As a pastor I regularly get asked “how to pray.” The question takes on different forms, but at the root the question is the same. Many Christians want to know how to pray to God. And I think that’s a great question that we should be asking.
What I’ve found is most Christians know they should pray, yet many struggle to pray consistently. And I think it’s because they simply don’t know where to start.
So, in this blog post I want to give you ten ways you can pray. These will help you learn how to pray to God effectively.
If you are wondering what prayer is start by reading this blog post: What Is Prayer? (7 Powerful Truths About Prayer)
Table of Contents
Why We Should Pray
We are going to look at how to pray to God in a minute, but first I want to briefly look at WHY we should pray.
To put it simply, prayer is how we connect with God. Through prayer we can find peace, hope, and joy. We can grow our faith and step into the life that God has for us.
Simply put, prayer is one of the greatest tools that a follower of Jesus has.
If that’s not enough, we see consistently throughout the Bible the command to be dedicated to prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17, Colossians 4:2, Hebrews 4:16, Philippians 4:6-7).
For more Bible verses on prayer check out: 10 Key Bible Verses on Prayer (Crossway)
Not only does the Bible continually tell us to pray, Jesus modeled it for us. In his time on earth he continually withdrew from crowds to spend time resting and praying (Luke 5:16).
We should pray because we are told to, but also because we need to. If you want your faith to grow, if you want to experience the life God has for us, we need to be dedicated to prayer.
How To Pray To God
Even though most Christians know they should pray, they still struggle with how to pray. So I want to give you ten ways you can improve your prayer life.
1. Be Honest
We often feel like we need to put on a face when we pray, pretend things are okay. But the Bible never does that. It never hides the wide array of human emotions that we experience. Whether they are good or negative, the Bible doesn’t hide it.
Just look at how David records his prayers in the Psalms. He prays exactly what is on his heart. He holds no punches. He tells God exactly how he’s feeling.
Here’s the reality, God doesn’t want our well-thought-out prayers, he wants our hearts. Even the messy, dirty, screwed up parts.
Learning how to pray starts with honesty. You cannot heal from what you won’t acknowledge. So tell God what’s on your heart. Be honest. Show God the good, the bad, and the ugly.
2. Pray Simply
After working in the church for more than a decade, one of the biggest barriers I see for most people is the pressure to pray good prayers. If they stumble through or don’t say the right words then their prayers won’t count.
You don’t need to use fancy words or try to say all the right things. Just talk. God isn’t some magic genie that is going to get angry if you don’t say the right things. He doesn’t want a perfect scripted prayer, he wants your heart.
When you pray just talk as you would to a close friend. I think that’s what Jesus is getting at in Matthew 6:5-6; pray to connect with God, not to try and impress anyone. God doesn’t want your fancy words, he just wants to connect with you. How to pray effectively means that we pray simply.
3. Be Vulnerable
This goes along with the first point, but vulnerability takes it a step further. We are broken people. All of us. Often we choose to hide in our brokenness. We hide it from others, ourselves, and even God.
God knows you. He knows what you’ve done. He knows about that thought you had. He knows everything about you. And he still chose to go to the cross for you. He knows your mistakes and still wants you.
It’s okay to show your brokenness to God. You should bring your sin to God. You should pray about your struggles and pain in your life.
In fact, being vulnerable is the only way to find healing. When we hide our mistakes it festers and continues to destroy us. Hidden things don’t heal. But when we are vulnerable with God we can actually find healing.
4. Be Active
We often have this picture of prayer as sitting still with our eyes closed in a quiet room. And for some that is a great place to pray, but it’s not the only place. Sometimes being active while you pray will help you focus better.
Be active while you pray. Go for a walk. Sit in nature. Find a spot in the park. Open your eyes and thank God for what you see. Get active and be creative. For some, being active as they pray is a better way that they can fully engage in prayer.
5. Pray For Yourself AND Others
When we pray we should pray for our needs. We should tell God what’s going on, what we are thinking, what we are struggling with. It’s not selfish to pray for our own needs. Jesus teaches us to do so in the Lord’s Prayer. But our prayers should not only be about us.
For more about what the Lord’s prayer means check out: 7 Lessons We Can Learn From The Lord’s Prayer
It’s easy to get trapped into only praying for our needs. But we should fight against that tendency and spend time praying for others.
An easy way to help remember to pray for others is to write the name of 5 people down and place it somewhere you will see it everyday. Use that visual as a reminder to say a prayer for each person. You can also do it digitally on your phone and set a reminder to go off at a certain time.
It might take a little work to get in the habitat, but if you create space to pray for others in your life you will not only see changes in their lives but your faith as well.
6. Pray For God’s Will
When we pray we need to remember what prayer is; it’s about our own transformation. Prayer isn’t bending God to our will; it’s transforming our heart to his. It’s so easy to approach prayer as trying to twist God’s arm into doing what we want.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t ask for what we think we need or even what we want. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsememe asked God for another way besides the cross. He knew there was no other way. But he asked anyway. Why? Because that’s what was on his heart, he was being vulnerable. But he ended his prayer with “yet not my will, but yours be done.”
That’s a good way to follow up a request we make to God. It reminds us that prayer is not getting what we think is best, rather it’s bending our will to God’s will.
7. Pray Consistently
Learning how to pray effectively means that we actually have to pray. And not just once, but regularly. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians to pray without ceasing. In other words, prayer should be something we naturally do.
If you aren’t in the habitat of praying, start small. Aim for 5 minutes a day or something easily achievable. If you miss a day, don’t sweat it, restart the next day.
Build the habit into your daily life. Pray on car rides, walks, carve out a specific time each day to pray. Whatever you do, build the habit. It won’t happen over night, but it will happen over time with the right discipline.
So, pray consistently. Keep growing your prayer life whether you have never prayed or always pray. Keep going.
8. Record Your Prayers
I have found a great benefit in writing some of my prayers out. First, it makes me more intentional about my prayers. I think through what I’m praying about.
But it also becomes an account of what I’ve prayed for. I can go back and see how God has answered my prayers for things years ago. Which can be a great faith builder.
You don’t have to record all your prayers, that’d be a lot of writing! Recording a few prayers a week can result in 100s of prayers overtime that you can look back on. And that can be a great encouragement to see how God has provided for you.
Grab a journal (like this one) or create a new note section in your phone and write out some prayers.
9. Pray A Psalm
There is a Psalm for just about anything you are going through or feeling. And reading through a Psalm is a great way to study God’s Word. But you can also pray through that Psalm.
The Psalms can teach us how to pray and direct us when we don’t know how to pray. Read through a Psalm and let those words be your prayer. Use them to help you figure out what words you can use to communicate what you are feeling.
Want to know how to pray through the Psalms? Here’s a great guide that will walk you through it: How You Can Pray through the Psalms
10. Just Pray…
Maybe the most important principle is to just do it. Just pray. It won’t be perfect and it might feel awkward, but the only way to develop a habit of prayer is to put it into practice.
And again, this isn’t a one time thing. It’s going to take time to develop the habit and feel more comfortable doing it. The best thing you can do is just start somewhere. Create space in your schedule to commit to praying regularly.
Prayer is an incredible way we can connect with God. I would encourage you to find 2-3 things from this list to incorporate into your prayer life this week.
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