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How to Pray
Most of the questions that I get asked have to do with prayer–
“How do I pray, am I doing it wrong, and what do I say?”
My answer is always the same…
You can’t really DO it wrong! The point is just to DO it.
I realize that answer isn’t very satisfying though, so I decided to write up a practical step-by-step guide on how to pray. My ‘method’ is what has worked for me as I have narrowed in on how I best hear from the Lord. Guess what–it might be different for you–and that’s ok! I pray based loosely on the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:9-13:
“This, then, is how you should 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 today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.”
The 6 Steps of Prayer: A Beginner’s Guide
Take the Correct Posture:
That doesn’t mean that you have to bow your head, close your eyes and fold your hands. For me, the correct posture is often a mindset.
Am I in the right state of mind to hear from the Lord?
It looks different at different times. For example—if I’m praying warfare prayers (marriage/children/sickness) I’m on my knees with my head in my hands or on the ground. I’m pleading with God—but at the same time, submitting to His will.
For daily prayers, I’m sitting in my favorite chair, head back, Bible and notebook on my lap, and palms up. It’s a familiar posture for me and muscle memory kind of takes over.
When I’m here, my thoughts settle down and it signals to my body and mind that it’s time to pray.
If you’re just starting out with prayer—don’t worry—it takes practice to find the posture. Start with these 3 tips:
- Find a quiet spot and get comfortable—maybe this is your bed, your comfy chair, or your car. There is no right or wrong place.
- Close your eyes (if you’re safely able to) and place your hands on your knees—palms up.
- Deep breathing exercise—breathe in for four counts, and then out for four counts. Do this until you are focusing only on your breathing and not your to-do list.
At this point, you should be fully relaxed and ready to receive what the Lord has for you. Don’t worry, there will come a point when the posture will come more quickly. That’s why I like to pray in the same place each time—because each step of my prayer life is like a habit.
Listen Before You Speak:
After you’ve done your deep breathing, you should be fully relaxed and your mind should be calm and receptive. This is the perfect time to listen.
See what bubbles to the top—
Is there a blip of a memory, or the face of a forgotten friends?
Maybe a glimpse of your pastor or the chorus of your favorite song?
Do not shrug these things off as passing thoughts that don’t mean anything. Lean into them instead.
Most of the time my prayers begin with me thanking God for revealing these things to me and ask Him to show me more.
Praise and Thankfulness:
Next, I continue to thank God and praise him for moving in my life. This doesn’t mean that everything is going perfectly. Not even close—
For me, this is where I choose to see the bright side, even if things feel pretty dark. Or maybe everything actually is great—I need to give all that glory back to God.
“Lord, thank you for this messy house—it serves as a reminder that I’m blessed with an active and healthy family”
“Oh God—even when I am in a dark place, thank you for being the Light that can pull me out—my constant hope”
“God, you have blessed me deeply with healthy children and sunny skies—I praise you for all of it! You are a good Father!”
No matter what your circumstance, there is something to be thankful for.
Confession and Forgiveness:
Yep—you read that right. You need to confess your sins and ask for forgiveness. Repent.
Sin has a way of getting between you and God.
I imagine sin as static noise surrounding me as I’m trying to listen to God’s plan for my life. In order to quiet the noise, I need to confess and seek forgiveness for those sins.
As I confess my sins—no matter how big or small—the static begins to quiet down and I am able to hear.
Pray for Others and for Yourself:
This is the part of the prayer where you can ask God for help. Help for others and for yourself.
To be more attentive to my children
A sin you’re struggling with
To stop smoking or drinking
To put an end to sex trafficking across the globe
Ask for anything, nothing is too big or too small!
The possibilities are endless here—but I try to stay in the spirit—allowing certain situations to rise to the top of my mind. For me—the circumstances that bubble up are most often the ones that God is trying to get me to focus on.
What is on your heart?
What is something you just can’t shake?
Focus on those things!
When closing a prayer, you might be tempted to repeat what you’ve heard other Christians say in the past—but don’t feel pressured to do that.
I like to spend a bit of time before the “amen,” in silence. Maybe God wants to bring something else to the front of my mind or maybe he’d like to speak to me in another way.
Silence will give HIM the space to respond.
Finally, I like to end the same way I started—with gratitude.
“Thank you, Father—for loving me even when I am difficult.”
“I love you, Lord—thanks for being a God who keeps promises”
“Thanks in advance for your provision and protection, Lord”
I believe that as you are learning how to pray —maybe for the first time—God will honor your efforts. Even if you’ve been a Christian for a long time, prayer will strengthen your relationship with Christ and give your religion a whole new meaning.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 4:6-7