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How To Pray

Prayer is one of those topics that generates some of the greatest amount of guilt in Christians.

Just ask someone, “How is your prayer life?” and likely you will get a horrified or downcast response.

Don Whitney, when he taught at our church, started out his teaching by saying something like, “We don’t pray because we tend to say the same old things in the same old way.”  Boredom quickly sets in.

For many, being asked to pray results in their mind going blank and a lot of stammering and vagueness taking place.

Prayer and bible reading are two of the most important things for the life of a Christian.  It is no surprise that these are frequently the two things most neglected, that is simply evidence of Satan’s deception.

We want to give a little bit of help on this subject. This won’t make you pray.

But it hopefully will show you that prayer is not as hard as we make it out to be.

What is prayer?

Too often this is vague in people’s minds so let’s give a simple definition.

Prayer is our response to the person of God as He is revealed in the Bible.  It is communion and worship in a very specific manner.

Prayer involves praise, confession of sin, intercession for others, and supplication/requests.

Private/Personal Prayer.


Use your hand.

Hold your hand up with thumb toward you.

Thumb is for those closest to you.

First finger is your pointing finger, pray for those who teach you and direct you.

Second finger is tallest, pray for leaders.

Ring finger is weakest, pray for those struggling, suffering or weak.

Pinky is smallest, pray for yourself.


Abiding, this is praise and contemplation of God.

Believing, praying in light of promises in the bible.

Confronting, dealing with personal sin and interceding for others.

Use the Lord’s prayer as your outline.

Practical suggestions:

Pray out loud, or at least under your breath.  Amazing how this keeps you from daydreaming.

If you find yourself distracted then keep a notepad near to jot down things that interrupt you so you can get back to praying.

Put away your phone and turn off music.

If you enjoy writing then write out your prayers sort of like journaling.  That is all the Psalms are.

Quit trying to sound holy, just make the points simply and straight-forward. You aren’t impressing God and you are harming yourself through the temptation of pride.

Resist the temptation to explain to God why He needs to act in a certain way.  He knows what needs to be done.

During your formal time of prayer read the bible first and use what you read as the impetus for your prayers.

Don’t be afraid to be fully honest with God as to your thoughts and emotions.  It isn’t like He doesn’t already know.

Remember that you’re in prayer to your Father in heaven.  He loves you far more than you realize.

Public Prayer:

This is very different than your private praying.  Here you are leading others in prayer and you are praying on their behalf.

I (MH) believe that praying publicly will make you better at praying privately if you practice it consistently.

Various suggestions:

Write it out whenever possible.  Keeps you focused and makes you think before you speak.  You tend to stay on topic and you can develop a thought more thoroughly.

Make it triune. Prayer is to the Father.  It is because of the work of the Son. And it is done in the power of the Spirit.

You don’t thank the Father for dying on the Cross.

And you don’t pray to the Holy Spirit.

Use real language that you would use, not fancy language.

Focus on big topics rather than individual ones.  The word “we” should be much more frequent than “I.”

If you are praying in a group do everyone a favor and don’t drone on.  I have used an egg timer in some of my small groups.

Before you pray, consider using a chosen passage to guide you.  Most any will do in the Epistles. It helps you stay biblical.

Helpful resources:

Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney.  Little book that wonderfully and simply teaches you to pray by using the bible as your guide.

A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World  by Paul Miller.  A bit longer book but extremely readable and very encouraging.  You feel like it is a friend who is by your side helping you learn to pray better.

The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions edited by Arthur Bennett.  A massive help in deepening your prayers beyond supplication.


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