How To Pray in 5 Simple Steps
Dear Selfless Esteem,
With Lent coming up, I want to pray to God, but I feel awkward and I get distracted. Also, I don’t have much time anyway. How can I pray?
Dear Seeking God,
Good for you for seeking God through prayer! It’s so important, yet it’s so common to feel awkward. And yes, with many distractions and demands for our time, how could we pray for even a minute? Let’s begin by examining the way Jesus taught us to pray. 🛐
Following the Master
The expert on prayer is Jesus. I imagine His disciples probably felt awkward when they prayed too so they asked Him to teach them how to pray. His answer is recorded in the following passage.
9 "'In this manner, therefore, 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 this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. 14 'For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses'" (Matthew 6:9-15).
Looking at each part of this prayer, we see five simple steps.
1. Remember Who God Is.
Anytime you speak, you’re aware of who you’re talking to because it makes a difference, e.g., a child vs. an adult. Thus, the beginning of the prayer is addressing God as your Heavenly Father, who is merciful and kind—not an angry, punitive deity. (Ephesians 1:4-5). (For more details about God’s unconditional love, see the post, “Why Selfless Esteem Is Better Than Self-Esteem” and “The Real Truth About God.”)
The next line is a statement of worship, which flows naturally when we reflect on His amazing character. This prepares our hearts for the rest of the prayer because we cannot pray to someone, who we perceive as weak or distant.
2. Make Your Requests
Verse 10 signifies all our supplications according to God’s will. Verse 11 instructs us to ask for a daily portion of provision, no more, no less, so that we’ll remain humbly dependent on Him.
3. Ask for Forgiveness
This step has a prerequisite as noted in verses 14 and 15—or else how can we ask for forgiveness if we haven’t forgiven others? The parable of the unforgiving servant illustrates this point. We may need to pause here and ask God to help us forgive certain people.
Then, when we confess our sins, we trust in God’s compassion. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we firmly believe that our sins are forgiven (Hebrews 10:11-22).
4. Pray for Spiritual Strength
Verse 13 is a request that we be spared from calamity and evil. An example of this is how Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane to not be tortured to death (Matthew 26:36-44). But if it’s God’s will, then we pray for strength during trials and temptations. The Biblical commentators explain this verse more thoroughly on biblehub.com.
5. End with Worship
The last line is a reminder to us that He’s almighty and capable to answer our prayer. Therefore, we close with faith. At the same time, we acknowledge His sovereignty and wisdom in doing what’s best for us, even if that means not fulfilling our request.
This model of prayer can be used in its entirety, or you may focus on one part in the interest of time. You could even pray a quick one-word prayer: “Help!”
The length of your prayer is irrelevant (Matthew 6:7); the essence of prayer is keeping a line of communication open with God anytime, anyplace (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This includes listening when He speaks. Pastor Tim Clark describes various ways God speaks to us in his sermon, “Foundations, Part 3: How Does God Speak to Us?“
You mentioned distractions. These are inevitable when we set aside time to pray. God understands our shortcomings (Hebrews 4:15). All we can do is redirect our attention back to Him.
Praying with Bible verses is a helpful way to maintain our focus. Furthermore, the Word of God is powerful. See the following verses for suggestions.
Another hinderance is that we sometimes evaluate our performance as we pray. But there’s no wrong way to pray—as long as we do it with a sincere intention to talk to God. Jesus explained to His disciples that hypocrites pray just for show (Matthew 6:5).
Jesus also described how heathens repeat themselves because they think their gods will hear them better that way (Matthew 6:7). Repetition is different than persistence, which is what Jesus taught us to do (Luke 11:5-10; Luke 18:1-8). Persistence is praying without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) and causes us to draw near to God regularly.
In conclusion, out of all the information about how to pray, I found the following video for kids to be succinct yet thorough. Plus, I think it’s endearing because Jesus said that we should become like little children (Matthew 18:1-4). Besides, you can share it with any youngsters in your life.
Lastly, trust that God is attentive to your prayers and thank Him in advance (Philippians 4:6). If nothing else, sit quietly in your Heavenly Father’s proverbial lap and receive His love. 🏵
This post was originally published on 2/19/23 and has been updated.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New King James Version®. Copyright © 1984 by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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