Prayer was hard for me because I never knew what to say. I was a shy girl who lived in fear of saying the wrong thing, even to God. Every time I tried to pray, it felt wrong for some reason. I wasn’t sure if I was doing it right.
The first thing that opened up my eyes to prayer was the Prayer Night I mentioned in my testimony. That was what started my learning, but I didn’t become “perfect” at praying. I was still confused after the event and had more questions.
I know I am not the only one who had questions about prayer. A friend of mine once confided in me that she wasn’t sure if she was praying right either. It took a long time for me to feel comfortable enough with my relationship with God that I felt like I was praying well.
Prayer is very important in a Christian’s life (1 Timothy 2:1). But it might be confusing at first. Here are some of the five biggest questions about prayer.
#1 What is prayer?
To start, let’s define our terms. What is prayer?
Simply put, prayer is talking to God. You can do this anytime. Talk to Him while you’re getting ready for your day. Talk to God while you’re walking from place to place. Think about Him for a moment while you work. Prayer is talking to God through a personal relationship we have with Him because of Jesus Christ.
All prayers must be offered in faith. James 1:6 says “But when you ask Him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.” (NLT)
Prayer must also be offered in the name of the Lord Jesus. “In that day you will not ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you anything you ask for in my name.” John 16:23 (NCV)
Finally, prayer must be offered in the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:26 says, “In the same way, the Holy Spirit helps us when we are weak. We don’t know what we should pray for. But the Spirit Himself prays for us. He prays through groans too deep for words.” (NIrV)
#2 Why is prayer important?
The Bible is what I learned as “Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth.” There are many instances prayer is shown in the Bible. There is seeking God’s favor, such as in Exodus 32:11 where Moses asks God to have mercy on the people. In 1 Samuel 1:15, Hannah pours out her soul to the Lord and tells him all of her troubles. The Psalms is a book full of prayers. Psalm 73:28 says “But I am close to You and that is good, Lord and King I have made you my place of safety. I will talk about everything you have done.” (NIrV) Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer. If God’s own Son spent time in prayer, as well as ordinary people throughout history, we should too.
#3 How should I pray?
“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 debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:9 (NIV)
Prayers can be audible or silent, with a group or by yourself, formal or informal. There are many different ways to pray. You can even journal your prayers. I like to write my prayers because I am less likely to get distracted than when it’s in my head; and writing is my natural way to compose my thoughts. Another thing is when you keep a journal, you can look back and see something you wrote a year ago and realize God answered it.
#4 What should I say?
Know this: God knows what you are thinking. If you are angry and you are trying to sound happy, He will know. When we pray, it’s a conversation—not a presentation. God wants you to be real with Him. Don’t think of prayer rigidly. It’s letting God know what’s on your mind, asking questions, thanks, and confession. It’s a relationship with your Father in Heaven.
There is a way to pray called the ACTS method that I used when I first started praying to help me stay on track. Here is a quick breakdown of the ACTS method.
Praying with the ACTS method
A = Adoration
Adoration means praising God. Adoration is worship. When we praise, we say, “God is!” God is loving. God is faithful. Tell God how much you appreciate Him and praise his power and majesty. I love noticing little flowers on the sidewalk when I take walks and praising God for their beauty and creativity. You should never run out of things to praise God for.
C = Confession
Yep. Confession. We don’t like this one very much, do we? But 1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Tell God where you have fallen short, repent, and turn back to Him. Thank God for the forgiveness we have through Christ and ask for the strength to resist future temptations.
T = Thanksgiving
A thankful spirit isn’t just for the Thanksgiving holiday! Say “thank you” to God for His love, His patience, His goodness, and so many other things. Thank Jesus for dying on the cross for you. Thank the Holy Spirit for being the “still small voice” inside.
When I first started using ACTS, I was a bit confused on what the difference was between Adoration and Thanksgiving. They are very similar things, but the difference is partly in the phrasing. Adoration says, “God, you are merciful” while Thanksgiving says “Thank you, God, for your mercy.”
S = Supplication
This is one you probably know well. Supplication is when we ask God for something. (It is also known as “petitioning.”) It can be something for ourselves or for another person. (Prayer for another person is called “interceding.”)
Philipians 4:6 is a well-known verse that says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”
You can ask God for anything. Nothing is too small or too big for God the Creator. Sometimes the answer might be “no” or “not yet,” but God knows every prayer that is spoken.
#5 How can I make prayer a habit?
Integrate prayer into your daily routine. You can pray before your day, at meals, or just before bed. I find nighttime is a good time for me to pray because my mind is less likely to get distracted when it is dark. Find a time that works for you and use the tips above to start praying.
I hope these answers and tips encourage you in your walk with God. Remember that God loves you and He wants to hear from you, because he is your Father.