Do you ever find yourself struggling to pray?
Whether its finding the time, the words to say, or even the desire to do so, prayer can seem like a task sometimes. You might ask yourself questions like:
- How do I talk to God?
- What do I say when I pray?
- How often should I pray?
- Where should I go to pray?
- How do I pray effectively so that God really hears me?
If you really want to learn how to pray to God, regardless of what stage of your Christian journey you are currently in, I'm here to help simplify things for you. My goal is that by the end of this post, that you not only have a better understanding of what prayer is, and what the bible says about it, but that you also learn how to pray confidently and consistently.
This post may contain affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure here.
What is Prayer?
I remember when I first became a Christian as a teenager, thinking to myself, OMG, I will never be able to pray like Sister X! I didn't even have her biblical vocabulary, nor could I speak with such authority like her.
That experience is very often similar to the experience that many of us have had. Which is why some of us shy away from prayer in the first place. We think prayer is some well written script with biblical terms that we put together so that it sounds holy enough for God.
But the truth is, we overcomplicate it. So, what is prayer according to the Bible?
In basic terms, prayer is simply talking to God.
Prayer is not a speech, or a formal monologue that we have to write out first, and then practice. It's simply a conversation with God.
What Does the Bible Say About Prayer?
When it comes to talking to God, there are two key things that the Bible points out:
- God hears us when we talk to Him.
- God wants us to talk to Him.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. (Jeremiah 29:12 NIV)
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. (I Peter 3:12)
Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (John 16:24 )
There should be no question of whether or not we have access to talk to God, or permission to talk God. God is our Heavenly Father, and the Bible is clear on the fact that He wants to hear from us!
Now that we've established that, lets move on to what to say when you pray.
How Not to Pray
I'm actually going to start off with how NOT to pray, because honestly I believe this will help alleviate some of the fears and misconceptions many often have regarding prayer in general.
Don't Try to Sound Like Someone You're Not
God chose us, and therefore, He knows us. He knows our personality. We don't need to change our voice, tone, accent, or vocabulary just to pray.
For example, there is no reason for a simple prayer like "God, thank you so much for waking me up today" to translate into: "Most excellent Heavenly Father in the great skies above, thank you kindly for your outstretched hand upon my earthen vessel in allowing me to breathe the oxygen of life and be alive to see another 24-hour period on this great planet earth that belongs to you".
Now that sounds a bit extreme, but trust me, when I say, that so many people try to formalize the verbiage of their prayers because they want to sound holy. But check out what Jesus himself told his disciples regarding this:
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:7-8)
God being God, already knows what you need or want before you even open your mouth to talk to Him. So there is absolutely no need to try to impress Him by packaging up your prayer into some long, elaborate script that doesn't even sound like you.
God simply wants us to talk to Him. And when we do so, we should be authentic.
Don't Talk to God as if He's an Ordinary Person
Yes, God wants us to be ourselves when we pray. However, we must also remember who we are talking to when we pray.
God is not one of our pals, buddies, or friends that we sit and chill with. He's God! So in our authenticity, we must also exhibit respect when we talk to God. The bible uses the term fear in many instances to describe how our attitude and approach should always be towards God.
Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him. (Psalm 33:8)
Fear in this case is not "being afraid". Godly fear means to revere and worship God, and be respectful of Him because of who He is. We should ALWAYS approach God with reverence.
Don't Pray With Arrogance
Never approach God from a standpoint of exalting yourself as better than others. After all, in God's presence we are all sinners, saved by grace.
Jesus illustrates this principle best:
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
How We Should Pray
Just like the bible is very clear on how NOT to pray, it is just as clear on how we should pray as Christians.
Keep It Simple
As we saw in a previous verse, God doesn't want, nor does He require us to come to him babbling with a ton of empty words. In fact, here is another passage that reiterates this:
Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show, make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.” (Luke 20:46-47)
There is nothing in Scripture that says how long a prayer has to last, or how many words a prayer must contain. True prayer is simple, authentic, and from the heart.
God already knows what's on our minds, but He wants us to talk to Him about it anyway. Talking to God not only shows that we acknowledge His presence in our lives, but it also shows that we trust Him. That we have faith that He can and will answer our prayers.
Sometimes, you won't have much time to pray. So your prayer before a meeting at work that you're nervous about, might be as simple as "God, please let this be good news".
Other times you might have to have a much needed discussion with someone that you've been dreading talking to because you don't want the confrontation. Your prayer might be as simple as "God, please just give me the right words to say and the right approach."
Then there are times where you are at your wit's end and genuinely don't know what to do, and all you can say is "God, please help me."
Prayer is that simple. The excuses we make about not having time, or being too busy, all go out the window when it comes to prayer. When you start saying simple prayers and having short conversations with God throughout your day, it becomes natural. A habit. Before you know it, you begin to realize you're always talking to God about something. And that is how we build our relationship with Him!
Now there will be times where we do set aside time specifically to pray for a longer period of time. We may have a prayer list, or go to a prayer meeting, or we may be in a period of prayer and fasting. But, whether the prayer is long or short, we can still keep it simple and authentic.
Follow Jesus' Example of Prayer
Now that we know that prayer can be simple, you may be wondering how to start a prayer or what exactly you should pray for. As I have done throughout this post, I'm going to defer to Jesus' example. When he was teaching his disciples, he taught them exactly how they should pray:
We all know this as the 'Lord's Prayer' or the 'Hallowed Be Thy Name Prayer'. And, oftentimes we recite it word for word. However, this prayer was meant as a guide for the key things we should be talking to God about. A model prayer to show what to say when you pray. Let's take a look, line by line:
- Our Father, in heaven, hallowed be your name - If you've been wondering how to start a prayer, giving reverence and honor to God is always a great place to begin. It doesn't have to be in these exact words, but simply start by telling God thank you and acknowledging His presence in your life......in your own words.
- Your kingdom come, your will be done - we always tend to go to God about what we want (our will for our lives). But, let's not forget to ask God for His will to be done in our lives.
- Give us today our daily bread - we may have a long list of wants, but the bible promises to supply all of our needs. Lets not forget to ask Him for that and thank Him when He does provide.
- Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors - we should be acknowledging our sins, asking for forgiveness and forgiving others. We can't sit and name every sinful word, thought or deed we have done in a day, but we can certainly ask in a general way for God to forgive us for anything we have done to sin against Him. However, those things we absolutely know we did wrong (as in they stand out to you), we should definitely be specific in asking for forgiveness. After all, the definition of confess is to state or admit what you did wrong, and agree with God that it is sin.
- Lead us not into temptation - we should be praying for God's help not to fall into temptation to sin. And since we know our weaknesses and what tempts us, so we should be specific when we pray.
- Deliver us from the evil one - we should be praying for protection from our enemy, the devil, because he is always on the attack. Whether its our mind, our flesh, our home, our health, our finances, or our spiritual growth - Satan will be coming after something!
- For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen - closing your prayer in the same way you started - by giving reverence to God - is a always a good note to end on. And the term Amen simply means "so be it".
As you can see, Jesus' prayer was a simple prayer. Short and sweet, yet very focused and direct.
There is nothing wrong with praying the Lord's Prayer word for word. However, this model prayer gives us perspective on what we should be praying for specifically. There are many things we can ask God for, but what are our priorities? How often are such things as those listed above included in our prayers?
How much time do we spend just praising God for who He is, and asking Him to do His will in our lives? How often do we thank Him for all the things He has provided for us? Do we confess our sins, and ask for forgiveness? When was the last time you prayed for Him to help you forgive someone? Are we even concerned about falling into temptation or protection from the tricks of the enemy?
We have a God that we can literally approach with anything - a need, a want, a heart's desire or a request. But, don't forget to pray for the things that will enhance your relationship with Him, first and foremost.
Pray About Any and Everything
If the devil had his way, he wouldn't allow us to talk to God at all. He knows that when we pray, we tap into something greater than ourselves that can change situations and circumstances in our lives, and thwart his plans.
The beauty of prayer is that once you begin to talk to God frequently, the more you will start learning to trust and rely on Him for everything.
We can talk to God about our kids, our spouse, our problems at work, issues with family members or friends, our financial struggles, or important decisions that we need to make. We can pray for God's help and strength when we feel worried, stressed, afraid or anxious. We can pray for His mercy, protection, healing, and even for success.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Talking to God about any and everything is a privilege we underutilize way too often.
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (I Peter 5:7)
Let's stop carrying around unnecessary burdens and learn to talk to God more. Trust me, you'll be surprised to see what happens when you pray!
Pray Anytime and Anywhere
How do we determine when to pray, or where to pray? For that matter, how often should we pray?
Simply put, we can pray anytime and anywhere!
Pray continually. (I Thessalonians 5:17)
God wants us to talk to Him as often as possible - whether its morning, noon, or night. Remember, its all about building our relationship with Him. And, we can't build a relationship with God without spending time reading His Word and praying.
There are no special designated places to pray. You are not required to be at church, or in the presence of a pastor or minister. In fact, there will be times when you want or need to pray by yourself.
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16)
And, there are times when you will need or want to pray in a group along with others.
They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. (Acts 1:14)
That's the beauty of being able to talk to God. You can pray while doing the dishes, taking a shower, doing laundry, while at the grocery store, at school, at work, while driving down the highway, at church, or with a group of friends.
It really doesn't matter what you are doing or where you find yourself. God is always there to listen, and He wants us to talk to Him! We can literally pray all day via short conversations with God here and there.
Side note: although it is not required, it isn't wrong to set up a designated place for your alone time with God. For those of you who desire to do so, here are some great posts that I recommend with ideas to help you do so:
Pray the Scriptures
One of my absolute favorite methods of praying is to pray the Scriptures. That simply means stating what God has already told us, or promised us in His Word.
For example whenever I start to worry or stress about a situation, in my prayer I remind myself of what God says by quoting these verses:
I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
Praying scripture or praying the promises of God strengthens us by helping us to focus on what God can do in our lives. It also helps us pray with confidence and authority in knowing that we are declaring God's Word and promises over our situation, and not merely praying empty words.
This is why learning the bible is so important. We can't pray the Scriptures or the promises of God, without knowing what they are. Learning God's Word is by far the best way to learn how to pray a powerful prayer, and an effective prayer!
Trust That Your Prayers Are Powerful and Effective
Now that you know how to pray and how NOT to pray, its up you to start talking to God more. And the easiest way to accomplish that is by not just thinking about doing it, but by going ahead and doing it. Start praying. NOW!
Even if your prayer is just to say 'Lord, help me to start talking to you more.'
And remember, the best way to pray has nothing to do with how long or holy the prayer sounds. Just be authentic, be respectful, keep it simple, follow Jesus' example of what to pray for, and start by taking little moments of each day to talk to God. Anytime, anywhere, about anything.
When you pray following these guidelines that are set forth in Scripture rather than following man-made guidelines, you can't go wrong. And, you can trust that any prayer you pray - whether its out loud, in silence, by yourself, in a crowd, short or long - that your prayer is both powerful and effective!
The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16b)
Let's start spending more time talking to God. To build our relationship with Him, to better equip ourselves against the devil, to effect change in our lives, and most importantly because God tells us to!
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. (Luke 18:1)
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12)
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