Recently, a reader wrote and asked me a thought-provoking question when she said, “How do I actually pray? I understand prayer is talked to God but I don’t get how I’m actually supposed to do it.” Her question prompted me to think about learning to pray for beginners.
What a fantastic question. I love that she gave voice to a question other people are probably wondering about, also.
Let’s talk about what prayer is, how to pray, and what the Bible says about prayer.
What is Prayer?
In it’s most simple definition, prayer is talking to God.
While the technical definition of prayer is speaking to any God, as a Christian writing this blog post, I am referring to our prayers to God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who together make up the Trinitarian God of the Bible.
How Do I Pray?
I like to say there isn’t really a wrong way to pray. If you are talking to God, that is a good thing.
Sometimes people say we shouldn’t pray for selfish things, like asking for things we want, but I believe God wants us to come to him for all kinds of reasons.
To pray, simply talk to God about what is going on in your life, your thoughts, your feelings, and your desires.
You can speak to him out loud or silently in your head. If you haven’t done this much it might feel weird at first, but give it a try.
If it feels more comfortable, try using a pre-written prayer and then as you feel more comfortable you can pray using your own words.
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Am I Allowed to Pray Directly to God?
You may wonder if you, a human being, are worthy to pray directly to God.
The truth is that we are not worth of coming before a holy God, but we have a mediator who makes it possible and that is Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins so that we have new life today and eternal life with God after we die when we accept this incredible gift.
We don’t need intersession from a saint or anyone else on our behalf because the price has already been paid. There is nothing you can do to work to earn this free gift.
It’s humbling to realize, but you are free to come to God in prayer and he graciously allows you to come directly into the throne room and stand at his feet with all of your prayers.
Does God Answer My Prayers?
Do you sometimes feel like you pray and it seems like God is silent? The truth is that God loves you and no prayer of yours goes unanswered.
God answers every prayer you pray.
The answer to your prayers might be yes, no, or not yet. Sometimes the answer is “I have something better in mind.”
God knows what is best for you and graciously works his will in your life, even if that is not easy or is beyond what you are able to understand.
What are Some Types of Prayers?
There are many types of prayers and ways to pray.
Prayer Can Be Out Loud or Silent.
You can talk to God out loud or you can talk to God in your head.
Since God is everywhere and all-knowing, He can hear and understand you even if you pray silently in your head.
Some people enjoy writing out their prayers in a journal, notebook or even directly into their Bibles during Bible journaling. What’s neat about writing out your prayers is that you have a record to reflect back on and see how God has answered your prayers.
Prayer Can be Alone or with Others
Prayer can be done with other people, such as in a worship service, it can be two or three people gathered together praying, or it can be just you praying.
Prayer is really fantastic in this way. Thousands of people across the world can join in the same prayer that is prayed during a televised event or a prayer can be one individual.
God hears every prayer no matter how it is prayed.
Prayers Can be Pre-Written or Spontaneous.
When you pray, you can use prayers that have been written by others or you can simply speak what is on your heart and mind.
There are some people who judge those who use pre-written prayers as not being as spiritual as a spontaneously spoken prayer, but this is a false way of thinking. One is not more spiritual than the other, it’s simply a different way of praying.
I personally enjoy all different types of prayers and find them meaningful at different times and situations.
Categories of Prayer
Some people put prayers into 4 different categories to make it easier to understand different ways we pray to God.
- Adoration: Praising God.
- Contrition: Asking for God’s forgiveness.
- Petition: Asking God for a favor.
- Thanksgiving: Showing God gratitude.
Prayers Can be Scripture.
You can use scripture to pray God’s words back to him. I find this an especially meaningful way to pray during difficult times in my life because it brings God’s words of truth deep into my heart when I need it the most.
This list of 30 days of verses for hope during pain and this list of verses to praise God during storms of life are both good for these types of prayers.
Prayers for Specific Situations.
Here are some prayers that are helpful for specific situations.
Prayers at the Dinner Table.
Many families prayer together at the dinner table or before bedtime with younger children. This is a wonderful way to include prayer into regular life. Here is a helpful list of dinner time prayers.
Praying Out Loud.
Some churches or Bible study groups encourage members to pray together out loud. Depending on your habits growing up and your personal comfort level, this might be no problem for you or this might make you feel quite uncomfortable.
Again, there is no right or wrong in this situation, but if you can grow into this practice it can be very meaningful to all involved.
If you are new to praying out loud and want to try it, I suggest practicing one sentence to start praying out loud, such as, “Thank you God for ____.” Once you are comfortable praying for this out loud, you can try praying for something a bit longer.
Often people search for one specific prayer that will somehow heal people who are sick or grant special blessings.
God is not a magic genie who grants certain requests because we say just the right words. While it’s wonderful that we find prayers that are Biblical and meaningful to us, don’t worry about trying to find one certain prayer with just the right words.
God will work in your life because of who he is, not because if the exact words you use.
James 5:16 tells us that the prayers of a righteous man are powerful.
Praying for each other is an important, meaningful thing we can do as Christian people. Use The Holy Mess prayer request page to pray for others and to leave your prayer requests.
What Does the Bible Say About Prayer?
The Bible has much to teach us about prayer. Here are important highlights.
- Communication with God is important and worthy of our time. Jesus devoted much of his life to prayer and spent huge amounts of his time on earth set apart in communication with his Father. (Some people estimate Jesus spent a third or more of his life on earth in prayer.)
- The Lord’s Prayer is the ultimate example of prayer. Jesus also gave us the ultimate example of prayer with The Lord’s Prayer. Read more about The Lord’s Prayer here.
- We are to pray without ceasing. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
- God delights in the prayers of his people. See Proverbs 15:8
- There’s nothing to big or small to bring to God in prayer. Ephesians 6:18, “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication…”
With these guidelines, I encourage you to give prayer a try. Talk to your heavenly Father. He is waiting to hear from you.
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