How to pray for beginners. Wow, now that’s a loaded one. I have to admit, I have attempted to write this post many times, only to be stumped as to where to start. What should I say? Where to even begin? What could possibly be the top things you need to know?
Learning how to pray to God can feel incredibly complex, and at the same time beautifully simple. There’s a reason there are so many books on prayer, there’s no one right way to do it.
There’s a template that thankfully was given us in the Lord’s Prayer. But a template is all it is. It’s not meant to be recited every day or even every Sunday. It’s meant to be used as a guideline for how we should be praying.
So, you may be asking, well Tiffany, exactly HOW should we be praying then? I’m glad you asked. I’ve put a lot of thought into this and decided we can look at this as a beginner’s prayer guide. So naturally, the best place to start is with the simpler questions and get more in-depth as we go along. Sound like a plan? Let’s go. 🙂
How to Pray for Beginners
1. What is Prayer?
The most basic definition of prayer is “talking to God”. At its core, prayer is simply a direct, genuine, and authentic communication between you and your Heavenly Father. It is the primary way that believers communicate their emotions and desires with God. People commonly think prayer is the same as meditation when it is not. Instead of the goal being to communicate with God, meditation is more about clearing your mind and enter an emotionally calm state.
So, you might be wondering, well this stuff is a no brainer. How could this possibly become so complicated?
The thing is, us humans like to complicate things that actually are quite simple. We begin to believe that there’s only one way to do it, or that prayer needs to be this long, fancy thing. We begin to think of prayer a task we tick off of our Christian checklist, instead of viewing it at what it is at its core, a dialogue and relationship with God.
2. Why Should I Pray?
Man, oh man, I could write a novel on this one. Actually, I had so much to say I decided to write an entire other blog post on why the heck we should pray. I hope you check it out!
So, what exactly is the point of prayer? Prayer is powerful thing. We hear that all the time. But why is prayer so powerful. What exactly happens when we pray?
There are honestly many reasons to pray, and a lot of them center around wanting the answers to our burning questions or wanting “things” in our life, whether materialistic or not. But, I think some of the most telling reasons to pray center around the same reasons why Jesus himself prayed or the reasons He encouraged his disciples to pray. We can assume Jesus didn’t have any burning questions and being a simple man (on a very specific mission – you know, saving the world) Jesus probably didn’t “need” much. Yet we know from the Bible that Jesus withdrew regularly to pray to God (Luke 5:16).
I believe that the key reason to pray (among other reasons) is to have regular communication and relationship with God.
3. How Should I Pray?
Prayer either be done out loud, silently, privately, or publicly. There is no “wrong” way to pray. I have been made to feel spiritually weak for praying silently, and also spiritually proud for praying publicly.
You may ask, well why are there so many contradictions?
We get confused when we read things in the Bible such as, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” – Matthew 6:5.
In this example, you might be left to think that the only correct way to pray is to do it silently in your room with the door closed. But that is actually not what Jesus is saying. Instead Jesus is speaking to the religious leaders at the time who were praying long, fancy prayers just to show off. Their prayers were not genuine and were not a real communication with God.
What Jesus is saying is that these fake and showy prayers do not please Him. He would rather you pray silent, genuine prayers in private, then fake, showy prayers in public.
4. Where Should I Pray?
The short answer? Anytime and anywhere, baby!
Pray before a test, pray when at a red light, or pray when that cop pulls you over, haha! Pray, pray, pray. Seek God wherever and as often as you can.
However, if you want to know my advice? Pick a time and a place and stay consistent. Sometimes praying anywhere can lead to praying nowhere. I like to pray alone, first thing in the morning (with a cup of coffee), but that’s just me. 🙂
5. How Often Should I Pray?
How do I even answer this one? And honestly, does it even matter? If I say you need to pray every single day, will you? Or will you now feel guilty that you’ve forgotten to pray every day?
Would I make you mad if I say I pray all the time? How about if I say that sometimes, I pray without even knowing I’m praying.
That’s the thing about prayer, it isn’t necessarily a measurable thing. It’s not the same as making a goal to read 10 pages of the Bible every day.
Prayer can happen in seconds. In the blink of an eye our thoughts can translate quick counsel and requests straight to our Father in Heaven.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, I’ve gone weeks without praying. But the Bible says we should pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). I think it’s best to not think of prayer as this “thing” you have to do every single day. Instead, think of prayer as a nice chat you have regularly with your best friend.
Also, try not to feel guilty if you forget to pray one day. Leave the guilt behind and instead remind yourself of why you’re even praying in the first place. Prayer is not something you do so you can tick it off your spiritual checklist. Has it been a while since you last prayed? Then maybe think of it as it’s been a while since you last talked to your best friend and you’ve begun to miss him. When you don’t pray, you may notice that you begin to feel a disconnect in your spirit.
This is why I think praying every day is a great goal. Not because it’s a spiritual checklist, but because it’s good for your spirit to stay connected to the Father on a regular basis. Consistency is key.
6. How Long Should I Pray?
Once again, this is one of those arbitrary questions. The length of your prayer doesn’t really matter. Instead what you should be asking yourself is are you truly connecting with God during your time in prayer. You can sit there all day long trying to pray, but if your mind is constantly wondering thinking about all the things you need to do, the errands you need to run, and the stresses of work, then that time isn’t really being spent in prayer, is it?
I don’t say this to make you feel bad. I am guilty of this as well. Life is distracting, and it can be really hard to make time for prayer. And then when you do make time for prayer, your mind might have trouble even focusing.
But if you’re asking what I do, my goal is to pray for 10 minutes every day. Depending on where you are in your walk this might feel like a lifetime or a blink of an eye. I chose 10 minutes because it’s do-able. I can always give 10 minutes of my day. There’s no excuse. Sometimes my prayers are shorter, and sometimes I go longer, but the goal is 10 minutes every single day.
7. Do I Have to Bow My Head and Close My Eyes During Prayer?
If you ever hear someone say, “let us pray” everyone automatically knows what to do, right? Without hesitation people will bow their heads and close their eyes. But where’s the biblical instruction to do this? Does bowing your head and closing your eyes make your prayer time more effective?
As always, let’s look to Jesus as our standard. In John 17:1, Mark 6:41, Mark 7:34 we find that Jesus actually did just the opposite. Instead of bowing His head and closing His eyes, Jesus looked up to heaven (keeping His eyes open) and prayed. However once (Matthew 26:39) we see Jesus prayed with His face to the ground.
Hmm..tricky tricky, Jesus. So what are we to do?
The thing is, Jesus never instructed anyone to bow their head and close their eyes. I think it is clear from scripture that what Jesus is truly interested in is your heart (1 Samuel 16:7). If you feel more respectful to bow your head and close your eyes, then please keep doing it. But just know it’s not a requirement nor is it a sin if you don’t. 🙂
8. Do I Have to Kneel or Fold My Hands During Prayer?
As with the above question, you might have already guessed that no, kneeling or folding your hands is not a requirement during prayer. These types of practices are things we do more out of symbolism of unity and respect towards God, than out of actual biblical requirements. Folding your hands to pray was something that people did in early Jewish culture, and Christians continued to also do after Christianity was established.
You will find scripture of people kneeling during prayer (Psalm 95:6), however whether you feel more comfortable sitting, kneeling, standing, or walking it really does not matter to God. God is not so much concerned about your position, but about your heart. Jeremiah 29:13 says, “you will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”.
9. What Should I Say During Prayer?
Okay, FINALLY we’ve really gotten to the meat and potatoes of this post. What exactly should we be saying during prayer? How do we pray effectively?
As you can imagine you’re not the only one to struggle with this, which is why Jesus gave us a template for how we should be praying. The Lord’s Prayer was given to us by Jesus during His famous Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:9-13. The Lord’s Prayer is a wonderful tool in guiding us on how we should pray.
In case you are not familiar with the Lord’s Prayer, here is the NIV version of the entire prayer:
If you are unsure of the meaning behind the Lord’s Prayer (or how you can use it to structure your own prayers) read my post, The Lord’s Prayer: What does it mean? where I break it down line by line. 🙂
Of course, there are many different “ways” to pray, but a fun little acronym about how to pray goes like this;
Praise – Give God praise
Repent – Pray for forgiveness
Ask – Pray for your needs (and others)
Yield – Listen to what God has to say
Something that I would add in that I feel is crucial for my prayer life is giving thanks. I have been praying consistently for YEARS, but when I started being more thankful towards God, it made all the difference. Being thankful takes the focus off of what is wrong in your life, and instead focuses on all of the things that are going well. Even if all you have to be thankful is your cat (been there), still give God thanks for your sweet little kitty. J By doing this, you will find that it lifts your spirits and reminds you that no matter the circumstance, there is always something to be thankful for. So, always remember to thank God for those things. 🙂
Related: 18 Bible Verses on Giving Thanks
10. Is Saying “Amen” Necessary?
To be completely honest with you, prior to writing this post I didn’t actually know what “amen” meant. However, I say it all the time. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard the definition at some point, but I honestly never truly knew or understood the meaning. So, I’ll share with you what I discovered.
Amen comes from the Hebrew word āmēn (yep, it’s the same) that’s usually used to say “so be it”, “let it be so”, or “truly”. It is commonly said to declare something as truthful or confirm what someone else has said. People also use it as a way to indicate when you strongly agree with something, which is where you might have heard the expression “amen to that”.
What’s truly interesting is Jesus never ended His prayers with “amen” and it isn’t even included in the Lord’s Prayer, which was given as His instructions on how we should pray. You’ll find that in the King James Version of the Lord’s Prayer a line was added “for Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen”. However, it is well-established that this line didn’t exist in the earliest copies of the book of Matthew.
In certain translations Jesus did say it in the beginning of His statements. For example, in John 10:1 Jesus says, “Amen, I say to you…”, which in this context it is the same as saying “Truly, I say to you…”. However, Jesus never used “amen” when talking to his Father or when teaching us to talk with Him.
So, I’ll let you do what you will with this information. The bottom line is no, it’s not necessary to say amen. I’ll probably continue saying it just because at this point it’s a habit, but that’s just me. 🙂
Okay, is this all starting to feel like information overload? 🙂 Learning how to pray for beginners might seem like a lot info, but regardless of everything I have said, remember one crucial thing. There is no “wrong” way to pray to God. No matter how short, awkward, simple, or unfocused your prayers may be, I believe God will still honor your efforts. You are attempting to draw closer to God and that is what truly matters. There can be no “wrong” way to seek God. Just seek Him. Call out His name and ask for His help. You might be surprised at what happens. 🙂
What would you add for how to pray for beginners? Love to know in the comments below!
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Tiffany created Lavender Vines as a place to share her love for Jesus and adventures from around the world. She has a slight obsession with salted caramel lattes, Japanese kimonos, and an ongoing love affair with NYC and Paris.