Do you ever feel like you want to (or need to) pray, but you're not really sure what to do or where to start? Maybe you're facing a tough situation at work (or you need work), or maybe you or a family member is having serious health problems.
The Bible tells us that we have the amazing privilege of approaching the God of the Universe about anything at any time. If you have never been the praying type, this may sound like an overwhelming task, but in reality, it doesn't need to be complicated. In fact, it shouldn't be.
God wants us to talk to Him from our hearts, not with any special formula or recited words. Here are a few guidelines as laid out in the Bible to help you get started.
Who Can Pray?
The short answer to this is that anyone can pray. But the prayer of someone who already knows God may look a little different from someone who may not be sure if they believe in God, or may not have committed their life to following Him.
If you are someone who is seeking the truth about God and who He is, your first prayers may simply be asking Him to reveal Himself to you and to help you believe. You might start by saying something like this:
"God, please show me who you are, or if you're even there. I want to know the truth."
God wants to have a relationship with you, so that is where you should start. If you don't know Him (or believe in Him), why would you approach Him about anything else, and why should He respond?
Whom to Pray To
There are a number of religions out there and a number of "gods." I am a Christian, and believe Jesus when he said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6). Because of this, I believe that the God of the Bible is the one true God who is powerful to hear and answer prayer. The Bible tells us that we should pray to God the Father in the name of His Son Jesus Christ.
When to Pray
You can pray anytime. You don't need to wait for Sunday, or before bed, or at mealtime. While it is common to pray at these times, God's door is always open to hear from you. He doesn't sleep, and He's never too busy.
How to Pray
Come to God with a humble heart. The Bible tells us that if we cherish sin in our hearts, He won't hear our prayers. (Psalm 66:18) We all sin and do things we shouldn't and think things that we shouldn't, but that doesn't mean we can't pray. We do, however, need to acknowledge our shortcomings to God and not pretend that they don't exist. Take an honest look at your life as you pray and be open with God about it. The Bible says, "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6)
Where to Pray
One of the beautiful things about God is that He can hear you wherever you're at. While you can certainly pray in church, you don't need to go there for your prayers to be heard. You can pray in your room, on the bus, in a restaurant, at work, on the beach, and literally anywhere else you can think of. You can pray out loud, but God also knows the thoughts of your heart, so you can talk to Him silently too.
What to Say
You can talk to God like you would talk to anyone else. You don't need to use fancy language or worry about "doing it right". In reality, He already knows what you're going to say before you even say it. He just wants to hear from you.
God wants to hear from us about everything in our lives. It's easy to go to Him only when there is a problem that we want Him to fix, but God doesn't want to be our personal vending machine. He wants to be our Father and have a real relationship with each of us. It's ok to ask God for things, but don't forget to talk to Him about other things too. People have created a number of different formulas and patterns as reminders of what to include in prayer, but keep in mind that these are guidelines, and your prayers do not need to be exact. Try using the acronym "TALK" to help with your prayers. The acronym reminds you that when you pray, you're just talking to God.
Thank. Thank God for what He has done. Thank Him for answers to prayer, for the nice weather, for your food, for your family, etc. Whatever you're thankful for, tell Him!
Ask. Ask God for what you need. Even ask Him for what you want.
Love. Use your words to express your love to God. Adore Him for who He is. Give Him glory and honor for being God.
Kneel. This does not mean that you need to literally kneel, though you can. This is more a "kneeling" of the heart, and a reminder about humbling yourself, and acknowledging your sin and shortcoming before God. Even use this time to ask God to show you any sin in your life that you may not be aware of and ask forgiveness.
Perhaps the most obvious reason to pray is that we all need help. We're only human, and there is only so much we can do. God, on the other hand, created the universe and is all-powerful; He is able to help in our time of need. We need everything from physical health, finances, and safety to relationship mending, spiritual direction, and guidance.
Another great reason to pray is to develop a closer relationship with God. He wants to know you in a personal way. He wants to reveal Himself to you too. The more time you spend talking with Him, the better relationship you will have with Him.
And if those two reasons aren't enough, God also tells us to pray throughout the Bible. He wants us to turn to Him for our help, praise Him for who He is, and thank Him for what He's done.
Will God Answer My Prayers?
God always answers prayer, but not always in the way we would like. Sometimes He answers "yes," sometimes He answers "no," and sometimes He answers "wait."
If you pray for a million dollars, He is certainly able to provide that for you, but chances are He won't. If you pray for your sick grandmother not to die, the reality of life is that everyone dies at some point.
It's always exciting when God does answer prayer with a "yes," but there are many reasons why He may not. Giving us what we want is not always in our best interest. God has the advantage of being outside of space and time and knows what's best for us. Sometimes He answers "no" out of love for us. Another reason why God may not grant your request is that you are asking with impure or selfish motives. (James 2:3). It's always wise to examine your heart before you bring requests to God.
One prayer that God will always answer "yes" to is when you ask him to forgive your sins. The Bible says that "If we confess our sins, God is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (John 1:9)
Sometimes the timing just isn't right. Again, God is outside of time, so he knows the perfect moment to answer our prayers.
Keep it Simple and Go Pray
There will always be more to learn about prayer, but don't let that stop you from initiating a conversation with God. Just talk to him like you would talk to a friend or a loving Father. Ask Him questions. Tell Him what's going on in your life. Ask Him to supply your needs. Whatever you want to talk to Him about. There is no need for special words, prayer beads, prayer wheels, or anything of the like. The Bible gives us the freedom to come to Him as we are and to just talk to Him.