How to Pray

Practical instruction on building the most important relationship in your life

Prayer is meant to give you a personal, direct line of communication to the Creator of the universe. You can make requests of the Almighty God and have Him direct some of His unlimited power to fulfill them, be they for peace, prosperity, protection, wisdom, healing or myriad other blessings for you, your family, friends, enemies, nation or the world.

Many people, however, find that their experience fails to live up to that promise, certainly with consistency. Many wish they received more answers to their prayers. Many people who believe in the power of prayer still want to be more effective at praying.

Are your prayers being answered? If not, why not?

Often we hear public expressions of and calls for prayer, particularly after crises hit, from heads of state, leaders in politics, business and religion, relatives and others: “Our thoughts and prayers are with them.” “Our prayers go out to the victims of this tragedy.” People hold prayer vigils. Many individuals seek to commune with God when terror strikes our nations or illness afflicts a loved one.

Do these prayers make any difference? Is God listening? A growing number of people today believe the answer is no. In a secular world, more people even mock the idea of prayer.

This question needs to be answered. If these prayers are not being heard, why even pray? Yet if they are being heard,then why do we still see so much suffering, trouble and strife around us? Look at the state of the world: Billions of people languish in poverty and illiteracy, climatic disasters are breaking records, wars rage on most continents, and the doomsday clock ticks close to midnight. Why? Is it because God cannot hear us? Or does He hear—and refuse to answer? Or is there another explanation?

What Is Prayer?

Prayer is not mental magic or mumbo jumbo. It is not a psychological pep talk that makes you feel better.

The Hebrew word for prayer used most often in the Old Testament means intercession, or supplication. The literal meaning is to prostrate oneself, or bow down. In the New Testament, the Greek term translated prayer means to supplicate, worship or make prayer.

Supplication is an earnest request or humble entreaty. To supplicate means to ask for earnestly and humbly. To entreat means to make a request in an earnest or urgent manner. Prayer can also refer to intercession or a plea. These definitions are all contained in the one word prayer.

Prayer, then, is intercession or earnest, intense supplication to God.

Prayer is our part of a two-way conversation with God. God talks to us through His written Word, the Holy Bible, and we can talk to Him through prayer. This allows us to get to know God as He comes to know us.

“When you study the Bible, God is talking to you. When you pray, you are talking to Him,” educator Herbert W. Armstrong wrote. “You get to really know God in this manner, just as you become better acquainted with people by conversation” (The Incredible Human Potential).

Real prayer is communication with Almighty God through our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is us talking to our heavenly Father in an attitude of humility, contrition,awe, reverence and deep respect.

Not All Prayers Are the Same

The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much (James 5:16). Do your prayers accomplish much?

We live in a material world and are all affected by the age of materialism. Our world has lost the knowledge of God and the power of prayer.

Society discourages us from relying on God. Is it any wonder Jesus Christ would ask: “[W]hen the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).

Too often, prayer is seen as a religious duty or ritualistic exercise. People either pray solely because they feel it is expected of them, or because they are troubled and seek relief. Either way, the focus is selfish. Such people are left without answers to their prayers (James 4:3).

Through the Prophet Isaiah, God says that He is so displeased with some people that “when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear” (Isaiah 1:15).

The Bible is clear that any petition we make of God must be made with full assurance that we are asking according to God’s will and that He will respond. The Apostle James makes this plain: “But let him [the person petitioning God in prayer] ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord” (James 1:6-7).

God certainly has the power to fulfill any prayer request He chooses. But in deciding whether to do so, He takes note of the motivation, the attitude and the level of faith of the one praying, among other factors.

The Need for Prayer

You need to recognize just how desperate is your need for that regular, intimate contact with your heavenly Father.

Talk to God every day—especially when you are struggling. You were created to need Him! Like your electronic devices that won’t work unless you charge the battery, you won’t work properly unless you are recharged by contact with the great God every day. You need God more than you need oxygen!

Jesus understood this need. Hebrews 5:7 says this about His prayer life: “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared.” It was critical that Christ live His entire physical life perfectly free from sin so He could offer Himself as an unblemished sacrificial lamb for our sins. He knew He could not accomplish this majestic spiritual feat on His own (John 5:30)—it was only possible with constant help from His Father. Only the Father could save Him from sin and its wages, death (Romans 6:23). Thus, He continually stayed in close contact with His Father. He prayed regularly and fervently.

You need the same understanding of just how much you need daily help from God.

The only possible way to overcome the power of Satan and the pulls of the flesh is to rely on God! (Romans 7:25). You need the power of God, which He supplies to true Christians with His Holy Spirit. The Spirit enables Christ to live in us (Galatians 2:20) and gives us the strength to overcome. We can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).

Without that Spirit, you are not a son of God and will die in your sins! (Romans 8:13-14).

We cannot attain eternal life without the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. However, we must ask the Father, in prayer, for that spiritual power and help (Luke 11:13). And it must be replenished daily (2 Corinthians 4:16). This requires prayer (e.g. Philippians 1:19).

Daily prayer is essential for salvation! Without God’s help, none of us can overcome the sinful pulls of our human nature. And only if we overcome sin and allow God to build His holy, righteous character through the power of the Holy Spirit can we be born as sons of God (Revelation 21:7). Without active and effective prayer, therefore, we can never be born into God’s Family.

This is why God commands us to pray! Prayer is not an optional religious exercise. It is a core need that affects your eternal destiny!

How to Pray

In Luke 11, the disciples asked Christ to teach them to pray—they didn’t know how. We too must first seek wisdom from Christ on how to pray. Through the Holy Spirit, He will help us. He Himself was a man of prayer.

God is love. His law is love. Christ listed two great commandments: love toward God and love toward neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). We practice and grow in that love through Christ-led prayer.

But how? Our new book on prayer will show you. Chapter 1 shows you why you should pray. Chapter 2 spells out seven conditions we must meet in order to receive answers from God. Chapter 3 covers the common problems we face in prayer and how to break through those barriers. Chapter 4 delves into the prayer outline Christ gave the disciples and what God expects us to pray about. In Chapter 5, we learn the blessings that come from intercessory prayer—not only for the ones being prayed for, but even those offering up those prayers. Chapter 6 shows how Christ prayed perfect prayers as an expression of His perfect love. And the last chapter shows how God’s people must be “a house of prayer.”

Realize how crucial—how central to the life of a Christian—your prayer life is. Improving the way you talk to God in prayer should be your top priority in life!

If you have not begun to do so, start now to establish direct contact with your Creator. God hears and delights in the prayers of those who seek to please Him and do His will (Psalm 34:17; Proverbs 15:8; 1 Peter 3:12). Pray to God every day. You will begin to experience blessings beyond measure!