How Should We Pray?

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I struggle with praying. I’m not talking about praying out loud in front of others. When someone asks for a volunteer to open/close in prayer, I’ll jump in rather than listen to 10 seconds of silence while everyone else fidgets and pretends they didn’t hear the request. 

My prayers aren’t eloquent–just ask my small women’s group. When I pray aloud, I just talk. It’s not fancy. There are pauses. There are wrong words. I’ve even been heard saying, “Sorry, God, that’s not what I meant to say.” I’m comforted by the fact that God knows what we need even before we ask for it. Even if we don’t ask for it.

When I say that I struggle with praying, I’m referring to my personal prayer life. Betsy de Cruz wrote an excellent article–“How to Pray: 5 Practical Tips” that I encourage you to read. In fact, much of my article today will be borrowing her ideas, so I’ll confess that right up front.

The opening paragraph in de Cruz’s article perfectly sums up my dilemma:

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. 

Does this sound familiar? Then you may be a prayer wimp like me! Of course, Jesus’ disciples were apparently in the same prayer boat  After Jesus finished praying, “one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John [the Baptist] taught his disciples.'” (Luke 11:1)

Jesus’ answer to the disciple’s question resulted in the most well-known prayer in the world:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.

Yes, Jesus gave us the actual words that we can pray, but what He also gave us in The Lord’s Prayer is actually a pattern for prayer:

We bless God and pray for our world, our communities and our lives to be shaped by God’s will, we pray for daily needs to be met, and we pray for forgiveness for wrongdoings, strength to resist temptation, and protection from danger.

Here are the five suggestions to strengthen your prayer life from Betsy de Cruz’s article (her words are in italics):

  1. Pray simply. Don’t worry about eloquence. Think “short and sweet.” Martin Luther said, “the fewer the words, the better the prayer.” That’s advice that I can relate to!
  2. Read the Bible and pray over verses. Pray your favorite verse. Pray one of the Psalms. I’ll confess that I don’t do this very much, because I don’t think to do it when I’m reading the Bible. I’m going to work on it.
  3. Make prayer active and multi-sensory. Light a candle. Listen to music. Go for a walk. Because I have prayer ADD, I keep a prayer list next to my Bible.
  4. Make prayer an integral part of your day. Begin and end each day with prayer. Send up a prayer for each person that you talk to (as you’re talking to him or her–it only takes a second). Pray when you crank you car. Pray when you’re at a stop sign or red light. Create automatic moments of prayer that work for you.
  5. Pray expectantly. We know that God answers prayer in His own time, but start looking for those answers, and when you recognize them, send up a prayer of thanks!

Here are a few verses for prayer inspiration:

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask for anything according to His will, He hears us.”  (1 John 5:14)

“Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.” (1 Chronicles 16:12)

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:18)

“I call on You, my God, for You will answer me; turn Your ear to me and hear my prayer.” (Psalm 17:6)

“…We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (Romans 8:26)

The verse above from Romans is one of my favorites. I often find myself not knowing what or how to pray, and I am comforted and strengthened by knowing that the Holy Spirit intercedes for me.

My prayer for you today is from Numbers 6:24-26–

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift His countenance upon you and give you peace. Amen. 

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6 thoughts on “How Should We Pray?”

  1. Try this. Avoid transactional prayer, such as ‘tell ‘n ask’, e.g., “Lord, I’m unhappy, and I want a better job, if you help me, I’ll donate money.” Ka-ching. Instead, use prayer to build a transformational relationship with the Lord. Allow yourself to be vulnerable to His way. Also, do not try to remove yourself from being human, in that you must accept that distraction happens. When it does, don’t get mad at yourself. Invoke the Lord’s name and repeat, “In the name of Jesus, bring me back to my thoughts and prayer.” Doing this will help battle the enemy within. Question: have you tried praying the Daily Examen? St. Ingatius gave us a short and easy five-step daily routine. It’s an easy find on the internet. Lastly, and it’s an old saying, but worth repeating: God knows your sins because he calls your name. The enemy knows your name because he calls your sin.”

  2. Thanks for this article; sounded just like me when trying to pray. I have a friend who is a true prayer warrior, and whenever I need some help on an issue, she will send me the most wonderful, comforting prayers that you could imagine. I seem never to reach her level of sincere eloquence, but I do keep trying, and I am at least sincere if not eloquent. Making time for prayer is a daily need for us all, just to get through the day.
    Thanks again for this good essay.

  3. As Jesus said to His disciples! That’s a great start, with prayer.
    At the risk of sounding like the back woods hick I easily come off as, I do a lot of talking to Jesus in the shower before I go to bed. Just talking, and it is easier for me to be honest that way. Not very organized, and I can ramble on, but I know He hears me.
    Plain old words. Not just dirt washing off. Hopefully the sin gets washed away. It’s my version of getting somewhere privately and talking to God.
    For Anglicans, and possibly everyone else, there is also what’s called the Daily Office. It’s even in app form.

    Like Betsy says “Pray Simply”. I like that.

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