Hear my prayer, O LORD! And let my cry for help come to You. Psalm 102:1
The Ways and Means of Prayer
In Ephesians 6:18 Paul says we are to pray with “all prayer and petition.” The Greek word translated “prayer” (also in 1 Thes. 5:17) is the most common New Testament word for prayer and refers to general requests. The word translated “petition” refers to specific prayers. Paul’s use of both words suggests our necessary involvement in all kinds of prayer, every form that is appropriate.
To pray all the time necessitates being in various positions because you will never be in the same position all day. In the Bible, people prayed standing (Gen. 24:12–14), lifting up their hands (1 Tim. 2:8), sitting (Jud. 20:26), kneeling (Mark 1:40), looking upward (John 17:1), bowing down (Ex. 34:8), placing their heads between their knees (1 Kings 18:42), pounding on their breasts (Luke 18:13), and facing the temple (Dan. 6:10).
While some people today think prayer ought to be very formal, the Bible documents that people prayed in many different circumstances. They prayed wearing sackcloth (Ps. 35:13), sitting in ashes (Job 1:20–21; 2:8), smiting their breasts (Luke 18:13), crying tears (Ps. 6:6), throwing dust on their heads (Josh. 7:6), tearing garments (1 Kings 21:27), fasting (Deut. 9:18), sighing (Ezra 9:4–15), groaning (Ps. 6:4–6), crying out loud (Heb. 5:7), sweating blood (Luke 22:44), agonizing with broken hearts (Ps. 34:18), making a vow (Acts 18:18), making sacrifices (Ps. 20:1–3), and singing songs (Acts 16:25).
The Bible records people praying in all sorts of places as well: in battle (2 Chron. 13:14–15), in a cave (1 Kings 19:9–10), in a closet (Matt. 6:6), in a garden (Matt. 26:36–44), on a mountainside (Luke 6:12), by a river (Acts 16:13), by the sea (Acts 21:5–6), in the street (Matt. 6:5), in the temple (1 Kings 8:22–53), in bed (Ps. 4:3–4), in a home (Acts 9:39–40), in the stomach of a fish (Jonah 2:1–10), on a housetop (Acts 10:9), in a prison (Acts 16:23–26), in the wilderness (Luke 5:16), and on a cross (Luke 23:33–34, 46). In 1 Timothy 2:8, Paul said, “I want the men in every place to pray” For the faithful, Spirit-filled Christian, every place becomes a place of prayer.
At a pastors’ conference I attended some years ago, one man preached on the subject of morning prayer. To support his point, he read various passages that show people praying in the morning. As he did, I looked up all the Scriptures that show people praying three times a day (Dan. 6:10), in the evening (1 Kings 18:36), before meals (Matt. 14:19), after meals (Deut. 8:10), at the ninth hour (3 P.M.; Acts 3:1), at bedtime (Ps. 4:4), at midnight (Acts 16:25), day and night (Luke 2:37; 18:7), often (Luke 5:33), when they’re young (Jer. 3:4), when they’re old (Dan. 9:2–19), when they’re in trouble (2 Kings 19:3–4), every day (Ps. 86:3), and always (Luke 18:1; 1 Thes. 5:17).
Prayer is fitting at any time, in any posture, in any place, under any circumstance, and in any attire. It is to be a total way of life—an open and continual communion with God. After having embraced all the infinite resources that are yours in Christ, don’t ever think you’re no longer dependent on the moment by moment power of God.
MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). Alone with God (18–20). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.