Types of Prayer

It has been said, Things that are different are not the same.  While that quote was used in connection to Bible versions, it is also true of everything else in the world around us.  Not all cars are the same for example, and not all dogs are the same.  This goes for almost everything.  Their design is specific for their function.  You ask some people to borrow a hammer.  They can get a picture of a different hammer in their mind and jump to a conclusion about what you need it for.  Not all hammers are the same.  Different types of hammers are good for different types of jobs.  You do not try to use a rock hammer to bust down a block wall and you do not use a sledge hammer to hang a picture in your living room.  It is true that all hammers are used for pounding something, but to be thinking correctly you must take their differences in design into account.

We need to be careful to make a distinction where God makes a difference.  Just like you cannot take a truth about a sledge hammer and apply it to all hammers, you cannot take a truth about one principal in the Word of God and apply it equally to all the principals in the Word of God.  One of the areas where this applies is the principal of prayer.  God’s Word does tell us that there are different types of prayer.

I  Prayer without ceasing.

1Thes 5:17  Pray without ceasing.  A fairly common question has been how can I possibly do that?  I still have to work and do errands, yardwork, and help people.  I can’t do that if I am praying all the time.  Their mistake is in taking an aspect of a certain type of prayer and applying it to all prayer.  They get in their mind the type of prayer where you stop everything close your eyes and pray for a while and think that is the only type there is.  So they apply what they know about that type of prayer to the pray without ceasing type of prayer.  This causes them to be confused.

a. Let look at an example. – Abraham’s servant

Abraham’s servant is sent on a job to find a wife for Isaac.  He makes a long trip and finally gets to the well.  He considers his errand urgent and important.  Things need to be done.  The animals need fed and watered a place needs to be found to stay and most important a wife must be found.  While this is going on, the servant prays.  He has not even sat down yet.  He is standing.  He is praying while doing.  In the middle of the day while things are happening.  In the midst of events.

Gen 24:12  And he said, O LORD God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham.

Gen 24:13  Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water:

Gen 24:14  And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master.

Gen 24:15  And it came to pass, before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder.

Abraham’s servant was praying while the events of life were in progress.  While they were happening.  We find out a little more about this prayer when the servant recounts the event with the family of Rebekah.

Gen 24:45  And before I had done speaking in mine heart, behold, Rebekah came forth with her pitcher on her shoulder; and she went down unto the well, and drew water: and I said unto her, Let me drink, I pray thee.

He actually said this prayer in his heart.  Not all prayer needs to be said out loud.

b. Pray without ceasing is speaking about a constant tendency to direct thoughts Godward.

All thru the day.  This type of prayer is necessary if you are going to be obedient to other teachings of the word of God.

i. Thanks for all things

Eph_5:20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

We are to give thanks always for all things.  That means all things.  If you tried to keep track of all the wonderful things you see all thru the day and then only tell Him thanks at night, you would fail.  Face it, many things would be forgotten.  Instead every time you see a wonder of creation.  Send that thought of thankfulness Godward.  Every time you get a blessing thank Him right then.

ii. For whatsoever we do

Col_3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.   We are told that whatsoever we do, we are to give thanks.  There is no real practical way to obey that unless you are directing thoughts and words Godward as you are doing things.

iii. Praise Continually

Heb_13:15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. Here we are told to offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually.  You cannot obey that unless you praying without ceasing.

Without the constant tendency to direct thanks, or needs toward God as your day progresses, many things will be left out or forgotten by the end of the day.  You will not be obedient to the Word in thanking Him and praising him continually.  The Praying without ceasing type of prayer is a very important type of prayer.  It also goes a long way in helping you to do what Jesus told us:  John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.  Abiding with Christ carries the idea of being connected.  Praying without ceasing will change your life.  It will help you be more thankful and more observant of God’s blessings.  And with your attitude and mind more focused upon God on a continual basis you are less likely to fall into sin.

II  Public prayer.

Public prayer is different than praying without ceasing.  Praying without ceasing has a lot to do with your own walk and relationship with Christ thru the day.  Public prayer has a different purpose.

a. Has a different purpose.

Public prayer in a church service is not the place to mention your personal blessings that you saw during the day.  The place for you to be thankful for seeing the beauty of a Palm tree is in the praying without ceasing type of prayer.  Public prayer in a church is for the purpose of leading the people in prayer about a matter that concerns that body.  One man prays to God out loud and everyone unifies with him by praying the same thing silently.

Example: Acts 1:24  And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,

The church had a matter that concerned them all so they had public prayer being gathered together.  It is a way for all to be involved in bringing a matter to God.  It has a side benefit of helping to get everyone on the same page about a matter.  It also helps to train the younger believers about what the church body should be concerned about, and what is currently going on that needs God’s helping hand.  Public prayer can also help edify and encourage the people gathered together.  While it can have extra benefits, those benefits are not the main purpose.  The purpose of Public prayer is not to re-preach the message that was just preached.  The purpose is to lead the gathering in a unified request to God, and it is best to keep the prayer fairly short.

b. In the above example you should notice that gathered public prayer is short and simple.

You do not pray the same in public prayer as you do in private prayer.  Jesus is a good example.  For long prayers He would go off alone.  Luke 6:12  And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.

III  Shared prayer

Not only are we to pray without ceasing and to have public prayer when gathered.  We are also to share prayer requests and pray with a brother or sister in Christ.  This is one way we obey the command.  Gal 6:2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.  Praying with someone is one way we can help bear their burden.

IV  Private prayer

Mat_14:23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.

Jesus would pray in public or with smaller groups in a shorter concise way.  And those type of prayers are good and have a place and a purpose.  But there are things that need prayed for that the shorter types of prayer just will not take care of.  For example: deep things, hurtful things, burdensome things. Things that are very personal.  Trying to deal with those things only with short types of prayer is like trying to drive a railroad spike with a framing hammer.  To drive a railroad spike you need a sledge hammer.  A more appropriate tool.

Mat_6:6  But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

This instruction does not conflict with the pray without ceasing command.  They are different types of prayer for different purposes.  Just as this command to ask in secret does not conflict with praying together.  Those two commands are talking about different types of prayer.  There are some things you share and have others bear the burden with you and there are burdens that you are to bear yourself.  Gal 6:5 For every man shall bear his own burden.

Knowing the difference is often just a matter of common sense.  The details of deeply private things should be kept more private.  The best thing to do for those things in doubt is to first pray about it.  Ask God for the wisdom to know the difference.

V. Dedicated Scheduled Prayer

Some old time preachers used to call this knee work.  From a day when they understood the necessity of work.  If you did not work you did not eat.  It was necessary.  And it was scheduled.  You did not show up to work whenever you wanted.  The results called a paycheck were too important.  And if you did not work, you received none of the results called money.  There was no welfare.  They had the same attitude toward prayer and so called it knee work.  They understood how necessary prayer was.  That without it they would not have any results.  So they scheduled time for it and put some serious effort into it.  Whether you agree with the term or not, dedicated scheduled prayer is definitely a Biblical principal.

Acts 3:1 Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.  God is the one who set forth this principal when He brought the children of Israel out of Egypt.  He created set times for them to pray.  This was still going on in the New Testament.

Act_16:16  And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:

As we went to prayer is between two commas.  It is an inserted thought.  I believe it was a normal thing they did every day.  They went to prayer.  Dedicated, determined, steadfast, scheduled as a normal routine.

Act 2:42  And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

We are to continue steadfastly in prayer.  The problem is the flesh is weak.  We are easily distracted.  You will not continue steadfastly in praying over a long period of time unless you make a determined effort to schedule it.

VI.  Intercessory prayer

There is no doubt that we are to bring all things that concern us to God in prayer, but we are not to stop there.  The Bible tells us to weep with those who weep.  We are to care.  I mean deeply care about our brothers and sisters in Christ.

1Jn_3:17  But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

1Jn_3:18  My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

Mat_18:19  Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 18:19 is often paraphrased and believed like this.  If two of you agree on anything that they shall ask, it shall be done.  However, that is not what it says.  It says if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything.

To touch is just that touching.  That means connecting, feeling.  Many will agree mentally on an issue and pray, but it does not touch them.  It does not affect them.  Their prayer is just dry words, there is no heart in it.  What they are praying for does not touch them.  God does not promise to answer dry prayers like that.

A good example of this is Moses’ Intercessory prayer.

Exo 32:31  And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold.

Exo 32:32  Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin–; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.

Moses was in intercessory prayer for the people.  What he was praying about touched his heart so much that he asked to be blotted out of God’s book if God would not forgive them.  We find out more about this prayer when Moses is talking to a new generation that is getting ready to go into the land.

Deu 9:25  Thus I fell down before the LORD forty days and forty nights, as I fell down at the first; because the LORD had said he would destroy you.

Moses was so moved in the heart that he prayed for 40 days and nights for others.  That it real intercessory prayer.  Prayer with heart.  If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.

Intercessory prayer needs to be prayer from the heart.  God promises to answer that type of prayer.


I think the hardest type of prayer to learn is the private, close the closet type of prayer.  Where are they going to learn that?  Not by example.  They do not hear anyone pray that way in a church service.  And they shouldn’t by the way.  That is a different type of prayer.  There are no word for word examples of hour long prayers or even night long prayers in the Bible.  If there were, you could not carry your Bible it would be so big.  This kind of prayer is only learned by doing.  The leadership of the Holy Spirit is how you will learn this type of prayer.

Some people will be involved only in one type of prayer for example once a day for a few min and think they are good to go.  Ask them if they pray and they will say yes.  However, there are many types of prayer for different purposes and we should be involved in every one of them.  Get involved in all areas of prayer.

See more lessons on Prayer