There are 367 scripture references in the Bible with the word ‘PRAY’ and 154 references with the word ‘PRAYER,’ for a total of 521 references. This is an important topic and should be an important part of our lives. But, we have lots of questions: like “When do we pray?” and “How do we pray?”
Pray Alone in Private
Several scriptures and Jesus himself encourage us to pray alone in private. Find a place where you can be alone without distractions. That might be your bedroom, your porch, in your yard, in your car, or even in your bathroom. I had my best prayer life when I was commuting 100 miles to work for over a year. I turned off the radio and had an hour and a half of uninterrupted time with God. The trick is to turn off the radio and any other distractions, and devote however much time you have to prayer.
Luke 5:16 – But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Luke 6:12 – Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.
Luke 9:18 – Jesus was praying in private.
Luke 22:41 – He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed.
One of the strongest scriptures advocating praying in private is Matthew 6:5-6.
Matthew 6:5-6 – And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 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.
Pray for Others
Scripture encourages us to pray for others and to ask others to pray for us. There is power in prayer. Even those who may have little faith acknowledge this power and ask for prayers from believers. Praying for others is also called ‘intercessory,’ which means ‘the act of intervening on behalf of another.’
Luke 6:28 – Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
Romans 15:30 – I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.
Colossians 1:3 – We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.
Colossians 1:9 – For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives.
1 Thessalonians 5:25 – Brothers and sisters, pray for us.
2 Timothy 1:3 – I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.
Pray in Fellowship with other Believers
We are also encouraged to pray with other believers. Small group Bible studies are a perfect example of this. Believers gather together to study the scriptures, to fellowship with other believers, to share a meal together and to pray for each other’s joys and concerns. People have been doing this for thousands of years, and we are still doing it today.
Acts 2:42 – They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
1 Chronicles 29:10 – David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, “Praise be to you, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.”
Praying for healing is an entire subject all on its own. But, I believe in the power of prayer, whatever the circumstance. I believe the more people praying the same prayer, the greater the power. So when you are sick or hurting, share that with others so that they can pray for your healing or relief from your pain.
James 5:14 – Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.
If you pray out loud, don’t be afraid to speak from your heart. Remember that you are talking to God, not to the people around you. Don’t worry about whether you are saying the right words or not. Speak to God. The Holy Spirit who lives within you will guide your words. Say what you feel, and then stop talking. More words are not better, so keep it simple.
Matthew 6:7-8 – And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Pray in Sadness and in Need
Our prayers will not always be happy and joyful. Sometimes we are sorrowful and we should not hesitate to bring our sadness to God in prayer the same as when we are happy. Whatever is going on in your life, however you are feeling, share it with God. There is nothing too insignificant or insurmountable that you cannot share it with God.
James 5:13 – Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.
1 Samuel 1:10 – In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.
Psalm 86:1 – Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.
Romans 12:12 – Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
1 Timothy 5:5 – The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help.
Expect God to hear our Prayer
We should expect God to hear and answer our prayers. Prayer is not a one way dialogue. We don’t always feel like we get an answer or the answer we want, but know that God is listening, desires to have a relationship with us, and has a purpose for us. Be bold in your prayers and have faith.
Psalm 17:6 – I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
Psalm 54:2 – Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth.
Psalm 86:6 – Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy.
How to Pray
There is no right or wrong way to pray. Don’t be afraid to pray using your normal words, just like you would speak to your best friend. You don’t have to conjure up a bunch of holy words, like ‘thee’s and ‘thou’s. Just speak. And if you find yourself overwhelmed and cannot find the words to say, recite the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, found in Matthew 6:9-15.
Matthew 6:9-15 – [Jesus said] This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Another way to guide our prayer time is to use the Five Finger Prayer Guide. We all have a hand, so this is an easy habit to get into no matter where you are.
Start with the palm of your hand and give thanks for all the blessings you have been given. Then go to your thumb, the closest finger to you, and pray for those closest to you like your family, friends, and co-workers. Then your pointer finger reminds us of those who instruct, so pray for those who teach, instruct, and heal.
The tallest finger reminds us of those in charge, so pray for the president, police officers, first responders, elected officials, and business leaders. Our ring finger if the weakest finger, so pray for those that are weak, in trouble, or in pain. The pinky is the smallest, so pray for yourself last because your prayers should be more about others. This Five Finger Prayer Guide keeps us humble and helps us focus more on others than ourselves.
Get strength from the Holy Spirit
As Christians, we were given the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts and actions. Someone asked me one time to describe the Holy Spirit. I don’t want to be sacrilegious or disrespectful, but I described the Holy Spirit as being like Casper the Friendly Ghost from the animated television show. He is always there, he is friendly, he helps in time of need, and you can feel his presence even when he cannot be seen. You know if you call his name, he will appear in an instant. The Holy Spirit has our back and never lets us down.
Another way I think of the Holy Spirit is when you get goose bumps or the hair stands up on the back of your neck. I believe the Holy Spirit is talking to us, nudging us to stop and think before we go down the path we have chosen. My sister calls these times, ‘God bumps’ instead of ‘Goose bumps.’ We have to listen to the nudging of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 4:31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
Prayer Directs our Actions
We go through life, doing our daily routine. We go to the grocery store to buy our food, we stop at the gas station to fill up our cars, we mow our lawn and sweep our floors. So often we go through the motions of life without acknowledging that God has a purpose for us. Life is not about the groceries and the cars and our home. Life is so much bigger that we cannot imagine all that God has planned. So if we start each day in prayer, and listen to the nudging of the Holy Spirit, we come closer to fulfilling the purpose God has for each of us. Listen, believe, and obey.
Jeremiah 42:3 – Pray that the Lord your God will tell us where we should go and what we should do.
How do we know what to include in our Prayer
Trust in the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts. We are not alone. The Holy Spirit resides in us.
Romans 8:26 – In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
Ephesians 6:19 – Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.
Don’t be afraid to Pray, there is no right or wrong way
Ephesians 6:18 – And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
2 Thessalonians 3:2 – And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith.
Pray for your Pastor and those called into ministry
Always remember to pray for your pastor. The weight of the whole congregation is on the shoulders of the pastor of a church. Pray for their strength to lead, nurture, and direct the people God puts in their path. Pray that the attackers that would strive to tear them down would be stopped and turned the other way. Pray that the words they say are directed by God and that the Holy Spirit is ever present in their lives.
2 Thessalonians 1:11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.
Make a commitment to Pray
Decide to make prayer a significant part of your life. Decide on a place that you can go to pray in private. Join a small group so you can fellowship and pray together. Pray in the morning, pray in the evening, pray all day.
Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
Pray without ceasing, with every breath, with every thought, let God guide your steps. Move God to the first priority in your life, and let your daily routine of life take a back seat.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 – Pray continually.
My favorite scripture changed my life. In the past, I would worry about how I was going to pay the bills, where I was going to live, where I was going to work. But when I put this scripture into action in my life, I eliminated worry from my life. I take my needs to God in prayer and leave them with him, trusting he has a plan. Try it. Less worry makes for a happier life. I paraphrase this scripture to three simple words: Do not worry.
I Philippians 4:6 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.