How to Pray
by Mike Bennett - September 5, 2017
Praying can feel unnatural, or you might worry whether you are doing it right. Even Jesus Christ’s disciples weren’t exactly sure how to pray, so they asked Him. Here are some answers from Jesus Christ about prayer.
Jesus Christ was a praying man, and His disciples knew that He would often slip away for long stretches to talk with His Father in heaven. They knew prayer was a privilege and that it was important. But they weren’t quite sure how to do it or if they were doing it right.
It wasn’t like the disciples had never seen anyone pray—ritual prayer was a common feature of the religious practices of the Pharisees and Sadducees. But there was something different about Jesus’ prayers, and they wanted to learn how to pray the way He prayed. So they asked and Jesus answered them (Luke 11:1).
People who want to follow Jesus Christ today often have questions too. So here are some common questions about prayer, and some answers direct from Jesus Christ’s teachings.
Where should we pray? Should our daily prayers be public or private?
“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:5-6).
Does God want us to repeat the same memorized prayers over and over again?
“And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do” (Matthew 6:7).
Then what types of things does God want us to talk to Him about?
“In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name [may your name be honored, New Living Translation]. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” (Matthew 6:9-13).
The basic outline of subjects to talk about, then, is:
- Greet and honor and praise our Father.
- Pray for the Kingdom of God to come, which this world desperately needs.
- Pray for God’s help for His Church and for ourselves to do His will and His work now to preach the good news and prepare for that Kingdom.
- Pray for the daily needs of our families and friends and all we are aware of who are facing various needs (sickness, injury, unemployment, financial needs, spiritual trials, etc.).
- Pray for forgiveness of our sins and help to overcome those sins and to be forgiving of others.
- Pray for protection from temptations and from Satan.
- Praise and honor God again in closing.
- Pray in Jesus’ name (He gave us permission to do this in John 14:13-14).
- End with “Amen” (basically meaning “so be it”).
How many times does God want us to ask for something?
“Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7, New Living Translation). Jesus gave several parables encouraging us to be persistent in prayer to counteract the notion that God would get tired of hearing from us (Luke 11:5-8; 18:1-8).
God wants us to “pray and not lose heart,” “though He bears long with” us (Luke 18:1, 7). He wants us to develop faith, patience and persistence.
What attitudes should we have in approaching God in the throne room of the universe?
As we saw in Matthew 6:5, Jesus warns us not to be hypocritical or to pray to impress others. Elsewhere God tells us, “But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2). Seeing ourselves in the proper perspective and having a proper respect and fear of God is essential.
But God does not want us to fear to come to Him. He wants to hear from you and gives this encouragement: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
To learn more about prayer, study prayers like Jesus Christ’s, David’s, Daniel’s, Hannah’s and others (John 17; Psalm 51; Daniel 9:3-19; 1 Samuel 2:1-10). Many of the Psalms give examples of prayers. You may also want to study the many resources available on Life, Hope & Truth about prayer, such as our downloadable study guide "How to Pray."