When Peter and John were with Jesus, they, along with the other disciples, asked Jesus to teach them to pray. The Lord gave His disciples a Model Prayer which embodied the principles which should guide all prayers. The disciples were good students and when they began to pray in public, they incorporated the principles of the Model Prayer.
1. Prayer is to be made to God the Father.
While it is not wrong to pray to Jesus, or invoke the Holy Spirit, prayer is primarily to be addressed to God the Father. Jesus said, When you pray say, “Our Father which art in heaven.” To address God the Father is to show Him respect. It is to understand that He is the source of all things.
2. Prayer is to be harmonious.
When the Lord listens to our prayers, He is concerned about our spirit as well as what is being said. If a person is angry with another person, or harbors hatred in the heart, it is hard to pray. Husbands and wives are to be in harmony that their prayers be not hindered (1 Peter 3:7). Christians are to pray for those who hurt them and abuse them. A calm spirit is needed to pray effectively.
3. Prayer is to exalt God.
It is easy to forget to whom one is speaking. Sometimes children show disrespect when speaking to their parents and have to be sharply reminded to whom they are speaking. Respect is always to be shown to the office of magistrates, even if a Nero is in power. God is not the “Man in the Sky”. He is not “The Big Guy.” He is God, the maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is. Never forget to whom your prayer is being addressed. Honor God.
"Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, WHY DID THE HEATHEN RAGE, AND THE PEOPLE IMAGINE VAIN THINGS?" (Acts 4:25).
4. Prayer is to be scriptural.
If there is a struggle to prayer, it is possible to pray the Scriptures. Pray the Psalms. Remember the Word of God and recite it back to God. Peter and John remembered the prophecy concerning Christ and incorporate Scriptural language into their prayer.
"THE KINGS OF THE EARTH STOOD UP, AND THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER AGAINST THE LORD, AND AGAINST HIS CHRIST. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together (Acts 4:26-27)."
5. Prayer is to be submissive to the sovereign will of God.
The apostles understood the doctrine of predestination. They comprehended that all that happened to Jesus, all that had been prophesied, was based on the determined will of God.
It may be that the hardships foreordained for Christ, would be their fate as well. The servant is not above the Master. If the Jews gathered themselves against Christ, the church would also know opposition. By acknowledging the Hand of God and His determinative counsel, the apostles were submitting to the Sovereign. “If the Lord will” is to be part of prayer (James 4:15).
"And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word (Acts 4:29)."
Of course the Lord was beholding the threatenings of the religious leaders. His eye is upon the sparrow. Not a hair of a person’s head is lost without his knowledge. The heart of every Christian can be assured that He is watching over them.
6. Prayer allows for personal petitions.
The Lord is pleased to hear our petitions. The apostles had several petition. First, they wanted the Lord to take notice of the fact they were being threatened. Petition granted. Second, the apostles asked for holy boldness to speak the Lord’s name. Petition granted. Third, the apostles asked that signs and wonders might be done in the name of Jesus. Petition granted.
Question: “Are these petitions something that every Christian could ask for?”
Question: “Are these petitions something that every Christian should ask for?”
Answer: “Not necessarily.” In other words, do not be surprised if, for example, you ask for the power of “signs and wonders” and that petition is not granted. While it does not hurt to ask, be prepared for a negative answer. Not all petitions are granted. Sometimes God says, “Yes”. Sometimes He says, “No.” Sometimes He says, “Wait.” Sometimes He says, “You have got to be kidding!”
"By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness" (Acts 4:30-31).
Notice that the prayer of the apostles was not long. Like the Model Prayer Jesus gave, their prayer was short and precise. And then it ended.
7. Prayer is to be concise.
All Biblical prayers are short, with rare exception. No biblical prayer lasted more than six minutes. The longest prayer in the Bible is found in Nehemiah 9:5-38. The longest prayer of Jesus is found in John 17. While Christians are commanded to pray frequently, prayers are to be conversant, just like a normal conversation (1 Thess. 5:17).