrase such as “Jesus is with me” or “Thank you, Jesus.”
As you do this, connect your chosen word or phrase with your breathing. Think: In with the Holy Spirit, out with the negative; in with the Holy Spirit, out with the negative; and repeat. Let these powerful word(s) resonate within your spirit on each breath in and out. This type of repetition will help you to focus and remain open to God’s presence. If you become distracted (which is perfectly normal), re-focus again by repeating your chosen word or phrase. In no time, you will be meditating on Jesus Christ and His power … one of the most powerful forms of prayer we have this side of Heaven.
While knowing different forms of prayer is important, what is most important is that we actually implement them into our daily lives. Knowing prayer does nothing for us unless we are exercising them. As the apostle Paul wisely stated, we must be praying without ceasing (1 Thess 5:16-18). This could mean offering all the work of our hands to Jesus at the start of each day, examining our conscience at the end of each day, asking for forgiveness for the times we fell short, and praying intermittently throughout the day — giving a slice of every moment to the God Who has given them to us to begin with.
By walking hand in hand with our Lord in this way, knowing that all good things come solely from Him, our Lord promises to draw more near to us. And when this happens, miracles abound and prayers become answered. Thank You, Jesus!