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How to Pray: for Beginners

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If you are anything like me, you have probably felt intimidated by prayer at some point in your life.

Am I doing it right?
Wow, they really say beautiful prayers and mine aren’t like that!
Did it work?
Did He hear me?
Should I be kneeling?
Does it count if I say it in my mind?
Is there a way to pray where God definitely answers?

For prayer 101, let’s go directly to the Source to get these answers.

Jesus addresses our questions by telling us how to pray in Matthew 6:9-13:
“This, then, is how you should pray:
‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
For thine res the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever. Amen.'”

Although I think it’s important to memorize scripture and this prayer, I want to emphasize that just repeating this prayer is not exactly what I believe Jesus had in mind. James McDonald in a recent sermon series called “Why Don’t We Pray?” (find him here) said it really well when he described this as a “pattern, not a prescription.”… Meaning we are not tied to these exact words but that it gives us an example of how to pray and what to pray for. If every time I called my earthly father on the phone I said the exact same thing to him (that I had memorized to say), he would probably feel like he was speaking with a robot, not his daughter. One of the reasons I think so many of us are scared or uncertain of how to pray is that we forget God wants a relationship with us, not a ritual.

…we forget God wants a relationship with us, not a ritual.

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Jesus starts out with “our Father in Heaven” reminding you that you are a child of the most High God which I believe is intentional to emphasize this relationship. And this is not just any relationship! It’s the bond between a parent and child. A parent has an intense love for their children. It’s important for you to remember that as you come before Him, you are deeply and intensely loved by your Father even more than the way a parent loves their child. He wants you to speak to Him, ask Him for wisdom and counsel, share your worries and concerns and to sit in His presence while He speaks to you, comforts you and transforms you. I’m thrilled when one of my boys climbs up in my lap for the sheer pleasure of my company. I’m also thrilled when they come to me for comfort or to ask for guidance because I have the wisdom and perspective they are lacking at their young age.

The rest of the prayer encourages us to remember several things:

His holiness (hallowed be thy name). It is important to remember Who we are
speaking to! Not only is He our Father, but He is perfect, majestic, and powerful
beyond our understanding

To keep our minds on Heaven not earth (thy kingdom come thy will be done). This
allows us to remember in good or bad times that this world is temporary

To ask for what we need (give us this day our daily bread). He will answer!

To confess our sins (forgive us our trespasses). He already knows everything we
have done or will do but confessing to Him is important in our continued growth to
become more like our Father.

To forgive others (as we forgive those who trespass against us). This is for our
benefit as well as theirs, to protect us from bitterness and resentment.

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To pray for protection against Satan and his schemes (deliver us from the evil one). We need to remember we have a real enemy but one whom God has already defeated.

These are all beautiful and instrumental facets of a strong prayer life and will help guide you when your mind is stuck or blank on what or whom to pray for. One of my favorite verses is 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18: “Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” The more you pray and experience His presence, the more you will want to. It will be a constant conversation throughout your day and will bring you more joy than you will ever know. And if you don’t know where to start, that’s okay! All relationships take time to form! The important thing is to do it. Even if it’s just for a couple of minutes at a time.

Elisabeth Elliott says in her book God’s Guidance that “The mystery of prayer brings the finite into contact with the infinite, the temporal with the eternal, the seen with the unseen.” When you take time to sit at the Lord’s feet whether it’s in silence or with a deep petition, you have met with the Creator of the Universe who just so happens to be your loving Heavenly Father. You walk away with a clearer perspective and a peace you cannot describe or derive from any source.


For more encouragement in your faith, check out:

Beginning Faith: Walking This Life With Grit, Grace and God
How to Read Your Bible: For Beginners

5 Simple Prayers for Your Husband
What Do You Think of When You Hear “Worship”?
How a Woman of Grit and Grace Wears Her Faith

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When Ashby isn't having lightsaber wars with her three energetic boys, you might find her teaching yoga on a paddleboard, scuba diving with her hubby, or making her own kombucha while putting an essential oil on anything that will hold still. Not all at the same time, although she's not opposed to such a notion.

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