Do you know how to pray, or is it uncomfortable or mysterious to you? Jesus gave us a simple example we can follow to learn how to pray. Even if you've been praying for years, you'll learn something about how to have more effective prayers.
Prayer is the way to commune with God. Through prayer, we can connect with Heaven and receive instructions, comfort, and peace.
We can know what is right for us, and what will bless us and our families. The commandments provide guidance for everyone to follow. But we all need personalized and individual guidance throughout our lives.
Prayer is how we receive that personal guidance.
Prayer opens the way when the path is unclear. It lifts the fog that clouds our minds. Whether in times of peace and plenty, or in times of stress and confusion, prayer lights the way.
Jesus' example of how to pray
In the New Testament, Jesus himself gives us an example of how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). Let’s look at his prayer, and then see what lessons are in it for us as we learn how to pray.
"After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen."
#1 - Praying isn't an exact science
Basically, it's not something you can get wrong. There's not a perfect way to do it. (Isn't that a relief?)
The first thing Jesus tells us is to pray “after this manner.” That means that the prayer he gives is an example, or a type, of how to pray. It’s not something for us to follow word for word.
In fact, Jesus tells us not to pray in a repetitive manner. Simply repeating something over and over won’t get our prayers heard or answered.
#2 - Pray to God
This one is short and simple.
We pray to our Father in heaven, who is the Most High God, and the Father of our spirits. We pray to the one who created us.
#3 - Ask for God's will
Jesus asks for God’s will to be done. That’s the way it is in heaven, and that’s the way we want things to be here on earth, too.
This is easy in theory, but this is where most of us (myself included), miss a major piece of how to pray.
We ask for what WE want, and ignore what God wants.
This is probably the biggest reason why people feel that their prayers aren’t answered. When we ask for what we want, we’re putting our desires, our intellect, our understanding all above God’s.
Just like a parent knows better than their young child what will keep them safe, God knows what is best for us. We may really want to get that job we just applied for, but that might not be what is best for us.
It’s ok to ask for what you want. Also, it’s good to let God know what your desires are. Remember, prayer is a two-way communication.
However, the sign of offering up a truly humble prayer is always asking that God’s will be done, not ours.
I had a conversation today with a mature 21-year old young man. He’s had an autoimmune disease for the past 4 years, and we were talking about energy work to help bring him healing.
I was amazed and excited when he told me, “getting this disease is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
What? Getting an illness was a good thing? Yes! Would he have prayed to get this disease? Definitely not. But through this experience, he has grown more than he has in his life. He has been led to a path that God wanted him to be on. He has found his purpose in life.
When you pray, have faith that God knows what you need and will bless you in ways far beyond what you could imagine.
In your prayers, ask that “your will be done, God.”
#4 - Ask for what you need today
God doesn’t give us everything we need all at once. We don’t get a big check with all of the money we’ll need for the rest of our lives. He also doesn’t give us all of the food we’ll need until we die.
That may sound a little silly, but hopefully it puts things into perspective. God will give us what we need for today.
What we need today is different from what we needed yesterday and what we will need tomorrow.
Bread refers to both physical needs and also spiritual needs.
Bread is the literal food that we eat, but it also refers to Christ, who is the bread of life.
So when we pray, we ask God to give us what we need today. That might mean patience, or compassion, or relief from pain or suffering, or the ability to see what the next step is….the list is endless!
What do you need today? That’s what you ask God for.
Your prayer might sound something like this:
“God, please bless me with whatever it is that you know I need today. I know that I need patience to deal with my kids being at home all week. I’m trying to take care of the house and get work done and also help them, and it’s just overwhelming right now. Please help me to be patient and see what’s most important. I also know that you are wiser than I am, so really, I ask for whatever you know is best for me today.”
As we continue in the habit of daily prayer, our communication will deepen and the flow will become more natural. It will get easier to know what to ask for, how to pray, and how to hear the voice of the Spirit as God answers you.
#5 - Forgiveness is key
We ask God to forgive us, in the same way that we forgive others.
This means that if you’re holding a grudge against someone, it’s time to let it go.
Forgiveness is easier said than done. Sometimes it is easy to forgive, and sometimes it can take years to truly forgive.
No matter how hurt we have been, though, Christ tells us that we must forgive others. Then, God can forgive us.
Forgiveness is letting go and giving it to God. It’s a process, like all aspects of growth and progression.
If all you can do is ask for the desire to forgive someone, then start there. God will help you.
#6 - Ask God to help you with your weaknesses
The last part is crucial. We will experience trials and temptations. We will make poor choices that lead us away from God and cause hurt to ourselves and to others.
But Christ tells us to ask God to help us in our weaknesses so that we aren’t overcome by them.
What weakness are you struggling with? Whether it’s lust, anger, lack of compassion, laziness, depression, or any of the thousands of other things humans struggle with – ask God for help.
Pray for the strength to overcome. Pray for the strength to avoid a certain behavior.
“Father, please help me to be kind to my boss today. He’s always criticizing me and that makes me so angry! But instead of being angry, please help me to let it go and to be kind instead.”
#7 - Finish your prayer in Jesus' name
Christ doesn’t do this in Matthew, but we do it when we pray. We end prayers by saying, “In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
Jesus is our Mediator with the Father. We go to the Father through Christ. So we ask Christ to take our prayers to the Father when we pray in his name.
“Amen” seals the prayer. It’s a way to say, “so may it be.”
Your Father in Heaven loves you! You are his child. He wants to communicate with you. He wants to hear from you.
Yes, he already knows everything about you. But it’s important to use your agency to express yourself to God. When we come unto him, he comes unto us. God is always there, but we have to take the first step.
When you pray, it’s like taking a step toward God. It’s a way of telling him, I have faith in you. I trust you and I believe you. I know you can help me and can guide me. And I need that help.
Tips for learning how to pray
- Prayer takes practice, just like anything else. Expect it to feel a bit odd at first.
- Strive to pray twice a day to start - morning and evening.
- If it helps, visualize yourself talking to Christ or to God. See them as loving people there with you.
How has prayer blessed your life?