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how to pray
What is prayer?
A lot of people will say that prayer is just talking to God like you would talk to a friend.
In many ways, this is true. In many ways it isn’t. If you’ve ever meditated, or practiced mindfulness, that is the beginning of prayer. Meditation is about emptying your mind, and prayer is about filling it back up again with God’s thoughts. Prayer requires mindfulness and reason to work together to seek the mind of God (1 Corinthians 2:16).
Prayer is not a physical or an emotional connection. From a human perspective, it can feel like a one sided conversation. But it’s listening even more than hearing. We are spirit, soul and body. Prayer is about spiritually connecting with God, and allowing him to connect with you.
What you believe about God and your relationship with Him is fundamental to how you will learn to talk with Him. God is ready and willing to listen and speak to you because He knows you and wants to be known by you. If you believe that, or you want to believe that, you’re ready to learn how to pray.
Why should I pray?
Prayer is how we:
• thank God
• ask for forgiveness
• love God
• express our concerns
• invite God into our life
• ask God to help others
The Bible tells us that prayer is a part of serving God and following Jesus. (Luke 2:36-38). Prayer gives God his rightful place as Lord of our entire life. (Ecclesiastes 5:2). Prayer is the way to access God’s solutions to life’s problems. (Luke 6:12-13). Prayer is the primary way to discover God’s wisdom for our lives and every circumstance we encounter (James 1:5).
Prayer is the way we build our faith and is the most powerful recourse available to us in any circumstance. (James 5:13-18). There are many more reasons to pray than these.
John Chrystosom said this about prayer:
“Prayer has subdued the strength of fire.
It has bridled the rage of lions,
hushed anarchy to rest,
appeased the elements,
burst the chains of death,
expanded the fates of heaven,
rescued cities from destruction,
staid the sun in its course,
and arrested the progress of the thunderbolt.
In this communion with God,
there is an all-sufficient glory,
a treasure undiminished,
a mine that is never exhausted,
a sky unobscured by clouds,
a heaven unruffled by the storm. It is the root, the fountain, the mother of a thousand blessings!“
How do I pray?
The first, and most important prayer that we can pray, is one that places our belief and trust in Jesus as the King of our life.
Romans 10:9-10 tell us that “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10 NLT)
Praying to God begins with trusting him with our eternal soul, allowing him to lead our life and choosing to live like Jesus. It confirms that we believe in Jesus, and gives him permission to lead our lives.
Here’s how to pray this first prayer:
Jesus, thank you for loving me and creating me. I believe you died and rose again to save me. I give you my life.
The Lord’s Prayer
In the Gospels, Jesus’ followers ask him how to pray, in Matthew 6, Jesus told them to pray this way:
“In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
Matthew 6:9-13 NKJV
The Lord’s Prayer gives us six things to focus on when we pray:
“Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.” // We have confidence that God loves us like a good father and he hears us. We should also honor God above all things.
“Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.” // That God’s will and plan would come from heaven to earth. We should make God’s agenda more important than our agenda when we pray.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” // That God would take care of our present. No request is too small for God.
“And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.” // That God would take care of our past and allow us to move forward by being forgiven and receiving forgiveness.
“And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.” // That God would take care of our future. We have a real enemy, and need God’s help to avoid becoming evil ourselves.
“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” // A reminder to us that God is a good God. And he has the plan, power and authority over everything.
The Lord’s Prayer is one of 25 recorded prayers of Jesus in the Bible. There are all kinds of prayers we can use as templates, and Jesus tells us to be reminded of these six things in the Lord’s Prayer when we pray.
Where and when should I pray?
Most importantly, the Bible tells us that we can pray without stopping. (1 Thessalonians 5:17). That means that we can pray everywhere all the time. If you can think a thought, you can pray a prayer.
The Bible also tells us about people who prayed
• sitting down (2 Samuel 7:18)
• standing (Mark 11:25)
• kneeling (Chronicles 6:13, Daniel 6:10, Luke 22:41, Acts 7:60, 9:40, 20:36, 21:5, Ephesians 3:14)
• face down (Matthew 26:39, Mark 14:35)
• hands lifted up (1 Timothy 2:8)
We can pray in whatever posture we like. But it helps to put ourselves in a position where we can focus.
Where to pray
We can pray anytime and anywhere. it’s good to find a distraction-free time and place if possible. God deserves your focused attention, and you might find it harder to listen to Him in a busy place.
Some people create a space in their homes for this purpose, like a prayer closet. Others will choose a favorite park to meditate with God and scripture, or even a coffee shop. Many churches also have formal times of prayer as well.
Praying out loud
Depending on how comfortable you feel or what kind of situation you are in, you can choose whether to pray out loud or silently. If you are not comfortable praying out loud, that’s not a requirement for prayer. Over time, you will grow in your confidence praying out loud.
If you are praying for someone who is physically present with you, it encourages them to hear your faith expressed through your prayers. But if you find praying silently allows you to focus more on God than on someone you might be praying with, go for it.
Many times, to hear from God we can sit silently and stop talking. When we stop talking and start listening, God can speak to us.
What happens when I pray?
I remember that I am not God.
Every time I pray, I am saying, “In my own strength, I cannot do all that I want to do. I need something more, someone else. I need God’s help.”
I will realize the world doesn’t begin and end with me.
When babies cry, someone usually comes and meets their needs, but this kind of attention does not last forever. Growing up is a painful process of slowly coming to terms with the reality that the world doesn’t revolve around us. Whether you are praying for yourself or others, you’re acknowledging God and his will is the center of the universe.
I gain strength from outside of myself.
Prayer is a way of inviting a God to enter every part of my life. Prayer is a source of strength, wisdom and inner peace.
I surrender control.
When we pray, we ask God to control what we cannot control. We also can ask God to lead us to control what we can control. Prayer allows us to admit to God that we need Him in the driver’s seat of our life. And not just in the things we can’t control.
I communicate my real feelings.
I can talk to God honestly about how life makes me feel. I can talk about everything good and bad. He knows everything about me, he created me (Psalm 103). He understands me even better than I understand myself. He’s eager to listen and speak to me 24/7. Prayer is a safe way to process my thoughts and feelings.
I trust that God is with me.
I don’t talk to the floor and ceiling when I pray. When I pray, I believe that someone or something is listening — and might even do something about the things I’m talking about.
How to start praying
Start by reading the Bible intentionally. Use SOAP to pray about the Scripture you encounter. The way to practice SOAP is to read a passage or verse, and meditate on these things:
Scripture - what does it say?
Observation - what does it mean (today and historically)?
Application - how does it apply to me/others?
Prayer - that God would reveal to you what he is trying to say.
Never read the Bible before? Start in John 1 and read the New Testament. Or, read one chapter in Proverbs per day of the month. There’s 31 chapters.
Take a walk with God
Jesus’ closest relationships on earth were built as He walked with people day after day. Men in particular often develop deep friendships doing things side by side rather than talking face to face.
Take a walk, do something relaxing and talk to God while you do it.
Pray with other people
Listening to someone else talk with God can help you focus on Him and be confident in your prayer.
Think of someone you know who talks about God’s tangible presence in their life. Ask if you can pray together. While time alone with God is vital to our spiritual growth, God Himself tells us that when two or more gather to focus on Him, something special happens (Matthew 18:20).
If you are praying in public or with another person, remember to talk to God and not them.