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Faith & Wisdom

How To Pray: The Only Guide You’ll Need

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When we love someone, our love for them will lead us to make time for them. Prayer is a way to make time for God.

It doesn't matter what religion you practice — prayer is essential. 

When we pray, it creates a relationship with God that's unbreakable. But it’s only through deliberate and intentional communication that we nurture our relationship with the Heavenly Father. 

Whether it’s through communal prayer with our church congregation or by ourselves, prayer is a powerful thing when done right. 

Those who neglect this privilege are setting themselves up to live without God. And as a Christian, life without God is like trying to breathe without air. 

To understand why we should pray, we should understand how praying started in the first place. 

So if you need some help regarding prayer, or you just want to know the history of prayer, here’s the only guide you’ll need.

The history of prayer

The origin of prayer is as complicated as its history. 

Some scholars consider prayer to be the primary expression of religion, like how rational reasoning is to philosophy. 

Prayer has a strong philosophical connection to surrender and supplication in practically all religions. All major religions we know of today have practiced prayer throughout past centuries simultaneously, so no one religion can claim to be the originator. 

However, the way religions approach prayer varies greatly. 

There's some evidence that ancient literature, such as the Sumerian temple hymns of Enheduanna from the 23rd century BC, are rituals addressing deities and thereby considered prayer. 

Similar incantations are also found in the Egyptian Pyramid Texts dating from the same time, which also suggest they're prayers as well.

metal hands in prayer

The majority of Jewish prayer consists of reciting written prayers in the synagogue, both as a symbol of joining with other Jews and for showing acceptance of Jewish tradition in general.

Certain Buddhism sects emphasize prayer as an important part of the foundational ritual. Prayer is a supporting practice of meditation for Buddhist scriptural studies. 

For Buddhists, there are a number of benefits associated with the practice of prayer. It encompasses both a physical and mental aspect of meditation that can enhance contemplation of the holy texts.

In Hinduism, prayer is called Prārthana. Hindu prayers can be broadly classified into three categories: Mānasika (mental), Vācika (verbal), and Kāyika (physical). 

Having thoughts about the Divine can be considered Mānasika. Chanting mantras and verbal requests are considered the Vācika. And Kāyika can be anything from offering fire or waving lamps, to offering food or making a pilgrimage.

According to the Islamic faith, Muslims are required to pray five times every day. Around the world, millions of people perform the prayer ritual five times a day, which dates back to 1400 years ago. 

Traditionally, Muslims place a mat on the ground in order to provide cleanliness while offering prayer. While the Islamic religion doesn’t require its followers to worship in a clean area, they're encouraged to do so.

Ancient religions have stayed remarkably stable throughout the centuries, while Christianity is regarded as a fairly young religion that’s gone through many changes. 

Early Christians would pray while standing and facing heaven with both arms outstretched and bare-headed. 

At the beginning of high medieval times, kneeling postures with clasped hands seem to have been introduced, most likely as a gesture of respect.

In the 19th century, prayer was viewed as a stage of developing religion, from a magical to an enlightened stage, based on the development theory of evolution. 

These theories, which reduce prayer to producing communal incantation, overlook the strictly individualized nature of prayer.

But this is all just scratching the surface of the legacy of prayer. Let’s take a look at what the word of God has to say.

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Prayer according to the Bible

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Prayer, like a holy text, is essential to any religion. 

Whether you pray for a long or short time — silently or aloud, alone or with friends — prayer should be direct communication with God, no matter where you are. And there are countless examples of prayer in the Bible. 

Without the existence of prayer, many stories in the Bible wouldn’t have happened. The Bible often tells of God communicating with people directly through prayer to help them find their purpose in life. 

He also uses prayer to help others understand His plans for humanity. 

During His ministry, Jesus spent a lot of time praying, often going to a solitary place to pray for hours at a time.

a Bible open to the book of Psalms

This is documented in Mark 1:35, which says, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”

Jesus saw prayer as direct communication with the Heavenly Father. In times of trouble, He always looked to Him for strength.

In Philippians 4:6, the Bible says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” 

Jesus Christ and the Heavenly Father are always listening whenever we call on them. So we shouldn’t be anxious about things that happen in life. Instead, we should supplement our prayers with a sense of gratitude and faith. 

Romans 8:26 tells us, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

If we struggle to find the words to pray, the Holy Spirit will intervene. Put simply, when we knock, God will always answer. Seek, and you'll find Him waiting for you. 

And when you ask if it’s in God’s plan, He will answer you.

Why do we pray today?

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Praying is communicating with God and expressing our inner spiritual needs. 

When we pray, we are communicating with God, the gods, the transcendent realms, or other supernatural entities. As a universal practice, prayer may take many forms and take place at any time.

Whether manifested by regular people or modern mystics, prayer today expresses a wide range of religious ideas, feelings, and attitudes that govern human relations with the sacred. 

We shouldn’t view the act of praying as a burden but as an invitation from the Holy Spirit. 

When we pray, God invites us to create a relationship with Him that can only be expressed through adoration, faith, and gratitude. We draw near to God through prayer and learn more of His will for our lives.

a woman with her head bowed in prayer

Those who accept the invitation from the Holy Spirit can find purpose and power in their faith. 

It’s inevitable that you'll be troubled by what seems like unanswered prayers if you use prayer only as a tool to exert some control over your life. 

When you realize that praying is an act of surrender, you'll see that the only unanswered prayer is one that views prayer as an act of control and not as a conversation with God.

Because God is omnipotent, He knows what the eventual outcomes of every situation will be. When it doesn't affect you, accepting this idea is easy. However, the real test comes when God calls on you to trust Him for something or someone that's important to you.

Understanding the reasons for praying will help us to realize once again how God is inviting us into something precious and powerful: a relationship with him that's everlasting.

Learning how to pray

To pray means to communicate with God. 

But how exactly does one have a conversation with the God of the universe? Even if you’re open and find it easy to communicate with your peers, it's understandable if talking to God is a more difficult experience.

However, you may not realize how easy it can be to talk with God. 

Depending on your needs, prayer can be anything from thanking Him and praising Him to confessing your mistakes to Him. 

Having a conversation with Him can even be as simple as speaking to a friend.

a man on his knees in a church praying

A relationship with God is the end goal of learning how to pray. Relationships are built on connection. Communication is one of the things that bind you to another person, and many of those moments revolve around the words you say and how you say them. 

The six foundational ways to build that relationship with God are:

  1. Talk to Him
  2. Obey His commandments
  3. Study the Bible
  4. Listen for His response
  5. Show gratitude
  6. Be mindful

Prayer sometimes feels like a supernatural activity, so applying these very human characteristics to an otherworldly relationship can feel impossible. 

However, God also has qualities and a personality that you can understand. Often, God can also be quite humorous. Yet, you won't be able to relate to Him the same way you relate to a loved one. 

Even though the Heavenly Father feels so much bigger and more incredible than we can comprehend, He still cares deeply about what you think and feel. We're all our Father's children — each one of us. 

Regardless of where you are on your spiritual journey, here's a practical guide to getting started talking to God.

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Tips on how to pray

There are two different types of prayer: formal and informal. 

You can pray to God as though He is a friend, or you can pray to Him in a more formal manner.

If you keep a line of communication open with God, it doesn't matter which way you choose to pray. The act of praying is a private experience, which only you and God can share.

People can choose to pray to God for any number of reasons, including: 

  • Adoration: Adore God and love him with heart, mind, and soul.
  • Confession: Confess your sins, big and small, because they all matter.
  • Thanksgiving: Thank God for what He's given you and what He hasn't.
  • Supplication: Ask God for the needs of yourself and others.
 two hands of a person clasped in prayer

A person can choose to go down the list of these reasons to pray or single out just one. However, remaining grateful during the praying process is highly recommended. 

Now that you know the top reasons for praying, let's look at simple prayers you can use to pray for various things in your life, as well as the process of prayer. 

How to start a prayer

A prayer to God has four simple steps. These steps are evident in the Lord's prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13:

  1. Address the Heavenly Father
  2. Thank Him for blessings
  3. Ask Him for blessings
  4. Close in the name of Jesus Christ.

As a reminder, you don't have to pray the same way each time. 

Some people speak to God as if they were catching up with a friend, telling him about their exploits throughout the day. Then some treat prayer like a ritual and consider it something sacred that needs a serious approach. 

Meditation can also be used for channeling spiritual energy, which can be a powerful way to gain clarity. 

Whatever your form of prayer may be, always try to come from a place of gratitude. 

How to pray to God

There isn’t a right or wrong way to pray to God just so long as you’re sincere with your words and not selfish in your prayers.

What that means is, don’t make it a long grocery list of trivial requests. Keep it genuine and simple. If you feel like you need direction, ask God for help. If your health is on the decline, ask God for healing.

You can say a prayer in your mind or out loud. Praying aloud can sometimes focus one's thoughts. 

Prayers can be uttered at any time. For meaningful prayer requests, it's best to seek a quiet place where you won't be disturbed.

It’s fine to ask for material things every once in a while. Just make sure not to make it a constant habit. 

If all you did was pray for handouts from God, it'd be like meeting up with a friend, and all they wanted from you was material things. You probably wouldn’t enjoy hanging out with that friend very much. 

The main purpose of prayer is to communicate with God about one's life path or for someone else. It’s true that God already knows everything that will happen for the rest of eternity. 

He knows every moment of each of our lives, and nothing is beyond His control. So it’s a mistake to think of prayer as the way we change God’s mind or alter His direction in a situation.

But prayer is your connection and relationship to God. So don’t waste it. 

How to pray for someone else

When we pray for the needs of others, it’s known as intercessory prayer. In praying for others, we are expressing love without self-interest. Intercessory prayer exists because it shows the character of God to be loving and merciful.

What is the purpose of praying for others? 

We should pray for others so we can learn to think about them as God does, which can help us cultivate empathy in ourselves. Empathy is the expression of love for others, and the Holy Spirit lives in love.

God gives us instructions to pray for others in several places in the Bible, too. 

The apostle James tells us to “pray for one another that you may be healed” (James 5:16).

Jesus prayed fervently to the Heavenly Father to give Him strength during His greatest trials. It’s fascinating to see that in His last moments on earth, Jesus prayed not only for Himself but for His disciples and for us.

“As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth” (Luke 22:41-42).

How to pray for your enemies

Jesus Christ commanded, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

The idea of loving and praying for those who persecute or mistreat us astounds those who walk without God. But this is exactly what God asks us to do.

No matter how someone treats us, we should love them. 

Woman praying against a brick wall

Even though some may see themselves as our enemies, we must keep in mind that they are the ones who truly need a healing relationship with Jesus Christ and the Lord the most.

As believers, we're instructed to love them and pray that they might enter God's good graces. 

Maybe someone has hurt or persecuted you or another member of your family. Then God calls on you to forgive them. Pray that the Father gives you the wisdom to see your enemies through His loving gaze. 

Don't be afraid to ask Him for forgiveness. Sometimes, you may need to extend forgiveness to someone in order to heal and restore your relationship. But other cases may mean a simple, kind word, followed by an absence from that person's life.

Whatever the case may be, hatred has no place in your heart. Only love is of God.

How to pray for healing

Throughout His word, God tells us to pray to be healed from our illnesses so that we can conquer them. 

God will heal our minds, bodies, and spirits when we seek his assistance when sick or depressed. It may not be an overall cure, but knowing that the Lord is listening and that He is there for us can provide a sense of great comfort. 

As His children, we can ask our Heavenly Father for healing because he wants to see us whole. As well as being whole in our spirit and soul, he wants us to be whole in our bodies as well.

It's crucial that we share with God what physically or psychologically hurts us. We want God to add wisdom to that area of our lives and to comfort us in it.

How to pray effectively

While there are many ways to pray, it all amounts to nothing if you aren't praying effectively. 

If you know the basics of prayer but want your prayers to be more effective, these three key steps will help unlock the power of prayer in your life:

  1. Believe in the power of prayer
  2. Persist in your prayers
  3. Let go and let God

Consistently praying every day is a great way to keep an open dialog with God. Make prayer a priority in your life. If you find it difficult to carve out time in your daily life, create a prayer plan

But one important thing to remember is to let go after you’ve prayed. 

It’s important to drop the matter when you finish praying instead of ruminating over it all day. It shows that you trust God and have faith in His plan no matter what happens. 

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Prayer is a communication with God

Prayer is the best way to communicate directly with God.

It can also be a great comfort, whether we're praying for God's guidance or for the health of a loved one. But people also choose to pray for all sorts of reasons.

Christianity is more than just a label or a commitment to a new form of life. The Christian faith is based on the belief that God invited you to have a personal relationship with Him. Your prayers are important to the Heavenly Father because He cares for you. 

At first, don’t get too fixated on what you ought to pray about. When you pray consistently, you'll notice what God is saying to you and what He thinks is noteworthy. As with any relationship in our lives, you must nurture it through proper communication.

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