How to pray

Simple tips for tangled tongues

So, what do you say?

Prayer is one of those things that might be simple, but its not always easy.  It’s simple.  In its simplest definition, prayer is “conversation with God.”  There you go!  That’s it.  Just talk.

But, we all know it’s not that easy.  We’re busy and there doesn’t seem to be time.  At least not the time we think it deserves.

There are the worries – is God listening?  To me?  After what I’ve done?

There’s the lack of inertia – how do you start when it’s been so long?

And what exactly do I say?  Are there certain words I should say?  Are certain words out?  Are certain attitudes or feelings out of bounds?  Can I be angry?  Can I be angry for a week, a month, or a year?  What if I don’t have much new to say?  Does God get tired of hearing the same thing?

There’s a lot that makes prayer not easy – so let’s start with the simple.  Here are two reminders:

  1.  Prayer is talk with God.  It’s a child talking to her Father.  That’s how Jesus puts it in the Lord’s Prayer when He opens with the words, “Our Father”.  With those words He’s inviting us to call out to Him as our all-loving, all powerful, always listening Father.  He cares.  He understands. He provides.  He forgives.  He loves.  Talk to that God.
  2. It’s ok to not know what to say.

So where do you go from there?  What do you do when you have no words?  What exactly do you say to your Heavenly Father?  Here are some suggestions

  • Pray the Lord’s Prayer.  Let the words of Jesus guide you.  Focus on different phrases or words each day.  For example, on Monday focus on the words “Our Father”.  What do those words mean to you?  What feelings do they generate?  What do you want to say to your Father.  On Tuesday, focus on the words “Hallowed (holy) be you name”  Have you kept God’s name holy?  Have you set Him apart in your life?
  • Pray Scripture.  Open up the book of Psalms (many of which were originally written as prayers).  Let God’s Word guide your words.
  • Use a guide or acronym like ACTS to guide you – Adoration (Words of Praise), Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (requests from God).
  • Alternatively, pray without an agenda.  Just speak what’s on your mind.  Are you happy?  Sad?  Angry?  Worried?  Give it to God and don’t feel burdened by what you think someone (or God) “expects” to hear.
  • Memorize or read pre-written prayers.  Find a book of prayers (or look some up online – i.e. “Luther’s Morning or Evening Prayers).  Let these prayers from other Christians inform you.
  • Pray with someone else.  Find a prayer partner. Share your requests, joys, thanksgivings, or confessions.  Pray for each other and yourselves.
  • Think about others.  Prayer is a time to bring your heart and life to God and to share with Him your life.  But, it is also a time to remember your family, co-workers, community, and friends.  Sometimes, we’re in a rut because we’ve been self-focused.
  • Use a prayer app like “Pray as You Go”

Resources

Check out this article I wrote about getting out of a devotional rut.

The Valley of Vision – A great little book of prayers. For Puritans and non-Puritans alike!

The Lutheran Book of Prayer – For Lutherans and non-Lutherans alike

Prayer:  Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God – a great book by Timothy Keller

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How do you pray?

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