What does the Bible say about prayer? How can scripture encourage and guide our prayers to God?
Prayer is both marvelous and mysterious. The idea of communicating with the Creator of the universe seems almost ludicrous. And certainly presumptuous. Not to mention intimidating. Thankfully, the Bible gives us insight into the hows and whys of prayer.
Why would God want to talk with us? Is there a right and wrong way to pray? Why does God answer some prayers but not others? Does it matter that we only have a little faith We can find the answers to our questions about prayer in Scripture! Since God invites us to talk with him, it’s no surprise he gives us guidelines. I’ve compiled a list of what I consider the ten most important verses on prayer.
Top 10 Bible Verses about Prayer
God is listening and ready to answer your prayers. May these Bible quotes about prayer strengthen your faith and deeper your relationship with your Lord and Creator.
1. Luke 18:13-14: “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
These verses, from the well-known story of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying in the temple, reveals the prayer that allows us to enter into a relationship with God: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The tax collector was honest with God about his sin. He humbled himself, repented, and acknowledged his need for God’s mercy. God answered his prayer and saved him.
Bottom line—the first step in developing a prayer life is calling upon God for salvation.
2. Psalm 66:18: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”
This verse from David’s psalm shows us a major hindrance to God’s willingness to hear our prayers—unconfessed sin. Some might ask, “If sin prevents God from hearing our prayers, then none of us have a chance, because of we all sin, even after we’re saved.”
A careful reading of Psalm 66:18, however, draws our attention to the word “cherished.” “If I had cherished sin...” To cherish sin means to embrace it. To love it, hold on to it, and refuse to give it up. This is vastly different from committing a sin that we regret, confess, and forsake as soon as the Holy Spirit brings it to our attention. God doesn’t expect us to be sinless, but he does call us to deal with our sin as soon as possible (1 John 1:9).
Bottom line—we can’t live a consistently sinful lifestyle and expect God to hear our prayers.
3. Psalm 34:15: “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry.”
If we have a right relationship with God and are earnestly seeking to follow and honor him with our lives, we never have to wonder if he’s listening to our prayers. On the contrary, this verse assures us that he is carefully attuned to our lives and eager to hear every prayer that comes from our lips.
Bottom line—God hears the prayers of those who put their trust in him.
4. Daniel 9:18: “We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.”
This beautiful excerpt from Daniel’s prayer on behalf of the Jews exiled in Babylon shows us a profound truth about prayer—that God answers our prayers because of his mercy, not our good works. Many believers think their good works obligate or persuade God to act on their behalf. And while God does call us to live holy lives, it is not our obedience that moves God to answer our prayers, it is his great mercy toward us.
Bottom line—God’s mercy, not our goodness, is the basis for answered prayers.
5. Psalm 5:3: “In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”
The psalmist who penned Psalm 5:3 models the attitude we should have when we pray—that of eager expectation. We should believe God will answer our prayers and diligently watch for his hand at work. The psalmist also shows us that when we pray early in the day, we have the rest of the day to anticipate God’s answer.
Bottom line—when we pray, we can wait in eager anticipation for God to work on our behalf.
6. 1 John 5:14: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”
God delights in answering prayers that align with his will. But how do we know what God’s will is? The most reliable way to know is by reading his Word. As we seek God through Bible reading and prayer, we get to know his heart and gain wisdom and spiritual insight. This gives us a greater understanding of how to pray according to his will, and a greater chance of having our prayers answered.
Bottom line—God answers every prayer that aligns with his will.
7. James 4:3: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
This verse from the book of James tells us why God says “No” to many of our prayers—they are selfish, self-centered, and sometimes downright bad for us. Because God is wise and loving, like any good parent, he will not give things that will harm us or others.
Bottom line—God will say no to our prayers if we ask for something for the wrong reason or for the wrong purpose.
8. Matthew 26:42: “He (Jesus) went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’"
Jesus set the supreme example of surrender and submission to the Father’s will when he prayed for God to spare him from dying on the cross. Because he was fully human, he was fearful and reluctant to experience the agony of the crucifixion. Because he was fully God, he could have refused to die, but instead, in humble trust and submission, he prayed, “may your will be done.”
On the surface, death by crucifixion seemed to end Christ’s ministry. In reality, his death on the cross paved the way for countless believers to receive eternal life by believing in his death and resurrection.
Bottom line—we can surrender our will to God’s in complete confidence that he knows what’s best.
9. Mark 9:24: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
This honest confession comes from a man whose son was demon-possessed. He wasn’t fully convinced Jesus had the power to deliver his son, but he asked anyway.
This passage debunks two of the greatest misconceptions about prayer—that if we have enough faith, God will answer our prayers, and if we don’t, he won’t. Scripture doesn’t support the idea that great faith produces great miracles and small faith prevents them. Instead, God tells us to ask in faith, believing that he can and will answer our prayers in the way he knows is best. Even frightened, tiny, mustard-seed faith like this father had can and does move the hand of God.
Bottom line—it’s not how much faith we have that matters, but who we have faith in.
10. James 5:16: “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
What a beautiful affirmation James, the half-brother of Jesus, gives in this short verse. When we wonder if prayer accomplishes anything, he encourages us—not only is prayer powerful, but it’s effective. “You’re not wasting your time,” he seems to call to us. “Keep praying! God is using your prayers to accomplish his will.”
Bottom line: The prayers of godly Christians work.
I don’t know why God uses the prayers of his people to accomplish his work in the world, but I’m glad he does. I’m humbled to think we can talk to him at any time of the day or night. I’m grateful that he’s never too busy to hear our prayers and act on our behalf.
My prayer for us all is that we will never take for granted the privilege and the power of prayer.
Prayer in the Bible: The Lord's Prayer
In Matthew 6, Jesus gives clear instruction and guidance on how to pray, saying "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. "And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." (Matthew 6:5-8)
He then proclaims what is known as the "Lord's Prayer" which is popularly used across most Christian denominations to this day!
"Pray then like this: “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
20 More Bible Verses about Prayer
Philippians 4:6 - Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Mark 11:24 - Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
John 15:7 - If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
Matthew 26:41 - Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Ephesians 6:18 - Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
1 Timothy 2:5 - For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
Colossians 4:2 - Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
Psalm 34:17 - When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.
Luke 18:1 - And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.
Jeremiah 29:12 - Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.
Matthew 6:6 - But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Romans 8:26 - 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.
Matthew 6:7 - “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.
James 5:16 - Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Luke 11:9 - And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
Jeremiah 33:3 - Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
2 Chronicles 7:14 - If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Matthew 21:22 - And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.
1 Timothy 2:8 - I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;
Lori Hatcher is a blogger, inspirational speaker, and author of the Christian Small Publisher’s 2016 Book of the Year, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women. A Toastmasters International contest-winning speaker, Lori’s goal is to help busy women connect with God in the craziness of everyday life. She especially loves small children, soft animals, and chocolate. You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God. . . Starving for Time. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter (@lorihatcher2), or Pinterest (Hungry for God).