The Scriptures give us many directives about how to pray in general and with what attitude to pray specifically. Here are eleven different attitudes the Christian is to have when he prays.
Believing. Mark 11:24 says, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Prayer requires faith—a believing in God, a trusting in God, and a placing of our expectations in God.
Penitent. The prodigal son illustrates what it means to pray openly as an unworthy supplicant (Luke 15:21). When we conceal things from God, it creates unrest and anxiety, but an open confession fosters rest. True rest in God through prayer is experienced when we confess our failures, relate our problems, and open our hearts in His presence.
Fervent. In Genesis 32:24–28, Jacob “wrestled through the night.” We must pray fervently, not wrestling in our own strength, but earnestly clinging to Christ, saying: “I will not let thee go except thou bless me” (Gen. 32:26).
Humble. Remember the publican in Luke 18:13. He thought himself not even worthy to lift his eyes up to heaven, but beat his breast saying: “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” Each us is unworthy as well, yet like the publican we must humbly plead with God for mercy.
Bold. Note Hebrews 4:16. Genuine humility and genuine boldness are not opposites. The publican’s prayer was truly humble, yet he came and prayed to God. As a bold beggar he had courage to enter the King’s dwelling. Praying boldly is praying freely and humbly, knowing that we pray in Christ. We have a High Priest to intercede for us as we pour out our hearts in His presence.
Interceding. Moses prayed on behalf of Miriam when she had leprosy (Num. 12:1–2, 10, 13). Love to others must be evident in our prayers. We must remember the temporal and spiritual needs of our neighbor. If we truly love others, we will love to pray for them. We must be like Job—he prayed continuously for his family members (Job 1:5).
Dependent. Romans 8:26–27 speaks about depending on the Spirit who makes intercession for us. So often we struggle with self instead of resting in God. We need to be weaned from self-reliance and look to the one who gives, hears, and answers prayer.
Expectant. Elijah prayed to God for rain and then sent his servant to see if there was any sign of it (1 Kings 18:41–46). He sent his servant seven times—Elijah had great expectation in God! Expectant prayer conquers discouragement and waits upon the Lord. James 1:6–7 tells us to ask with unwavering faith.
Childlike. We must ever go to God in Christ as little children would their father. “What is that child-like inclination?” Thomas Manton asked. It is this: “The soul cannot keep away from God, and that is an implicit owning him as a father: ‘Thou shalt call me, My father; and shalt not turn away from me’ (Jer. 3:19). It is a child like act to look to him for all our supplies…. As when a child wants anything, he goes to his father.” In another place, Manton said, “Children do not use to make starched speeches to their fathers when they want bread, but only express their natural cry…. A word from a child moves the father more than the orator can move all his hearers” (Manton, Works, Vol. 1, 34, 28).
Thankful. This is strikingly portrayed in Psalm 136. In this psalm, “give thanks unto the Lord for His mercy endureth forever” is repeated twenty-six times. We must not only be thankful for clear answers to prayer and for blessings for which we did not pray, but our thankfulness must penetrate deeper. We are also called to be thankful for these things that distress us or events that are not to our liking. Think of Paul and Silas’s gratitude, even while in the inner prison!
Persevering. The Canaanite woman prayed this way (Matt. 15:21–28). When she did not receive an answer to her prayer, she persevered, crying all the more urgently after Christ. She begged Christ to let her “eat of the crumbs” from the Master’s table. Persevering prayer does not give up on the Lord, but pleads upon His promises.