Types of Prayer
Last week, we looked at how to pray. This week, we’re looking at different types of prayer mentioned in the Bible.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, as there are countless ways of praying – but a lot of prayers can be broadly defined by the categories below.
When looking at your prayer life, it can be useful to consider which types of prayers you go to most frequently, and if there are any prayers you could be working to include in your day to day communication with God.
Prayers of adoration are prayers of praise, acknowledging God’s goodness, power and love for us. This is the same mindset we have when we worship, and a prayer of adoration is considered to be an act of worship itself.
This is a chance to consider the wonderous nature of God. It might not mean thanking Him for anything specific, just recognising who He is.
Who among the gods is like you, LORD? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? Exodus 15:11
I love you, LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:1-2
“Great and marvellous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” Revelation 15:3-4
Part of coming before God with a desire for communication is admitting where we have fallen short of him. Confession is a key part of our relationship with Jesus, as it’s the forgiveness of these sins that is our salvation.
A confessing prayer involves searching our hearts for anything we need forgiveness for. Sometimes our actions have been obviously sinful, but other times it might be pattern of thought or a bad habit that we haven’t noticed. Part of the prayer might be asking God to reveal these issues to us.
Prayers of confession should also be prayers of repentance: literally, a turning point. In confessing the sin you state an intention to stop.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
Thanking God for specific blessings in our lives is a vital part of prayer. It can also be very helpful to include this before asking God for anything, even if the request is uppermost in your mind. A prayer of thanksgiving means looking at your life and circumstances with open eyes. Even in difficulties, struggles or tragedy, we can give thanks.
We can also thank God for the privilege of being able to come to him with our requests, and for listening to us. We might thank him in advance for whatever the answer to our prayer is, knowing that He always has our best interests at heart.
With thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Phillipians 4.6
Petition and supplication are names given to a prayer of request – asking God for something we want. This is a very common type of prayer, and is likely to be tried even by those who have never prayed before.
While it’s important to balance out this type of prayer with the prayers mentioned above, a prayer of petition isn’t a selfish action. God encourages us to come to Him with our needs, wants and desires, as He knows how to fulfil them.
This is also an expression of our faith, as asking for something in prayer means you believe God will answer the prayer. Of course, this type of prayer should also be accompanied by an active attitude of listening, and a willingness to take action as God instructs you.
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11
This is the name usually given to praying on behalf of someone else – a type of prayer of supplication. Interceding means to intervene, or stand in the gap for someone.
This might be for someone in particular, who is going through something you want to pray into. It might be more general – for those in your community, for your leaders, for those in another part of the world.
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people. 1 Timothy 2:1
Sometimes, we’re called to intercede for those who have been fighting by themselves for a long time, and need someone to support them through prayer. We might also be called to intercede for our church or for other believers. Jesus gave us an example of this when he prayed for His followers: Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. John 17:11
This is a prayer of dedication something to God. It might mean dedicating something to the will of God, or to his honour. There are several instances of people in the Bible dedicating something to God – for example, Hannah in 1 Samuel, dedicating her son to God’s service ("For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord," 1 Samuel 1:28)
Another example is found in Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gesthemane, as he asked if he could be spared the suffering that was to come – yet also dedicating his life to God. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42
Prayer of lamentation
This is a prayer that comes from a place of pain, in which we cry out to God. This can simply by expressing what you’re going through to Him, and doesn’t always mean we’re asking for anything in particular. Sometimes, in moments of deep hurt or crisis, we don’t know what to ask for, but can only bring our pain to God.
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalm 13:2)
Like a prayer of petition, this is an act of faith. We trust God with our hearts, and our pain, and believe that He will help us in our need. It’s also an act of worship – acknowledging God’s nature and His ever-present, deep and unshakeable love for us.
Praying in tongues
This is a different type of prayer, as it’s not so much about the content of the prayer as the action itself. Praying in tongues is a gift of the Spirit – it means praying in words you don’t understand. Sometimes, the words will be understood by those around you, either because you’re praying in a language they recognise, or because the Spirit has given them an interpretation.
This type of prayer comes from the Spirit – it’s first noted in the Bible in Acts, when the Spirit descends on the believers at Pentecost. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:4
It’s sometimes mentioned in the New Testament, as a result of a new believer being baptised in the Spirit.
Praying in tongues is a way to communicate to God without needing to put anything into words. While we can be given interpretations, this is mainly about speaking with God himself. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. 1 Corinthians 14:2
There are many other types of prayer mentioned in the Bible. As prayer is act of communication, there as many types of prayer as there are ways of communicating with someone. Knowing different types of prayer can help you structure your prayer time, or pay attention to what you’re saying to God and why.
The most important thing to know is that He is always listening.