Is there a right or wrong way to pray? A few things happen when we pray, but if you’ve not done it before, you might have several questions about how it is done.
The truth is that there is no right or wrong way, but perhaps there are more engaging ways to pray.
There are 8 key questions that you might ask when learning to pray for the first time:
Do I Pray To God Or Jesus?
The God of the Bible is understood to have revealed himself in three persons; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Consequently, we are praying to the Father, through the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Each person is an expression of the one God, so the answer is both.
Our perception of who we are praying to is primarily informed by the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Simply put, God is one being who has revealed himself in 3 aspects. In all respects, we pray to God, but how we pray largely represents how we see prayer operating throughout scripture. First, God can comprehend your intentions. He would not be offended or ignorant of your prayer based on whether you were unsure who you were addressing since we refer to God in various ways. Secondly, He knows your thoughts and understands what you are trying to convey, even if you cannot fully articulate them.
Matthew 6:8 says: …your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
Many people use the terms’ Father’, ‘Jesus’, ‘God’, and variations like ‘Lord’ interchangeably in their prayers. Since these terms (and a few more) all refer to the same entity that we understand to be the God of the universe, there is no problem with which name comes to mind while praying.
That said, as you grow in your understanding of God, it is helpful that the revelation of each of His aspects is explored.
Now we know who we pray to, what prayer looks like, and how do you start.
Is It OK To Pray In Your Head?
The verse in Matthew previously mentioned helps us with knowing how to pray.
God knows what we need before we ask him. He also knows our thoughts; the Bible tells us nothing can be hidden from him. So whether we pray verbally, out loud or mindfully with our thoughts concentrated towards Him, the prayer is still valid.
You might be sitting there thinking, ‘Can God read my mind’? In short, yes – but it’s not like he’s there trying to catch you out or undermine your autonomy. It’s just that God is beyond our existence and yet able to interact with us. To be God, he would have to know all things at all times with a sense of all possible outcomes. If not, he wouldn’t be worth worshipping.
Psalm 139:2 shows us God’s ability to know what we are praying before we pray it ‘You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.’
How Do I Begin A Prayer?
The best way to start a prayer is to follow the example of Jesus. The Lord’s prayer is a simple and effective model.
Begin your prayer by addressing God like Jesus taught – ‘Our Father who is in Heaven, hallowed by your name’. You appropriately direct your prayer and acknowledge who God is – He is; Heavenly, fatherly and holy. This is the proper respect and reverence owed in prayer.
Again, God knows your thoughts and will not ignore you if you don’t use specific words. The opening mentioned above is more for your benefit in helping you understand your relationship with God.
However you begin, make sure you maintain a sense of respect, reverence and intimacy. Intimacy comes over time as we walk daily with the Lord, but it should never become informality. Some people move to the overly informal and refer to Our Heavenly Father as ‘Daddy God’; I’d discourage that because although God is personal, He is also majestic, holy and revered. The informal may restrict your openness to exploring the dual aspects of God’s magnificence and personability. This is, of course, one view.
What Should I Say When Praying?
There are no particular words. Instead, think of your prayers as conversation points. Begin with thanks and worship – convey gratefulness for the good things in your life and acknowledge God’s presence. Then, speak with him about whatever comes to mind while asking him to guide and uphold you.
Don’t treat your prayer time like a request list. Instead, understand that it is a conversation with your Heavenly Father. Speak directly from the heart. If you feel so inclined, sing or reflect on words from a Psalm in the Bible. These are poetic thoughts that have been distilled as thoughtful words of prayer. We can borrow insightful words written by others to aid our prayers. We might relate to the sentiments and can use them as conversation points with God.
There may be times when you wish to say nothing at all. It’s okay to sit in a moment of solitude and be mindful of God’s presence. There is great power in talking less during prayer times. Prayers do not need to be drawn out and go on and on.
How Do You End A Prayer?
A prayer should end as it begins. Acknowledge God, and thank him for listening. Because we pray to the Father through the son, we will say ‘In Jesus’ name’, acknowledging our means of prayer usually followed by the word ‘amen’, which means ‘so be it’ or ‘I agree’ to end.
Think of it as a kind of opening and closing of a letter. We are verbally (or thoughtfully) signing off our focussed conversation with God. We say ‘In Jesus’ name’ because of scriptures like Romans 8:34, which tells us that Jesus is ‘interceding‘ for us. A simple way of putting it is that Jesus speaks to the Father on our behalf. Because we approach God in Jesus’ name, it is Jesus who allows us access to a close and personal audience with the Father – conceptually.
Amen is said when several of us are listening to somebody pray. It’s the shorthand for agreeing with that person’s prayer. Still, it’s just as usual and appropriate to say it at the end of personal and private prayer, even when nobody else is present.
What Is The First Thing We Should Ask When Praying?
After addressing God as Heavenly Father to concentrate our thoughts, Jesus taught us to invite his Kingdom to come and will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. This is part of the prayer model, where we surrender our selfishness to a higher power allowing inner change.
It’s the first formal request in an articulated prayer. It’s not so much about saying particular words as it is about cultivating a personal openness to the mentally transforming power of prayer. The idea is to abandon our presuppositions and personal agendas to allow the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts and minds.
Romans 12:2 asks us to ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind’.
We invite radical inner change by asking God to allow His will (or agenda) to be done, not ours. Prayer is not a petition for convincing God to do what we think should be done; it’s an abandoning of a selfish desire to walk better. In humble prayer, we discover holiness and clarity.
It’s not wrong to pray for things we want to see happen in our lives, but we submit those desires as humble requests, being okay if God decides that alternative outcomes are better for us.
What Happens When You Start Praying?
Through prayer, you may experience inner transformation. God’s peace which goes beyond understanding, pushes out emotions of fear and anxiety. Consequently, our perspective shifts towards hope. We can trust that divine intervention can be possible in what we pray about while being unified with God’s will for our lives.
C.S. Lewis famously noted that selfless prayer, ironically, does us some good. He said, ‘I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.’
Yes, we are bringing requests before God. But the primary reason is cultivating relationships and continual conversation with our Heavenly Father. When you connect with another person, they start to affect your life. When you pray regularly, conversation with the divine starts to affect you in the most positive ways.
Please take time to read James 5, where we learn that ‘…The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective’. If we desire to know God better, it will involve regular prayer.
Does God Listen To Us When We Pray?
God is omniscient and omnipotent, which means he knows everything and is always present. Furthermore, the Bible informs us that God listens to our prayers like a mother hears her children’s cries. Therefore, he cannot ignore prayer even if we don’t always feel like our words are being listened to.
Isaiah prophesied to the nation of Israel about how God hears their cries of sorrow and pain. The same is true of all people who pray to God, as in Isaiah 49:14-16:
But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,
the Lord has forgotten me.”
15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!
16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me.
We understand these verses to show us that God is like the mother of a crying child. He is not ignorant or oblivious to our prayers. He hears them all the time. He may not answer them how we would like, but God is not interested in placating us. His answer is appropriate and just because only he can set the standard of what is good, right and just.
Leave a comment below; what are some ways you’ve encountered God through prayer?