By Hannah Brzozowski
When was the last time you really prayed? I don't mean a prayer before a meal or a prayer during church but a prayer that you were crying out to God to hear you and answer you?
The times I've prayed the hardest have been in times of doubt or pain. When I don't know what's going to happen or I don't know why something is happening - that forces me to go to God in prayer with a heaviness that I can't quite explain.
But what do you do if you've never really prayed before? In this post, I’d like to walk you through the 6 steps of how to pray.
First I'd like to say that there's no secret formula. Prayer is simply talking to God. I’ve noticed over the years that a lot of people are scared to pray, especially out loud in front of other people. If you are scared, remind yourself that God wants to connect with you and that he already knows what's on your mind, so you can't mess it up too badly.
Next, I want to tell you that you are not the first one to ask this question! Even Jesus's own closest friends asked this question when he was on the earth. And I’m glad that they did because if anyone knew how to talk to God, it was Jesus!
In Luke 11, he said to them:
“Father, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. Give us each day the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation."
Here's some tips I’ve gathered mainly from this passage to get you started.
1. Find a quiet place to be alone with God.
Mathew 6:5-6 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Earlier that day, before his friends asked how to pray, Jesus talked about going into your room and praying. This practice makes it just about you and God. You're not trying to impress anyone with fancy words or how much you know about the Bible. I find that my most raw prayers are the ones that no one else hears, except for God (and maybe my dog).
The heart of the passage is that we should check our pride before we pray. We’re not doing this to make ourselves look good. We’re doing this to cultivate our relationship with God.
You're not trying to impress anyone with fancy words or how much you know about the Bible
Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with praying with other people - Jesus even encourages this! In Matthew 18:20, Jesus talks about when two or more are gathered, there he is. So I’d encourage you to grab some friends and pray for what’s on your heart today - just make sure that you are not doing it to look good in front of anyone.
2. Thank God for everything's he's done for you.
“Father, may your name be kept holy….”
When Jesus says "May your name be kept holy," he's praising God. Thanking God for who he is places us in a proper stance when we go before the God of the universe. It helps us to know that he’s in control.
I would also add that this is a great step to thank God for everything you have too. Thank him for your home, your food, your family, heck, I even thank God for my dog on basically a daily basis. Whatever it might be, thank God.
3. Recognize that there's more than just this life.
“May your Kingdom come soon”
Sometimes when I’m praying, I have just the next day in mind. That’s not how God thinks. God can see everything from start to finish and beyond. A big part that he can see is “His Kingdom” being brought to this earth.
If you’re a Christian, one of your duties is to help bring God’s Kingdom to earth.
If you’re a Christian, one of your duties is to help bring God’s Kingdom to earth. What does that mean? It means living out the Word of God. It means being loving to those who hate you and sharing the good news of Jesus to your next door neighbor. It means raising your children to love Jesus. It’s basically making heaven come to earth.
So, when Jesus says “may you kingdom come”, what he’s asking for is that Earth would be like heaven as much as possible.
4. Ask for what you need.
“Give us each day the food we need…”
This step is the one we're all most familiar with. You’ve probably seen it in movies - the character’s about to die and they call out to God to save them. In Matthew 7:9-11 Jesus says “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him.” This tells us that God wants to give us good gifts! He wants to give us what we need; all we need to do is ask!
5. Confess and forgive.
“and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”
Confession is found all over the Bible and yet it’s probably one of the most overlooked parts of Christianity. Why? Because it doesn’t make us feel very good. Focusing on our flaws from that day can be difficult and it can even bring some anxiety.
But, let me give you a scenario: You’re seven years old and you break a glass because you were playing with a ball in the house. You hear your dad come home and you instantly freeze. You have a choice to make: a) Lie and say it was your brother’s fault. b) Confess and tell your dad that you’re sorry and that you broke the glass.
It’s scary because you don’t know what your dad will do. You’re not sure if he’ll punish you or yell at you. But the amazing thing about God is that we see clearly in 1 John 1:9 how God responds when we confess things to him. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us of all unrighteousness. So even though it’s difficult, add confession to your prayers. I think you’ll even find that it helps you reflect on your actions from that day.
We must realize that people can hurt us and that we can hurt others. It's an unfortunate cycle that happens on this Earth.
Alongside this, Jesus tells us to forgive those who sinned against us. This can be another difficult step. Forgiving those who hurt us can take days, months, or even years depending on the offense. I love this quote from one of my favorite authors, Lysa Terkeurst, when she talks about forgiveness "We can't change what we've experienced but we can choose how those experiences change us."
For a great resource on forgiving others, I’d highly recommend Lysa TerKeurst's book: Forgiving What you Can’t Forget.
We must realize that people can hurt us and that we can hurt others. It's an unfortunate cycle that happens on this Earth. But we can help stop some of the hurt through prayer and forgiveness.
6. Ask God to help you glorify him with your life.
“And don’t let us yield to temptation."
So we confessed and now the last step. Ask God to help you with the bad things you do. Ask God to help you be kinder to your husband. To forgive your friend. To put forth the best effort at work. God doesn’t just set up a bunch of rules and then say “Good luck!” - He wants to help us live our lives for him. And on top of that, he did it when he lived on this Earth 2000 years ago. He was able to live a sinless life despite being a human like you and me.
Bonus Tip: Write down your prayers.
I love to be able to look back on prayers I’ve written down years ago and see how God answered them. It’s amazing to see how He comes up with solutions that I never would have thought of. All throughout the Bible, God tells us to remember what he’s done. It’s incredible how often I can forget the miracles that God has done in my life. But, when I take time to write down what I’m asking for, I’m able to look back and remember and praise God for all that he’s done for me.
Personally, I journal on my laptop but you can get a special notebook for this too or just use your phone!
One of the best things about prayer? You can do it anywhere. I pray in my head all the time. Whether it be in the car, at a park, or as you’re about to fall asleep. You can ask God to intervene in your life at any moment in time. It’s one of those rare things that you can do at any point in your life and it'll make your life infinitely better if you do.
P.S. Looking for more resources on prayer?
Here are some books I would recommend: