How to pray

By Billy GrahamJune 1, 2004Topics: Prayer

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Please tell me how I can learn to pray properly. I try to pray, but after about a minute or so I run out of things to say, and I know God must be very disappointed in me.

When you were very young, did you suddenly start talking with your parents in long sentences and for great lengths of time? I doubt it. And yet they weren’t disappointed in you; they were delighted in your first attempts to speak.

In the same way, when we truly understand that God is our loving heavenly Father and we are His children, then we won’t worry so much about “running out of things to say” or disappointing Him. God wants us to talk with Him, our heavenly Father, and He takes delight in us when we come to Him in prayer. When His disciples asked Jesus how to pray, He replied, “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven …’” (Matthew 6:9).

Begin when you pray by thanking and praising God for His love and goodness. The Psalmist wrote, “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psalm 107:8, KJV). Then confess your sins and ask for His forgiveness. Finally, bring your concerns to Him. You may find it helpful to keep a list of people for whom you are praying.

Perhaps, however, the first prayer you need to make is one of faith, asking Christ to come into your life and giving yourself to Him. Christ has opened Heaven’s door for us by His death on the cross, and when we know Him, we know God hears our prayers.

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In the broadest sense, to pray is to make a request in a humble manner. [1] X Research source The term to pray is now often used to refer to religious prayers: to commune with a spirit or deity that you believe in. While the rituals and conventions of prayer may vary widely, the intention is the same–to renew one’s spiritual connection with a power outside themselves. [2] X Expert Source

How to pray

Zachary Rainey
Ordained Minister Expert Interview. 19 May 2019. There is no wrong time to pray.

  • Many people pray during emotional times, like when they feel sad, scared, or happy. You can pray at any time of day, and as much or as little as you feel is sufficient for your spiritual life. Some people make it their goal to maintain a state of prayer all the time by remaining conscious of their spiritual connection throughout the day.
  • Observant Jews pray 3 times a day (Shacharit, Minchah, and Maariv/Arvith) and Muslims pray 5 times a day. [4] X Research source Still others pray completely spontaneously, when the mood calls or when certain occasions arise (for one’s parents, before a meal, etc.). In short, do what you feel compelled to do.

How to pray

Zachary Rainey
Ordained Minister Expert Interview. 19 May 2019. It may help to be in a place where the focus is on spirituality (such as a church or temple) or where the environment reminds you of your spiritual bond (like a natural setting, or a spot with a big view). You can choose to pray in the presence of others, or you can pray privately.

  • For some religions, like Buddhism, meditation is a standard form of prayer (or, sometimes, prayer is a standard form of meditation). Finding a place where you can quiet yourself and feel connected to your spirituality is an equally respectable form of prayer. Whether an open field or a bowing congregation zens you, find your “place of worship.”

Prayers Can Be Simple or Complex But They Should Be Sincere

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How to pray

  • A.S., Computer Information Technology, LDS Business College

Prayer is how we communicate with God. It is also how He sometimes communicates with us. He has commanded us to pray. What follows can help you learn how to pray.

Prayer Has Four Simple Steps

A prayer has four simple steps. They are evident in the Lord’s prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13:

  1. Address Heavenly Father
  2. Thank Him for blessings
  3. Ask Him for blessings
  4. Close in the name of Jesus Christ.

Prayer can be said in one’s mind or out loud. Praying aloud can sometimes focus one’s thoughts. Prayers can be uttered at any time. For meaningful prayer, it is best to seek a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.

Step 1: Address Heavenly Father

We open the prayer by addressing God because he is the one we are praying to. Start by saying “Father in Heaven” or “Heavenly Father.”

We address Him as our Heavenly Father, because He is the father of our spirits. He is our creator and the one to whom we owe everything we have, including our lives.

Step 2: Thank Heavenly Father

After opening the prayer we tell our Father in Heaven what we are thankful for. You can start by saying, “I thank thee. ” or “I am grateful for. ” We show our gratitude to our Father by telling him in our prayer what we are thankful for; such as our home, family, health, the earth and other blessings.

Be sure to include general blessings such as health and safety, along with specific blessings like divine protection while on a particular trip.

Step 3: Ask Heavenly Father

After thanking our Father in Heaven we can ask him for help. Some of the ways you can do this is to say:

  • “I ask thee. “
  • “I need. “
  • “Please help me. “

We can ask him to bless us with the things we need, such as knowledge, comfort, guidance, peace, health, etc.

Remember, we are more apt to get answers and blessings if we request the strength necessary to withstand life’s challenges, rather than asking for the challenges to be removed.

Step 4: Close in the Name of Jesus Christ

We close the prayer by saying, “In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.” We do this because Jesus is our Savior, our mediator between death (physical and spiritual) and eternal life. We also close with saying Amen because it means we accept or agree with what’s been said.

A simple prayer could be this:

Dear Heavenly Father, I am so grateful for thy guidance in my life. I am especially thankful for my safe travel as I shopped today. As I try and keep thy commandments, please help me to always remember to pray. Please help me to read the scriptures daily. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Praying in a Group

When praying with a group of people only the person saying the prayer speaks. The person praying should say the prayer in the plural such as, “We thank thee,” and “We ask thee.”

At the end, when the person says amen, the rest of the group says amen as well. This shows our agreement or acceptance of what they have prayed for.

Pray Always, With Sincerity and With Faith in Christ

Jesus Christ taught us to pray always. He also taught us to pray with sincerity and avoid vain repetitions. We must pray with faith that does not waver and with real intent.

One of the most important things we should pray for is to know the truth about God and his plan for us.

Prayers Will Always Be Answered

Prayers can be answered in multiple ways, sometimes as feelings through the Holy Ghost or thoughts that come into our minds.

Sometimes feelings of peace or warmth enter our hearts as we read the scriptures. Events we experience can also be answers to our prayers.

Preparing ourselves for personal revelation will also help us in receiving answers to prayers. God loves us and is our Father in Heaven. He hears and answers prayers.

Is it best to pray standing up, sitting down, kneeling, or bowing down? Should our hands be open, closed, or lifted up to God? Do our eyes need to be closed when we pray? Is it better to pray in a church building or out in nature? Should we pray in the morning when we get up or at night before we go to bed? Are there certain words we need to say in our prayers? How do we begin our prayers? What is the proper way to close a prayer? These questions, and others, are common questions asked about prayer. What is the proper way to pray? Do any of the above things even matter?

Far too often, prayer is viewed as a “magic formula.” Some believe that if we do not say exactly the right things, or pray in the right position, God will not hear and answer our prayer. This is completely unbiblical. God does not answer our prayers based on when we pray, where we are, what position our body is in, or in what order we word our prayers. We are told in 1 John 5:14-15 to have confidence when we come to God in prayer, knowing He hears us and will grant whatever we ask as long as it is in His will. Similarly, John 14:13-14 declares, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” According to these and many other Scriptures, God answers prayer requests based on whether they are asked according to His will and in the name of Jesus (to bring glory to Jesus).

So, what is the proper way to pray? Philippians 4:6-7 tells us to pray without being anxious, to pray about everything, and to pray with thankful hearts. God will answer all such prayers with the gift of His peace in our hearts. The proper way to pray is to pour out our hearts to God, being honest and open with God, as He already knows us better than we know ourselves. We are to present our requests to God, keeping in mind that God knows what is best and will not grant a request that is not His will for us. We are to express our love, gratitude, and worship to God in prayer without worrying about having just the right words to say. God is more interested in the content of our hearts than the eloquence of our words.

The closest the Bible comes to giving a “pattern” for prayer is the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. Please understand that the Lord’s Prayer is not a prayer we are to memorize and recite to God. It is an example of the things that should go into a prayer—worship, trust in God, requests, confession, and submission. We are to pray for the things the Lord’s Prayer talks about, using our own words and “customizing” it to our own journey with God. The proper way to pray is to express our hearts to God. Sitting, standing, or kneeling; hands open or closed; eyes opened or closed; in a church, at home, or outside; in the morning or at night—these are all side issues, subject to personal preference, conviction, and appropriateness. God’s desire is for prayer to be a real and personal connection between Himself and us.

Is it best to pray standing up, sitting down, kneeling, or bowing down? Should our hands be open, closed, or lifted up to God? Do our eyes need to be closed when we pray? Is it better to pray in a church building or out in nature? Should we pray in the morning when we get up or at night before we go to bed? Are there certain words we need to say in our prayers? How do we begin our prayers? What is the proper way to close a prayer? These questions, and others, are common questions asked about prayer. What is the proper way to pray? Do any of the above things even matter?

Far too often, prayer is viewed as a “magic formula.” Some believe that if we do not say exactly the right things, or pray in the right position, God will not hear and answer our prayer. This is completely unbiblical. God does not answer our prayers based on when we pray, where we are, what position our body is in, or in what order we word our prayers. We are told in 1 John 5:14-15 to have confidence when we come to God in prayer, knowing He hears us and will grant whatever we ask as long as it is in His will. Similarly, John 14:13-14 declares, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” According to these and many other Scriptures, God answers prayer requests based on whether they are asked according to His will and in the name of Jesus (to bring glory to Jesus).

So, what is the proper way to pray? Philippians 4:6-7 tells us to pray without being anxious, to pray about everything, and to pray with thankful hearts. God will answer all such prayers with the gift of His peace in our hearts. The proper way to pray is to pour out our hearts to God, being honest and open with God, as He already knows us better than we know ourselves. We are to present our requests to God, keeping in mind that God knows what is best and will not grant a request that is not His will for us. We are to express our love, gratitude, and worship to God in prayer without worrying about having just the right words to say. God is more interested in the content of our hearts than the eloquence of our words.

The closest the Bible comes to giving a “pattern” for prayer is the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. Please understand that the Lord’s Prayer is not a prayer we are to memorize and recite to God. It is an example of the things that should go into a prayer—worship, trust in God, requests, confession, and submission. We are to pray for the things the Lord’s Prayer talks about, using our own words and “customizing” it to our own journey with God. The proper way to pray is to express our hearts to God. Sitting, standing, or kneeling; hands open or closed; eyes opened or closed; in a church, at home, or outside; in the morning or at night—these are all side issues, subject to personal preference, conviction, and appropriateness. God’s desire is for prayer to be a real and personal connection between Himself and us.

How to pray

I’m a wanna-be prayer warrior. I long to grow a deeper prayer life, but I have a secret struggle with boredom. I know prayer carries power and changes lives. But when I sit down to pray, I find it hard to focus. After three minutes, my mind travels back to the last season of Downton Abbey, or wanders to my to-do list. Or I try to pray before bed, but I fall asleep.

Are prayer wimps a thing? I suspect I am one and I’m left wondering how to pray better.

I don’t mean to be flippant. Prayer is an amazing privilege. Through words like these in scripture, we have an open invitation from the God of the universe: “Call to me and I will answer you.” (Jeremiah 33:3a) We have a promise that He hears us: “You will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” (Jeremiah 29:12)

Through the pages of our Bibles, we see examples of men who prayed. Even Jesus, the Son of God, prayed. So I know I should too, but I find it challenging. I suspect I’m not alone. Many Christians struggle with knowing how to pray.

Why do we struggle with how to prayer?

Maybe we over-spiritualize it. We think we have to pray long and eloquent for it to really work. We measure ourselves with spiritual giants like Billy Graham or Mother Teresa, and we feel unqualified and unworthy. Sometimes we separate prayer from the rest of life; we look at it as something we do at prayer meetings or in our quiet time.

When I read Paul’s words in Colossians 4:2, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful,” I wonder… how do I devote myself to prayer when I have a regular life with a job and kids? I forget that Paul was surely talking about a heart attitude, not a never-ending prayer meeting or devotional time. Devoted prayer is a heart tendency to turn to God at each turn in our day.

On my journey from prayer wimp to warrior, I’m discovering a few practical tips for how to pray:

Tip 1: Pray Simply

We might think we have to pray passionate, persuasive words for God to hear us, but in reality He listens even to our shortest “SOS” prayers.

“The fewer the words, the better the prayer,” said Martin Luther. Isn’t that reassuring? We can talk to God in everyday language, just like we talk to a friend. We don’t have to pray long. God delights in a simple word of praise, like “Lord, I love you.” He treasures the anguished prayer of a mother when she calls, “Heal my child.” He answers the simplest request: “Lord, give me strength for today.”

Tip 2: Read the Bible and Pray Over Verses

Have you ever had a one-sided conversation with someone who talked continually without listening to you? The conversation didn’t go very far, did it? We do the same thing to God when we pray without reading the Bible, His eternal letter of love and wisdom to each one of us on earth. Reading Scripture helps us get to know God. It brings life to our prayers.

If you want to have a more effective conversation with God, read Scripture. Let David’s words in the Psalms enliven your prayers. Stop in the Gospels to pray over a verse that strikes you, asking God to work that truth into your heart. Let the words of Paul’s letters give you specific prayer requests for yourself and the people you love.

Tip 3: Make Prayer Active and Multi-Sensory

Prayer grows dull when we turn it into a purely mental exercise. God made us creative beings, so why don’t we bring creativity to our prayer lives? Lighting a fragrant candle can send a signal to our brains: “It’s time to pray.” It can bring a sacred sense of awe to a few minutes of prayer. Listening to music can help us focus on God. Many people enjoy doodling, drawing, or painting while they pray.

I help my ADHD-plagued brain focus on prayer by keeping a prayer journal. Making a list of requests keeps my mind alert; I stop to pray for each petition after jotting it down. Occasionally I write out longer prayers like a letter. A prayer journal builds faith when you look back over your petitions and recall God’s answers.

Remember you don’t have to sit quietly to pray. My best prayer times happen out on the walking trail. Praying aloud also helps me keep my mind engaged, but I save that for prayer times at home.

Tip 4: Make Prayer an Integral Part of Your Day

This verse baffles me: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;” (1 Thess. 5:16-17) Is it really possible to pray without ceasing?

How about trying an experiment? Start and end your day with prayer. Lift up short prayers to God as often as you can throughout your day. Pray over your schedule. Ask God to help you with your to-do list. When you hear a troubling news report, lift the situation up to God. Say a prayer for your spouse or child as you give him or her a hug. Pray for the person you’re talking to. A friend of mine gives thanks whenever she stops at red lights while driving. Look for prayer moments that work for your life.

Tip 5: Pray Expectantly

Prayer becomes a lifeless exercise when we’re not looking for answers. Jesus invites us to expect God to work. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

How much more exciting prayer becomes when we keep our eyes open to watch for God’s answers. Sometimes I wonder how many answers we miss because we don’t really expect God to respond.

Remember Colossians 4:2: “Devote Yourselves to Prayer, being watchful and thankful.”

How about getting started today? Don’t get discouraged if you get distracted like I do. Just get back on track. Pray and watch for God’s answers, so you can thank Him. He might answer differently than you expect, but His answer will always be better than what you had in mind.

Here are some of our most visited prayers on a variety of topics. You can use these sample prayers to lead your words and to crate your own prayer.

Now available is our new Daily Prayer devotional! An easy way to find start your day with prayer, read today’s prayer and sign up to receive by email.

Prayer Tips From the Bible

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How to pray

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How to pray

  • M.A., English Composition, Illinois State University
  • B.S., English Literature, Illinois State University

We often think prayer depends on us, but that’s not true. Prayer doesn’t hinge on our performance. The effectiveness of our prayers depends on Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father. So, when you think about how to pray, remember, prayer is part of our relationship with God.

How to Pray With Jesus

When we pray, it’s good to know we don’t pray alone. Jesus always prays with us and for us (Romans 8:34). We pray to the Father with Jesus. And the Holy Spirit helps us, too:

Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

How to Pray With the Bible

The Bible presents loads of examples of praying people, and we can learn much from their examples.

We may have to dig through the Scriptures for models. We don’t always find an obvious tip-off, such as, “Lord, teach us to pray…” (Luke 11:1, NIV) Instead, we can look for strengths and situations.

Many Bible figures showed courage and faith, but others found themselves in situations that brought out qualities they didn’t know they had, just as your situation can do today.

How to Pray When Your Situation Is Desperate

What if you feel backed into a corner? Your job, finances, or marriage may be in trouble, and you wonder how to pray when danger threatens. David, a man after God’s own heart, knew that feeling, as King Saul pursued him across the hills of Israel, trying to kill him. The slayer of the giant Goliath, David understood where his strength came from:

“I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Desperation seems more the norm than the exception in the Bible. The night before his death, Jesus told his confused and anxious disciples how to pray at such times:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”

When you feel desperate, trusting in God calls for an act of the will. You can pray to the Holy Spirit, who will help you overcome your emotions and put your trust in God instead. This is hard, but Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit as our Helper for times like these.

How to Pray When Your Heart Is Broken

Despite our heartfelt prayers, things don’t always go the way we want. A loved one dies. You lose your job. The outcome is just the opposite of what you asked for. What then?

Jesus’ friend Martha was brokenhearted when her brother Lazarus died. She told Jesus so. God wants you to be honest with him. You can give him your anger and disappointment.

What Jesus told Martha applies to you today:

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Jesus may not raise our loved one from the dead, as he did Lazarus. But we should expect our believer to live eternally in heaven, as Jesus promised. God will mend all our broken hearts in heaven. And he will make right all the disappointments of this life.

Jesus promised in his Sermon on the Mount that God hears the prayers of the brokenhearted (Matthew 5:3-4, NIV). We pray best when we offer God our pain in humble sincerity, and Scripture tells us how our loving Father responds:

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

How to Pray When You Are Ill

Clearly, God wants us to come to him with our physical and emotional illnesses. The Gospels, especially, are filled with accounts of people coming boldly to Jesus for healing. Not only did he encourage such faith, but he also delighted in it.

When a group of men couldn’t get their friend close enough to Jesus, they made a hole in the roof of the house where he was preaching and lowered the paralyzed man down to him. First Jesus forgave his sins, then he made him walk.

On another occasion, as Jesus was leaving Jericho, two blind men sitting by the roadside shouted at him. They didn’t whisper. They didn’t talk. They shouted! (Matthew 20:31)

Was the co-creator of the universe offended? Did he ignore them and keep walking?

“Jesus stopped and called them. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked. ‘Lord,’ they answered, ‘we want our sight.’ Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.”

Have faith in God. Be bold. Be persistent. If for his own mysterious reasons, God does not heal your illness, you can be sure he will answer your prayer for supernatural strength to endure it.

How to Pray When You Are Thankful

Life has miraculous moments. The Bible records dozens of situations where people express their gratitude to God. Many forms of thanks please him.

When God saved the fleeing Israelites by parting the Red Sea:

“Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing.”

After Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, his disciples:

“…worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.”God desires our praise. You can shout, sing, dance, laugh, and cry with tears of joy. Sometimes your finest prayers have no words at all, but God, in his infinite goodness and love, will understand perfectly.

How to pray

“Prayer.” When you see that word, what thoughts or images come to mind? Does talking to God come easy to you? Or do you struggle to pray?

Knowing what to say to God doesn’t always feel easy, and sometimes, prayer gets weighed down by our misconceptions about what a conversation with God should look like.

“Pray then like this…”

2,000 years ago, Jesus taught His disciples to pray like this:

This is now a famous example on how to pray. But how do we apply it to our everyday 21st-century lives?

If God already knows what we need, then prayer isn’t simply about the words we say. If we’re praying to impress people, or if we’re treating prayer like a box to check, then we’re missing out on the power of prayer.

Prayer is, and always will be, a dynamic conversation with God. When we realize this, the Lord’s Prayer becomes a freeing framework that helps us talk to God every day.

  1. Refocus on God.

“Our Father in heaven, holy is Your Name …”

Inhale deeply and focus on these words: “Our Father in heaven.”

Slowly exhale as you say: “Holy is Your name.”

Repeat this several times, and pay attention to any aspects of God’s character that come to mind. Spend this time focusing on how great God is.

“Your kingdom come …”

God has always been in the process of carrying out His will on earth. So right now, reflect on this: when you align your will with God’s will, you are actively seeking His Kingdom.

Quiet any noise around you, and ask God to show you how you can take part in doing His will today.

“Give us today the food we need …”

Imagine holding your hands out in front of you, as if you want God to put something in them. As you give God your concerns, what does He give you in return?

List your concerns, and say them one at a time. Each time you voice a concern, try asking God to, “give us this day our daily bread.”

Sit with this exercise for as long as you need.

“And forgive us … as we forgive …”

What are you holding onto that you need to lay down? Is there anything you need to confess right now? Maybe it’s a hurt you can’t let go of, a behavior you’re struggling to change, an addiction you haven’t conquered, or a mistake you keep making.

God invites you to come as you are, and respond to Him. Tell him whatever is on your mind, then create space to hear from Him.

“… deliver us from evil …”

We’ve all been rescued from something. What has God rescued you from?

Thank Him for His faithfulness, and let Him know where you need help. Consider praying on behalf of other people who may also need protection. Remember that even when situations seem hopeless, there is nothing God cannot do.

Celebrate what God has done in your life, and look for ways to worship Him throughout your day.

Then, spend a few minutes reflecting on this time with God. What has He shown you? Consider adding anything that stands out to your YouVersion Prayer List.

Did you enjoy this prayer guide? You can get more prayer content like this by using the new Guided Prayer experience inside your YouVersion App.

When we start to pray like Jesus did, we will start to experience intimacy with God like Jesus did. And when we let prayer shape the way we live, we start to realize that we can approach God at all times with confidence, vulnerability, and trust.