How to Learn to Pray
In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
This page gives ideas for many different ways you can pray. You can choose which ones you like the best. You certainly don't have to try everything suggested here (though you could, if you wanted to).
The page is written for new Christians who aren't at all familiar with how to pray — and also for any Christians who might find some new ideas for prayer, suggestions for different ways to pray, and methods to enrich and deepen your existing prayer life.
NOTICE: This is a very new page, still under construction, and I'll improve and add to it significantly over the next few days. I'll add some images and Bible quotes, and fill in the missing content, and refine and fix everything up in general...
As a new Christian, many of my prayers were relatively (or even completely) non-verbal — more like visualisations or meditations. Most likely because I came to Christianity from a New Age background, and also because I'm a very visual person.
When I started going to church, of course I found that the prayers that I heard there are mainly of a verbal nature (i.e., in words). I started to pray more in words myself. When I started Bible College last year (2018), I realised I could go a lot deeper into learning about different ways to pray, and different things I could pray about.
Around that time I was given a biography of Billy Graham for my birthday, and I read that he used to pray for an hour a day. I thought about doing that myself. Initially, it seemed like a really long time.
You Can Still Pray Even Before You Have Any Faith
You can pray to God (and/or Jesus) before you actually believe in them. Many people have done this in the past, including myself. Many people have prayed prayers asking God to show himself, or even just to give some answers to questions about life.
Think About the Presence of God
Think about how you're in the presence of the sacred, living God, who is all-powerful, and who loves you. You're also in the presence of his son, Jesus Christ, who loves so you much that he sacrificed his mortal life for you.
If you don't believe in God yet, you could think about how God might be really there, and still pray anyway.
Just Do It
The best way to learn to pray is just by doing it. Start talking to God, as if he can hear you, since he can hear you. You can say anything you like. [[[Anything that's on your mind. ]]]
[QUOTE to go here]
Having said that, you can still learn a lot from looking into suggestions of different ways to pray. Since at first it will likely seem odd, and also you may feel somewhat lost for words and not know what to say.
These may count more as meditations, or visualisations, than what most people would call "prayer" as such. I used to imagine things like the love of God flowing down from above onto whoever I was praying for. I would imagine whatever situation they would be in at that time, for example at their work (esp if they were having a difficult time with work and that's why I was praying), sitting at their desk studying, or in bed sick, and so on. Then I would imagine God pouring out his spirit, full of love, over them. And imagine their situation improving. This was quite visual for me and I didn't always use any words at all.
The more usual kind of thing people think of by the term "prayer" is to use actual words. This can be silent words, in your head, or it can be words you speak out aloud with your voice.
The Power of Your Voice
I read in several different books over the last year about the power of your own voice, and the power of using your actual voice in prayer, as in praying by speaking out aloud (and not just in your head). The general theme of these was that praying with your actual voice had an extra dimension, which was missing in silent prayer.
Both kinds of prayer (silent and spoken aloud) are great, and have their place and purpose. You can't always pray out aloud. For example, on the quiet carriage of a train. In fact praying out aloud on any crowded train or bus might seem and feel (and be) quite unusual — you don't have to do that (unless, perhaps, you really feel that the Spirit is leading you to). So there's definitely a purpose for silent prayers.
However the extra quality that's added by speaking out aloud means there's also definitely a purpose for praying out aloud, at least some of the time.
What to Pray About
The short answer to this is that you can pray about absolutely anything you like.
More coming soon...
The Lord's Prayer as a Guide to What to Pray About
You can use the Lord's Prayer as a guide to what kinds of things to say in your prayers. Jesus says to do exactly that in Matthew 6:5-13. You can pray the Lord's Prayer word for word (as many people do, it's the most often Christian prayer in all of history). Or you can use the topics as a general guide as to what to pray about in your own prayers. Below is a list of some of the topics covered in the Lord's Prayer, in approximately the same order:
- Praising God and his might, power, and divine authority.
- As Christians, God's kingdom (i.e. the Kingdom of Heaven) awaits us.
- Asking for "daily bread".
- Asking for forgiveness for our sins / repentance.
- Declaring our own forgiveness to others who have wronged us.
- Asking for protection from temptations, and from evil.
- Re-affirming God's all-encompassing power and glory.
You can pray for a list of people individually, either just by mentioning their names (especially if you're short of time), or by going into more detail about what you'd like to pray for each one.
You can pray for collective groups of people of all kinds.
You can pray for Christians in countries (and places) where they are persecuted for their Christian faith.
You can pray for yourself and your family.
Something I tend to pray a lot myself is thanking God for my own faith and my own eagerness to follow and serve him. Since I'm so grateful to have the belief that I have, and it's such a contrast to my pre-Christian life, I never seem to get tired of thanking God for this.
Very Short Conversational Prayers
I heard a sermon a few years ago by my senior pastor Phil Waugh, which mentioned the idea of praying very short, "conversational" prayers to God (and/or Jesus) all throughout the day. I thought this was a great idea, and after that I started doing it whenever I thought of it.
If I can track down the date of the sermon, I'll try to add a link to it here.
Not long after I read about Billy Graham praying for an hour a day, I came across several more examples of people who said they also prayed an hour a day, and/or recommended that as something to be done generally. Many of these examples were in the context of learning to be a pastor/minister. That is, they were recommending that student pastors and pastors should aim to pray an hour a day.
Certainly, all Christians on average don't spend that much time in prayer. Though, if you think about it, it wouldn't hurt. Most Christians would spend more time watching TV than praying, which in a way does seem kind of backwards.
You can pray for any amount of time. If you want to, you can set aside a particular time each day for prayer. Perhaps first thing in the morning, or last thing at night. (Or both even if you're keen enough).
Later in the year, I learned in church history class about the first pentacostal churches, and people who prayed for several hours a day, every day. This seemed really inspiring to me, although I'm not a pentacostal nor have I prayed that much before, and nor do I expect to have time for that much prayer in the near and medium-term future. I still found it really inspiring, and the idea of one hour a day seemed a lot less after that.
Especially when starting out with longer prayer sessions, having some prayers of other people, which you can read out, will help a lot. See further down on this page for more ideas about this. You could start off with praying things from out of your own thoughts, and then when you start to run out of ideas, then pray by reading out other prayers from a book or from the Bible (e.g. the Psalms).
Imagining Jesus Is With You Right Now
I had this idea a couple of years ago, not long before I was baptised as an adult (in a Baptist church). I'd never thought of it before nor had heard of it (that I remembered, anyway). The idea is to imagine that Jesus is actually present with you, right now. Imagine he is sitting in the chair next to you. Since he actually is, but in spirit form.
The more I thought about this idea, the more I liked it. You can imagine Jesus is with you all the time (since he is), not just when you're praying. But also when you're praying, you can imagine Jesus as being right there next to you.
More to follow later on...
Praying in Groups
This is something that can be confronting when first attending church, or (even more so) when first attending home groups.
In most church services the members of the congregation (i.e. the "audience") don't themselves pray aloud. Occasionally everyone will be asked to join together with a few people (usually those sitting close by) and then to pray in that small group. In some churches this happens much more than others, and there are individual churches covering the full spectrum from every week to never at all.
It's fine to just stay quiet, not everyone in these small groups will pray every time.
(More to follow soon...)
Praying the Prayers of Other People
This is a really good way to get used to praying. You can just read out the prayers that other people have prayed in the past, and written down.
Praying the Bible
You can pray just bypraying God's words back to him. By reading sections of the Bible. You can change the tense/case of the words around so that they're more gramatically correct in terms of praying them TO God. [give example of this from an actual verse]
also include quote about praying gods word back to him . python book, i think .
Praying the Psalms
The contents of the Book of Psalms in the Bible can be used as prayers. Many of them were prayed by King David. Many others were older, but written down by David. Some of the others were from other sources.
Some of them are written as if speaking directly to God (i.e. they are written as prayers, and you can read them to God word for word), and others are written in more general language. With the more general ones, you can still read them as prayers word for word, or you could change some of the language to make it as speaking personally to God, or to Jesus.
You can pray the Psalms by reading them out exactly as written, or you can add extra words of your own and change things around a bit, to personalise them as your own prayers to God or to Jesus.
So you can pray just by going to a Bible and reading out one or more of the Psalms. This is a good suggestion, especially for new Christians who may not know what to say to God, and get lost for words after a short time. Or tend to keep repeating the same few things every time they pray (which is very common).
There's a very large range of topics. And also a very large range of the level of happiness/gratitude versus struggle and loss. Some of the Psalms are written from a place of loss, fear, and darkness, and are crying out to God for help and protection. Others are a happy (even ecstatic) praising of God and of the good things he has provided.
Books Containing Prayers
I looked for a while and there seems to be a shortage of these. I imagined there would be more of a market for them, and there would be more of them. There's a decent-sized section of shelving called "Prayer" in the Christian bookshops I've seen. However nearly all the books seem to be about prayer — reasons to pray, thoughts about praying, different ideas for how to pray, and so on — rather than just listings of actual prayers themselves, which is mainly what I was looking for.
There are also a lot of "devotional" books, which generally means there are 365 (or 366?) entries, marked out with the month and day, one for each day of the year. I never really liked those much, though a lot of people must really like them based on the huge number of different ones that are available, and the volumes they sell in. You can have a look and see whether you like them or not.
I've bought "devotional" books (in the sense of having a specific page for each day of the year) before, thinking they looked great. And then found the routine of reading one page a day a combination of annoying (when I didn't feel like doing it) and restrictive (when I felt like reading more than a page). In the end I found that if I was going to deliberately read from a book every day, why not just make it the Bible? And the same for daily prayer, where I tend to pray about whatever is on my mind at the time. And then look for more things to pray for, that fit what feels like a good idea at the time. There's no reason why I (or you) couldn't use a devotional-style book by reading any page on any day, but I find that the OCD part of me a bit bugged by having the specific day and month there. Occasionally there will be one I still like and buy and read anyway, even despite this.
Here are a few books I found that I liked:
Perhaps the best general one I've found so far is "The Book of a Thousand Prayers", compiled by Angela Ashwin. This contains (as the title almost says) 1003 prayers, organised into many different topics. The prayers are written by a large number of different authors, ranging from the early days of Christianity (and even before, e.g. a few Psalms) to the present day. About a tenth of them are authored by "A.A.". When I first picked up the book in the shop I wondered if that stood for Alcoholics Anonymous, but... no — it's the compilor of the book, Angela Ashwin.
"Prayers That Avail Much" by Germaine Copeland is another one I like a lot. It's a combination of three smaller books (which are also available individually). There are a few different editions of it including an older one and a more modern one with "updated language", and a "Gold Letter Gift Edition", and so on.
"Prayers that Rout Demons and Break Curses" by John Eckhardt. This is a combination of two smaller individual books (one to rout demons, and one to break curses). It's specific to those topics, but if you're interested in these topics, I think it's very good.
"The Worship Sourcebook". I'm not sure who the author is (there are multiple authors), but it says it's co-published by The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Faith Alive Christian Resources, and Baker Books. The back cover says it includes, among other things, "more than 2500 prayers, litanies, and spoken texts". It's probably got more prayers in it than any other book I have, and many of them are really good. It's intended more for use in planning church services, but there's no reason why you can't pray the prayers at home (or anywhere) yourself, or with your family, or friends.
"The Pastor's Book" by R. Kent Hughes. This one is meant mainly as a guide for pastors (you can tell by it's title). However I really like the prayers in the section "Public Prayers", and I pray these at home on my own. Most of the prayers here are quite long and detailed, more so than the other books mentioned above.
Online Videos about Prayer, and of Prayers
Prayer Stools and Prayer Kneelers
Prayers for Children
One of my favourite childhood memories is of being read a prayer book last thing before going to sleep around the time I was six. I think it was called "Day by Day" but I don't remember for sure. What I remember most is the happy and safe and secure feeling I had from feeling that, because of Jesus, everything was okay. Not long after that (I forget exactly but definitely by primary school age), I lost that simple, childlike faith —and thought that science had disproved religion. You can read more here about childlike faith, and more here about science.
More coming soon...
Praying on a Computer Keyboard
I tried this a few times recently. I'd never done it before. I found that what I prayed was slightly different to what I would have said in words with my voice, but not hugely different.
I got a new desktop PC computer not long ago, after my 10-year old one finally died. I just bought a "box" with nothing else, and kept using the same 10-year-old monitor, keyboard, and mouse. The left CTRL key was starting to die, and I saw a nice keyboard on sale, and that was enough of an excuse to get one.
A few days after I got the new keyboard, I had the idea that I could pray in writing form, as in just typing out the thoughts to God on it, as I thought them. I'd never thought of trying that before.
Example Prayers from My Computer Keyboard
Below are a few examples of "keyboard prayers". They're the first things I wrote/prayed immediately after I had this idea. I haven't edited them at all for this web page. Meaning that I haven't corrected any mistakes, nor fixed them up to make them read better. I'd usually also pray for individual people I know in real life, but I haven't added these to the web page for privacy reasons.
They aren't meant to be great examples of model prayers. More like very average prayers — that I just thought of as I typed, without planning it out beforehand or thinking about what I was going to type. Nor trying to make them refined, or polished, or say anything particularly deep or profound.
When I type without thinking too much about the grammar, I tend to write really long sentences. Often when I'm working on documents (like on this website, and essays for Bible College), I have to go back over my long sentences and break them up. So some of the prayers below have really long sentences (since they're unedited from how they were as I originally typed them).
Thank you for saving me. Thank you for building me with the desire to know you, and learn about you, and follow you. You are the most precious thing in my life and I am so grateful for you.
Thank you for all the wonderful things you've given me. Including my Bibles and other Christian books and Christian things, and all the material posessions that I have so much of in a rich first-world country.
Thank you for this computer that I'm using now.
I pray for all the persecuted Christians in the world right now. I pray for them to feel comforted by your presence, and that they may feel your presence with them right now and always. I pray they may be aware of all the other Christians around the world who pray for them and help with other kinds of support, to what extent that is possible in their situation. I pray especially for those who are extremely isolated, imprisoned, afraid, alone, in physical, mental, and emotional torment. I pray they may be strengthened by your Holy Spirit and feel encouraged to stay strong in their faith. I pray they may be aware of how much of an inspiration they are to other Christians in countries where Christianity is not dangerous to practice. Of how they make us realise how precious a gift it is to believe in and to follow the living Christ, and feel his presence in our lives. And see the improvements Jesus has made for us all.
I pray for all the pastors and other evangelists who are bringing your word to others so that they may get to know you, my Lord. And all the pastors and evangelists who have helped my own life in that way.
Please strenthen me against worldly and satanic influences. I am so grateful for the strength and the inspiration I'm feeling now, and have been for a while now. Thank you for that from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for empowering me to be strong in areas of my life where I was once so weak, and in some that I even did not think I would ever be this much in control of. That some of these things happened so easily and almost effortlessly, once I started to much more fully dedicate my life to you, gives me further confidence that this power is something that's come from you, God, and not from within myself. As I was unable to defeat many of these things when trying to just on my own strength. Please continue to strengthen me in this way and in all the other areas of my life which need further cleansing and improvement.
Help me to forgive others more fully, especially those who have hurt me in the past. I am aware that I still haven't completely forgiven everyone of everything, and this will be an area of focus for me in future. Let me draw my attention to this now, and think of some of those people. Who are human and sinners, just like myself. I pray that they recieve your blessings and love, and I send them my blessings and love.
Thank you for a good day today, where I got done most of the things I had planned to do. Thank you that my health has been improving and I pray that it continues to improve so that I may serve you much more fully than I have been able to in the past several years. Also teach me how to use these experiences of illness in ways that might help to bring other people closer to you.
Please help me to feel more grateful for my life overall, and not be too concerned with the negative things that I've experienced. When so many other Christians have experienced much worse things than me, and were able to keep a positive and loving attitude. Let me use this contrast as a way of seeing how much better life is as a follower of you, Jesus, compared to the way I used to live before I was your disciple and before I believed in you. As you know, when I do this it not only eases the memories of much of my past problems, but it also gives meaning to them and helps me view them as a tool to be used, rather than a worthless, negative experience that I would have been better off never to have happened. Because everything that happens, happens under your power, even the problems.
Finally I pray that my body holds up to my course of study this year, so that I can stay at Bible College, and so that I can learn to read your word in its original languages.
Dear Lord, please help my back to heal. Help me learn to do and then commit to do the things that are required for this to happen. Both in the physical world of exercise and nutrition, and not sitting down all day every day — and in the spiritual world, in letting go of my past bitterness and lack of gratitude for the life that I had at the time.
I acknowledge that much of my lack of gratitude was from not knowing you, and the emptiness that resulted from that, and my desperate attempts to find other things to fill in that huge hole that was missing inside of me. Thank you so much for creating me with the desire to overcome my initial resistance and to give my life to following you as your faithful disciple.
In the name of Jesus Christ my Lord,
11:58pm 21 March 2019, after my first day of Bible College for this year.
Thank you for getting me through the day today, and for my back holding up and even feeling better when I got home compared to when I left. Thank you for the doctors and companies that made the medications that made my trip possible. Thank you for my teachers and class being friendly and very helpful.
I give praise to you, for being so great, and for your awesome power in controlling the world and everything in it. I call attention to my own mind and how I often forget this, that you are in complete control of everything. And then I think I need to put in a huge struggle to try to achieve things, as if I'm fighting life all the time. Thank you for my Christian faith and for beginning to learn how I don't need to do this, and that I can just trust you with my life.
Thank you on behalf of the people I know who you've helped and healed recently.
Help me to sleep well tonight and to physically recover as much as I can.
In your holy name,
Fri 22 Feb 2019. After first home group Bible study for the year.
Thank you for being my heavenly father. Thank you for your wisdom, which is so much greater than my own or that of any mortal human wisdom.
In the name of Jesus,