How do I pray?
Learn two fundamentals of talking to God.
Prayer is the way Christians communicate with God. It is one of the most important things a Christian can do.
Some people pray kneeling, others while they are on the train to school or work. Some pray just before bed or after they have just woken up. Some people pray for 30 seconds, others for 10 minutes (longer doesn’t always mean better).
Prayer is fundamental in order to have a strong, faithful relationship with God. However, what happens if you don’t know how to pray?
No one is born knowing how to pray, so everyone needs to start somewhere. I found that many youths in the local youth group I lead are not sure how to pray, which isn’t their fault, they’ve just never been taught. Maybe you are the same.
Here in this article I want to teach you the basics of prayer from two of Jesus’ teachings while he was on earth.
Pray to your father
The first is from Matthew 6 where Jesus is teaching his disciples how to behave, and one disciple asked him how the disciples should pray. Even the disciples didn’t know to pray at one point so don’t feel bad that you are struggling with prayer!
Here is Jesus’ response:
This, then, is how you should pray:
'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one’
This is called the Lord’s prayer. You may have heard it at church said aloud by the whole congregation. I wonder what part of it you find the most confusing or confronting?
For the disciples, it was the word “Father”. It makes sense that Jesus calls God Father, for Jesus is God’s son. But in this prayer, Jesus is inviting us to also call the God of the universe ‘Father’. This was a very confronting idea for people from a Jewish background!
Prayer for Christians is like a conversation. But when we pray, we should always remember who we are praying to. THE CREATOR OF THE WORLD!
When you were a child, you asked your parents for things, you said thank you for things, you asked for help, and you may have cried to them. This is what praying should look like for Christians. God is not a stranger, but ‘Father’. Intimate, caring, interested in our lives – but also worthy of praise and honour.
Keep it simple
Some people get caught up in fancy words and amazing structured sentences during prayer, intimating others or feeling like their words are not enough.
Take a look at this story Jesus tells in Luke 18:9-14.
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
The tax collector (who was the lowest of the low in Jesus’ time) had the most simple and beautiful prayer. He was humble, looking down, acknowledging he is not worthy of God’s grace, yet he knows God loves him.
If you want to start praying, start off small: pray alone, between you and God. Prayer does not have to be sophisticated or well written, but honest, real and intimate. That is what God the Father wants.
Later, if you would like to expand your prayer language, read the Psalms David writes, or read some of Paul’s prayers in his letter.
Never stop praying, for God is present and he wants to hear you!