If we may agree to disagree on the importance of pre-filling the fuel filter...
It's been a while, but I don't recall pre-filling for my 24-valve ISB engine. Just let the electric lift pump fill it; the air is pushed past the injection pump and returns to the fuel tank.
Can't pre-fill the filter on that Deutz engine I referred to earlier: knucklehead design has its fuel filter inverted above the oil filter (grumble, grumble!). Just changed this one last week; I was actually surprised at how quickly the engine ran again after the filter change with only one of its three injector tubes loosened to bleed the air.
Sunbear, it's not clear whether you have the 12-valve B or the 24-valve ISB engine. Do as nat_ster suggested earlier and look at the valve cover; if it is the 24-valve it'll say so in letters about 1.5 inches tall. Being model year 1997 I'm anticipating it'll be 12-valve.
In the 24-valve case you can pre-fill or not, and can let the electric pump finish the fill. If you can be near the engine and listen carefully when the key is turned on, the pump is quiet but audible. If it runs a while that's great. If it runs just a few seconds or less, try bumping the starter to test whether that makes it run longer. With pre-fill I'd probably look for 20 seconds of lift pump; without pre-fill maybe a minute of pumping before actually trying to start the engine.
In the 12-valve case there isn't an electric lift pump and I agree with the others that pre-filling the filter would make the manual priming easier.
Doesn't matter whether the fuel tank is nearly empty so long as there's enough fuel in there to spill some on the floor, re-fill the filter, and run the engine long enough to get to the fuel station before the tank runs dry!