Your small group leader asks for a volunteer to close out your time together. You quickly look away and pretend that you didn’t hear because you always feel like you stumble with prayer by yourself, much less in front of a group of women who seem like the leaders of all prayer warriors. You sit in Bible studies or even just Sunday at church and think, “Man, I could never pray like that.”
It’s difficult to know how to pray sometimes. It feels like so much pressure. What if there was an step-by-step guide you could follow for your prayers?
3 Quick Tips for How to (and How Not to) Pray
Lucky for us, Jesus gave a great model in the Bible for how to pray – the Lord’s Prayer.
Jesus gave his sermon on the Mount and talked about how murder and adultery begin in the heart. He talked about divorce, going the extra mile and loving your enemies. (Matthew 5)
But then “Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John [the Baptist] taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1, NIV)
Jesus warned them first about how to pray. Or rather how not to pray. “You must not be like the hypocrites” (Matthew 6:5, HCSB).
You know. The guys who are using all the words – babbling on and trying to be fancy. And making sure they shout all the words so everyone can hear them. These are the same guys whose motivations are to impress people and glorify themselves rather than glorify God.
Don’t be that guy.
Instead, we should: (v. 6)
(1) “Go into [our] private room”
(2) “Shut your door”
(3) “Pray to your Father who is in secret”
It also isn’t important to “babble like the idolaters, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words” (v. 7). After all, “your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him” (v. 8)
You can absolutely pray with a group. Use as many words as is necessary. Following Jesus’ model for prayer sets our hearts right.
But what if you have no idea how to pray?
I love this step-by-step guide for how to pray using the Lord’s Prayer!
Using the Lord’s Prayer as Your Model for Prayer
After Jesus gave his disclaimer, he gave the Lord’s prayer as the way they should pray.
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6, NIV)
Some versions (like the HCSB below) add on a doxology at the end. Although it was added on later, and not part of what Jesus actually said to the disciples, I want to include it here. You’ll see why later.
[For Yours is the kingdom and the power
and the glory forever. Amen.] (v.13, HCSB)
Step-by-Step Guide for How to Pray
When you just have no idea how to pray, use the Lord’s prayer as the model. Each step listed below explains what it means and how you can apply it to your own prayer.
(1) Our Father in Heaven
I use this as a reminder of the closeness of our Heavenly Father. As you may know from other posts, my model for a heavenly father wasn’t all that great. When I start my prayer with “Our Father in Heaven,” it just sets my heart right and reminds me who I am really speaking to.
My Abba Father. My Creator. My Provider. My Healer. My Peace.
You get the idea. Acknowledge who He is.
(2) Hallowed be Your Name
If “Our Father in Heaven” helps me set my heart on who God is. “Hallowed be your name” reminds me exactly why I am turning to Him.
Hallowed means ‘holy.’ It means set apart for God.
In this case though, he isn’t set apart for himself.
He is the Holy One. He is Hallowed.
Basically, we should start our prayers with praise.
We set our hearts right as we go into prayer when we remember first who we are praying to and why we are praying to Him.
Because He is worthy.We set our hearts right when we remember first who we are praying to and why we are praying to Him. Click To Tweet
(3) Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done On Earth As It Is In Heaven
I have learned by now that I have a tendency to make bad choices when I am emotional.
You, too? Good to know.
The scariest prayer I pray is this one right here: “Your will be done, Lord.”
It’s the hardest because every time the Lord has asked me to do His will, it has been a bit scary. I would love to say that we jumped right up and said, “Yes, Lord. Your will be done.”
But we didn’t.
My responses were more like these:
“Lord, how on Earth can this even happen?”
“This makes absolutely no sense.”
“Surely, this can’t be you.”
“The numbers don’t add up.”
But I know that His will for my life is greater than my own. So, with only the courage and strength He can give me (and much trepidation), I say, “Your Kingdom Come, Your Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
What is it that God has been pressing your heart to do that you haven’t been doing?
(4) Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
When times are tough and life gets hard, I worry. Like, Olympic gold medal kind of worry. I talked about it a little bit before.
I remember one season in particular as a single mom.
First, let me tell you that deciding to go after your Master’s degree while also going through a major life change (like a divorce) sounds much better in real life than it actually is.
I was working full-time, working on my Master’s degree and doing my best at parenting Bug and Bubba (who were about 4 and 2). Many days started with, “Lord, give me my daily bread. Help me make it to 6 pm.”
What are you worrying about that has no bearing on today? What is it that you need just for today?
(5) And Forgive Us Our Debts, As We Also Have Forgiven Our Debtors
Strong’s Concordance (via Bible Hub) tells us that forgive, in the original Greek, is “to send away,” “let go,” or “release.”
When we forgive others their debts, we aren’t just talking about money. We are talking about whatever it is that we feel they owe us. We are abandoning any claims on that person. Just like God has forgiven ours.
What is God asking you to release that you continue to feel someone owes you?
(6) And Lead Us Not Into Temptation, But Deliver Us From the Evil One
When we pray this, understand that God does not tempt (James 1:13). Pray that you would not be led into temptation by outside sources that are beyond your own control.
Being tempted by that package of Birthday Cake Oreos in the pantry that you bought is a temptation that was well within your control. But the Dr. Pepper chocolate cake your husband lovingly brought home from the local BBQ hotspot because he knows you love it (but hadn’t remembered that you are laying off all the sugary goodness of it), is a temptation from outside sources that you cannot control.
What temptations do you need strength to stay away from and need protection from sources outside your control?
(7) For Yours Is The Kingdom and the Power and the Glory Forever.
Again, this is the doxology that is mentioned in several versions but was not actually said by Jesus. I want to add it in here because I think it is an excellent example of how we should end our prayers, just as we began them. With praise.
I sometimes find myself praying to God as if he is a genie in a lamp instead of spending time with my Heavenly Father who is so incredibly deserving of my praise. Starting and ending prayer with praise is what I need to keep my heart in the right place.
Where has he shown his power and glory in your life? Praise Him for it.
Defined as “so be it,” Amen is a declaration of truth. Declare all these things, in Jesus’ name, so that the Father will be glorified (John 14:13).
Now, drop that Oreo and go get your prayer on.