Are you wondering what is prayer? Would you like to know more about prayer and how to pray? Here are some secrets on how to develop your personal prayer life so you can pray with power and find God’s guidance and help.
How to Do This Prayer Practice
Christians have been asking how to pray ever since the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1)
When we ask how to pray we want to know what to say in prayer and we want to learn the best prayer methods to use. We are longing to find practical ways to form a closer prayer connection with God. Since prayer covers all subjects of our physical and spiritual lives, what to say in prayer and the prayer methods we use vary according to our needs, our spiritual missions and our current life circumstances.
There are many remarkable principles of Christian prayer. However these principles are not sterile formulas that we simply plug in to get what we want. Learning how to pray is done within the context of a loving relationship with Jesus Christ. Through prayer we deepen our love for and our trust in Christ. We learn how to hear from Him and receive vision and daily guidance. We receive forgiveness and the power to change. We enjoy golden moments of praise, thankfulness, peace, joy and rest in God’s presence. And we gain empowerment to pray for others as well as the help we need to become productive and effective in doing God’s work here on earth.
Prayer is an active process through which the Holy Spirit helps us develop God’s unique spiritual prayer path for us. Our individual prayer path is suited perfectly for us based on where we begin, our personalities, our strengths and weaknesses, how quickly we learn, how adaptable we are to changing circumstances, our vision, what resources are available, our motivations and on finding mentors and encouragers along the way. A prayer to accept Jesus into your heart.
2. Develop your God-given prayer talents
Christ is eager to develop a lifelong partnership with us. When we become Christians one of the most wonderful gifts is our potential to develop a supernatural talent for prayer. Learning how to pray is simply asking God to show us how to develop our prayer talents which enable us to operate in the spiritual realm. Prayer soon becomes a rewarding, life-long career. To begin developing our prayer path we need to use:
Honesty and openness
Encouragement and support from others
Determination to overcome prayer obstacles
A willingness to ask for help when we need it
Using these we are ready to start putting together our own personal “how to pray” plan that is practical enough to work in our daily life. Too often we try to be exactly like someone else whose prayer life seems incredible. We soon find that out copying someone else’s prayer plan is nearly impossible and we become discouraged. Since everyone’s life is quite different, we need to choose ways of praying that work best for us.
Here are some of the basic elements you’ll want to incorporate as God helps you put together your personal prayer action plan.
4. Develop practical daily prayer habits.
Prayer often gets crowded out by everything else that’s on our busy schedule. Prayer requires concentration, time and space.
Pathway praying, or praying while you’re driving, walking or jogging, is one of the easiest ways to develop regular prayer times. While on the move we can pray for others, thank God for blessings, praise Him for who He is, pray for ourselves and confess our sins and faults. Learning to pray on the go helps us develop good prayer instincts useful when we need to say quick on-the-spot prayers during the stresses and temptations of our day. Prayer walking article
At the same time, we need to also set aside a quiet prayer time away from distractions when we can meditate, go more deeply and hear what God is saying to us. Mornings are usually the best time before our minds are immersed in finishing up our daily “to do” list. It helps us to keep on track by designating a comfortable chair, a spot at the kitchen table or another place in their home for “quiet time.” Meditating using Bible verses article.
5. Pray in a variety of settings
In addition, prayer times also benefit from a variety of settings, including regular visits to places of prayer such as chapels and prayer gardens, group prayer meetings and praying with a prayer partner.
6. Learn how to find prayer answers
One of the reasons prayer falls by the wayside in our daily lives is because it’s sometimes hard to see answers, especially in situations where things don’t change for the better. Prayer is meant to an interactive partnership with God. God always responds to our prayers. We simply need to sharpen our ability to discover His responses.
The word “answer” has three different meanings that apply to prayer. The first is a resolution, which is a change of events or action. These few-and-far-between action answers to prayer are often the only type of prayer answer on our radar screen. However answer also means a response. God more often than not responds to us by being there with us, sending us a sign of His presence and care and by giving us the strength and courage to go on. And finally, God also answers through a reply by giving us an idea, plan or insight into what to do next. How to find an answer to every prayer article.
7. Make time to meditate and learn how to hear from God.
As we expand our definition of prayer answers it is apparent how vitally important it is to set aside daily time for meditation so that we can be still and quiet enough to gain the answering, guiding and strengthening insights God has for us. God speaks to us in a variety of ways, including through outside sources such as the Scriptures, trusted friends, books, our past experiences, etc. God also speaks to us through what can be called the inner voice which is the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking truth into our lives. We can recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit in our thoughts because He doesn’t sound like our usual self-involved ways of thinking. The inner voice of the Holy Spirit often brings a Bible verse to mind that applies directly to our needs or poses clarifying questions that leave us little wiggle room for rationalizing our actions.
8. Use Scriptures.
The Bible is an absolutely vital prayer tool in meditation and hearing from God. Reading a short scripture passage and meditating on it by asking its personal meaning and application is an excellent avenue of prayer. Using the words of Scripture in prayer is a very powerful prayer tool as well. There are countless promises in Scriptures that can help us pray with confidence. Scriptures can also be used to pray for hope and trust, to thank God for who He is, to be assured of forgiveness and salvation and can enable us to find words to express our love to Him.
9. Don’t let requests overrun your prayer time.
When we say the word prayer many of us immediately think of intercessory prayer or praying for others going through a crisis such as an illness, family difficulties or financial problems. This is a wonderful gift of support because our prayers for others are highly effective. However these days it’s possible to become overwhelmed with the number of requests we get via prayer chains and email from all over the world. If your prayer time is extremely limited, trying to handle too many requests may use up all of your time and you won’t be able to meditate or receive God’s directions for your day or enjoy His wonderful peace and presence through praise. It’s wise to set an intercessory time to pray your list of request for others that doesn’t interfere with the precious prayer time set aside for interacting with God about the direction of your life.
10. Include and enjoy all of the wonderful parts of prayer.
As we’ve just discussed, there are many different parts of prayer that bring us different spiritual focuses and all are essential to enjoy a balanced prayer life. These include:
Praise for who God is
Thanksgiving for what God has given us and done for us
Adoration of God’s majesty and love as seen in His incredible spiritual and physical handiwork
Confession of our sins, fears and failures
Listening for God’s daily directions
Meditating on God’s words and applying them to our lives
Asking for the things we need
Praying for others
Expressing our sorrow, anger and hurts so God can lift us up
Receiving physical and mental healing
Getting help in overcoming harmful attitudes
Seeking and following God’s vision of where He wants us to work in His Kingdom
Resisting temptation and fighting spiritual battles
Receiving refuge, rest and protection
11. Try different ways of praying.
Since there are so many uniquely powerful things to do in prayer, it makes sense to choose a prayer method and setting that best connects you to the kinds of prayer you are doing. For instance, taking a walk through the magnificence of nature is a perfect setting and a perfect way to pray prayers of adoration. However a nature hike is probably not the best setting for serious prayers of confession and repentance. Confession feels safer prayed in private with a box of tissue handy while you tightly grip your Bible open to reassurances that God removes our sins as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12)
Other prayer methods lend themselves more to group settings such as prayers for healing which can incorporate the power of human touch to help connect us with greater feelings of God’s healing presence among us. (See James 5:14,15) Intercessory prayer is another prayer method that works well in group situations where everyone can cover several of the needs so that no one has to muster the mental energy to tackle all of them.
On the opposite end of the spectrum meditation requires a very specific setting where there are no interruptions, noises, electronic gizmos or distractions. Some special periods of meditation are facilitated by removing ourselves to more remote settings or going on silent retreats.
We can use symbolic objects to make prayer more tangible. We might hold a cross or touch beads while praying. We can use different postures such as standing or kneeling or raising our hands. We can express ourselves through tears of joy or sorry. We can sing or dance. We can paint or write prayers in a journal.
A very powerful way to enhance your ability to sense God’s presence in prayer is to regularly visit places of prayer near your home or while you’re traveling. Because prayer chapels, gardens and rooms have been designed according to someone’s unique understanding of the elements of prayer the set up of the space, the symbolism, the artwork and lighting all enhance and uplift our prayer perspectives. In a various places of prayer you may find yourself contemplating a life-size crucifix, tying a knot on a prayer shawl, listening to God as you listen to a fountain, kneeling at a rock or lighting a candle.
In such places we also can sense an intangible atmosphere of prayer. It’s very hard to explain, but surrounded by symbols of faith and knowing that others have been there before us praying. We feel reverence, holiness, majesty and presence in places of prayer that isn’t felt anywhere else. Prayer places listings.
13. Don’t ignore obstacles and difficulties you’re having with prayer.
It seems like something as amazing as prayer would always come easily to us. However everyone goes through times when prayer is far easier to avoid than to do. The reasons for dry spells and aversions to prayer are normally due to a variety of factors. These include stress, neglect, depression, oppression and crisis periods that leave us little mental energy left with which to pray. Other times inner struggles might keep us away from prayer such as guilt, hopelessness, feelings of unworthiness and rebellion. Deep life disappointments such as the death of loved ones, abuse, or a family member caught in endless addiction can also cause us to question whether prayer is effective or worthwhile.
Oddly enough in these cases the problem is actually the remedy. Prayer thrives on honesty. God knows our hearts and our situations. We don’t have to pretend that we feel great about our lives right now or even that we’re O.K. with our disappointment that God hasn’t intervened. On the cross Jesus cried out in prayer, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46) Prayer is sometimes the place where we struggle. Even this is a part of prayer. Articles on overcoming prayer problems.
14. Use prayer resources.
Prayer resources such as traditional church prayer books, books on how to pray, stories of true prayer answers, journals, prayer music, special prayer services, prayer retreats, seminars, pastors, speakers, ministries, prayer fellowships including those online, prayer groups and prayer partners can be instrumental in our quest to learn how to pray. Prayer resource listings.
15. Pray with others.
Some of the most powerful prayer times are experienced when we pray with others. Jesus says, “Again, I tell you if two or you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matt. 18:19,20) Praying with others multiplies the power and broadens our limited thoughts about what to pray and what to ask for. It also gives us the opportunity to listen to God as a group and affirm what God seems to be saying to us.
When we start out praying, we all have a tendency to shy away from prayer groups worrying that we might be called upon to pray out loud. Obviously the God who loves us intimately isn’t interested in the eloquence of our words. He’s more interested in their sincerity. Being willing to pray with others is a huge stepping stone in prayer and well worth the effort. You might try a small step approach by beginning by praying with a child. Or try praying with one other person who knows you well. Or come prepared with a written prayer ready to read in a group.
To learn how to pray it’s always best to start by listening to and observing the Teacher. Jesus walked the earth as we do and faced the same challenges of developing an effective prayer life. Jesus never is seen praying because it is a ritualistic obligation. Instead His prayers thrived on life as it happened, always with an eye to doing what God wanted to do or was already doing.
We’ve put together a list of Jesus and prayer. It can be used in a number of ways to help you learn how to pray.
- You can quickly skim it to get an idea of the many ways Christ prayed which will encourage you to broaden your subjects and methods of prayer to bring prayer into more daily moments of your life.
- You can choose a prayer principle or example of Jesus that seems most applicable to your current needs, read it in context in the Bible and ask God how you can put it into practice today.
- You can study this list personally or with a group.
- You can pray the promises Jesus makes as you pray for your current challenge
Jesus gives us a model prayer. Jesus gives us the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father as a model. He calls God “Our Father” which gives us comfort that God cares for us and is listening when we pray. Jesus tells us to pray that God’s desires and intentions will come to pass on earth, to praise God for who He is as we marvel at His holiness and power, to request our daily needs, to ask for and receive forgiveness, to ask for protection from evil and to receive help in overcoming temptation. (Matt. 6:9-13)
Jesus encourages us to pray privately and honestly. Our words aren’t as important as our hearts. Jesus tells us to not focus on praying eloquent words to impress others and not to use a large amount of words in hopes of finally being heard. Instead He tells us to pray privately to our unseen God who sees us in secret and will reward us. (Matt. 6:5-7)
Jesus says praying together is powerful. Jesus says that whenever two of us on earth agree about anything we ask, it will be done by our Father in heaven. Whenever we gather, Jesus is there with us. (Matt. 18:19,20)
Jesus tells us to pray with persistence. Jesus tells us to ask, seek and persist in prayer (Luke 11:5-9)
Jesus assures us that God gives us good things when we pray. Jesus teaches that just as a loving parent does, God gives good things to those who ask, particularly giving the great gift of His Holy Spirit. (Luke 11:11-13, Matt. 7:11)
Jesus says God knows what we need before we ask. (Matt. 6:8)
Jesus teaches that God welcomes prayers of repentance. Jesus portrays the prayer of a repentant sinner as being far superior to that of a self-righteous person. God hears the repentant sinner and rewards them. (Luke 18:10-14)
Jesus demonstrates that praying God’s will is sometimes difficult, yet prayer enables us to accept even the most difficult of spiritual journeys. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus labored and agonized in prayer asking to be spared the suffering and death of the cross. Prayer enabled Jesus to listen to God and submit to God’s will by praying the most powerful prayer on earth, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26: 36-46)
Jesus tells us that prayer is vital when fighting temptation. Jesus knew that Peter wasn’t as strong as he thought. Jesus told Peter to pray for himself so that so he won’t fall into temptation. (Mark 14:38) Jesus prayed for Peter beforehand knowing that Peter was ripe for failure, leaving us an example to pray for ourselves and each other that we will find God’s strength to overcome our weak moments. (Luke 22:31)
Jesus made daily private prayer a top priority. Jesus prayed regularly in private, habitually getting up before daybreak to go into a solitary place to pray. At times he prayed all night. The things that happened following these prayer sessions indicate that Jesus received empowerment for ministry and received clear directions from God. For example, after praying Jesus knew the specific 12 followers to choose as disciples and also when to journey on to the next town to minister even when things seemed to be going so well where they were. (Mark 1:35-39, Luke 5:16, Luke 6: 12-13)
Jesus used powerful prayers of blessing. Jesus said prayers of blessing upon individuals, including children. (Mark 10:16)
Jesus offered prayers of thanksgiving to God. Jesus said prayers of thanksgiving, notably when it seemed that the resources on hand weren’t adequate in the feeding of the multitude. (Mark 14: 22)
Jesus praised God in prayer. (Matt. 11:25-26)
Jesus prayed for others. (Luke 18:11, John 17:6-19)
Jesus was a fierce defender of places of prayer. Jesus was angry that the Temple which was meant to be a house of prayer had been turned into a place of commerce. His heart burned with so much passion that He drove out the merchants from the Temple. (Mark 11:17)
Jesus prayed out loud so that those who heard Him pray could understand God’s power. Jesus prayed publicly at times for the benefit of those around him, notably before raising Lazarus from the dead. He emphasized in His prayer that He knew God always hears Him but was praying out loud so that those hearing the prayer might see God’s glory and believe in Jesus. (John 11:41, 41)
Jesus tells us to pray in His name. Jesus tells us to ask in his name saying, “I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (John 16:33)
Jesus prayed for himself. (John 17:5)
Jesus prayed about the future. (John 17: 20-26)
Jesus prayed for His followers. Jesus prayed that the believers would be protected from the evil one, that we might be united as one, that we might be made holy by God’s word, that we might be with him, that we might feel his joy, see his glory, and feel his love. (John 17:6-26)
Jesus explains that certain situations where evil is firmly entrenched can only be remedied with intense prayer. After healing a demon possessed boy, Jesus told us that there are certain spiritual obstacles and strongholds cannot be overcome without much prayer and fasting. (Mark 9:29)
Jesus tells us to exercise faith in prayer, believing that we have received. (Mark 11:24)
Jesus teaches that during prayer we need to forgive others so that God will forgive us. (Mark 11:25)
Jesus promises that whatever we bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever we loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Matt. 18:18)
Jesus prayed on the cross. He cried out loudly in despair and agony, asking why God had abandoned Him. (Matt. 27:46) Right before He died He prayed, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”: (Luke 23:46)
Jesus asked for human prayer companionship to strengthen Him during His darkest hour. When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, he asked his closest disciples to be there with him. He shared with them His feelings and struggles and asked them to watch and pray with Him. (Matt. 26:36-38)
Jesus warns us that we will face obstacles to prayer. In the Garden of Gethsemane Peter couldn’t stay awake and kept falling asleep. Jesus repeatedly tried to awaken Peter and said, “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)
Jesus actively meditated. Meditation is a form of prayer where we think about and ponder God’s words and listen carefully to their message. After His baptism, Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days of fasting to create time and space to meditate on His calling and how He would pursue it. During this time He was tempted by the devil’s suggestions to use earthly means to reach people. Jesus was able to sort through reasonable sounding rationalizations to take short cuts, be self serving and to sell out to the devil. These suggestions sounded more plausible when the devil cleverly quoted scriptures out of context. Jesus was able to resist by correctly applying Scripture to His current situation. As a result of this time of intense mediation, Jesus began His ministry with great power of the Holy Spirit. (Luke 4:1-15)
Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies. (Matt. 5:43-48)
Jesus prayed that God would forgive those who crucified Him. (Luke 23:34)
Jesus asks us to pray that God will send many workers to join the vast mission of bringing others into God’s Kingdom. (Matt. 9:36-38)
Jesus gave his followers the authority to pray peace upon households. (Matt. 10:12,13)
Jesus used a variety of nonverbal actions during prayer. When He broke bread to feed the 5,000 as He gave thanks He looked up toward heaven. (Matt. 14:19) In Gethsemane, He fell down on his face on the ground. (Matt. 26:39) When He blessed children, He laid hands on them and took them in His arms. (Mark 10:16)
Jesus called God “Abba” or “Daddy” when praying. When pleading with God in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus didn’t address God as an uninvolved, far-away Creator. Instead Jesus addressed God as “Daddy” – His familiar, loving and dear parent who cared for Him deeply, totally and unconditionally. (Mark 14:36)
As a baby, Jesus was the recipient of prayers blessing from people of fervent prayer. When Jesus was presented in the Temple as an infant, Simeon took Jesus into his arms and said prayers of thanksgiving and prophecy. Anna, an elderly woman who constantly devoted herself to prayer thanked God and told others about Jesus. (Luke 2: 25-38)
Glorious and supernatural things happened when Jesus prayed. The Bible reports that when Jesus took three disciples up on a mountain to pray with him “As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.” (Luke 9:28, 29)
Jesus tells us that God will bring about justice for the chosen ones who cry out to him. (Luke 18:7,8)
Jesus tells us to watch and pray that we will be able to withstand persecution. (Luke 21:36)
An angel from heaven appeared to Jesus during anguished prayer to strengthen Him. (Luke 22:43)
Two disciples finally recognized Jesus after the resurrection when he prayed thanks over the evening meal. (Luke 24:30,31)
At the time of His ascension into heaven, Jesus lifted up his hands and prayed a blessing on the disciples. (Luke 24:50,51)
Jesus tells us that if we ask Him, He will give us living water which represents eternal life. (John 4:10)
God sometimes spoke audibly to Jesus in prayer. In John 12 the Bible records Jesus becoming troubled and praying, “What shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine.” (John 12:27-30)
Jesus said that if we unite with Him and remain with Him, we can ask to bear the spiritual fruit we wish and it will be so. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15: 7,8)
Jesus promised the coming of the Holy Spirit. Although Jesus does not specifically mention the word prayer when telling the disciples about coming of the Holy Spirit or the Counselor, the actions of the Holy Spirit include the process of inner revelation and illumination that most typically come through prayerful meditation. These include guidance, truth, reminding us of what Jesus has said and clarifying for us what God is doing. (John 16: 12-15)
Jesus says that when we ask and receive in His name, it will bring complete joy. (John 16: 24)
Jesus says that our love for Him is a key to prayer. Jesus says, “In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (John 16:26,27)
Before His crucifixion, Jesus made a special point to say prayers for the believers while still on earth. “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them… My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” (John 17:13,15,16)
Before ascending, Jesus told the disciples that they would soon be empowered with the Holy Spirit. After spending the next several days in prayer they received supernatural power on Pentecost. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) The believers returned to Jerusalem and “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” (Acts 1:14) “When the day of Pentecost came they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were… All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 1:1,2,4) Peter preached and 3,000 new believers were baptized. The Bible reports that prayer became a daily priority to these new believers. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42)
My Personal Tips and Experiences
The thing that I love most about prayer is that it is a constant journey and there’s always something new and exciting to learn. The more I pray, the more incredible “coincidences” I see in my life that you know must be God at work. I know from personal experience with helping my elderly father through his final illness before he died that no matter what circumstances I am in, God is there. Through prayer and the power of the presence of Jesus it brings, I can handle anything that happens in life.
Prayer has also helped me dream big dreams and dare to step out in faith, this website being one of this big dreams I couldn’t possibly do without God’s help. I had many days of struggle and doubt along the way that any of this could be done. Prayer helped me tell God about my fears and worries and then go forward, trusting that He would guide me and provide whatever was needed.
I really don’t know how people go through anything in life without prayer.
Copyright Karen Barber 2011