What is the point of Christian prayer? Do you limit your prayers to Sundays at church? Do your prayers look like a long list of demands for God to fulfill? What does the Bible say about prayer?
Prayer is a beautiful, intimate conversation between you and God. There’s not necessarily a wrong way to pray, but you can choose a better way to pray.
One of my goals with Muddling Through Together is to help Christian women with their prayer lives. I’ve shared prayer prompts and sample prayers, but today, let’s get back to basics.
What is Christian Prayer?
Most religions have some sort of prayer, praise, and/or worship as part of their beliefs. Christian prayer is the act of conversing with God. Some Christians also pray to saints.
Christians have many reasons to pray, including:
- confessing sin and asking God for forgiveness
- asking God for help overcoming sin
- praying for other people
- thanking God for blessings
- asking God for specific provisions, like healing of illness, clarity of a situation, or even material blessings
Christian prayer can be quite personal, a private conversation between you and God. Christian prayer can also be part of Christian fellowship, like prayers during a church service or before a group meal.
When you pray to God, you can follow a written prayer, you can speak aloud or think your prayer, or you can write out your prayer. All of these are valid forms of Christian prayer.
What Does the Bible Say About Prayer?
The Bible is filled with helpful information on Christian prayer! Some Bible verses explain the power of prayer. Others encourage Christians to pray often. Finally, there are also examples of prayer, especially in the Psalms.
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.Philippians 4:6
This is one of my favorite Bible verses on prayer! It outlines two key components of prayer:
- giving God thanks for your blessings
- asking God for help with your life
It’s also an amazing reminder that God really does want to hear about everything from us! No prayer request is too big or too small.
Here’s another simple Bible verse to help guide your prayer life.
Pray without ceasing1 Thessalonians 5:17
While I also love the fuller context of 1 Thessalonians 5, with other commands for Christians to follow, verse 17 is an important reminder to pray constantly. This doesn’t mean that you need to pray every single minute of every single hour of every single day.
Just find pockets of time throughout the day to say a quick prayer to God. I say brief prayers multiple times per day. I also pray before and after my morning devotion. My longest (and most-structured) prayer of the day comes right before bed.
Related: How to Prioritize Prayer in a Busy Lifestyle
What Jesus Said About Prayer
If you’re just discovering Christian prayer, try starting with the Lord’s Prayer. It’s based on the prayer Jesus taught His disciples in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4.
Normally I quote scripture from the New Revised Standard Version, but this is the Lord’s Prayer I learned as a child.
Our Father, who art in heaven Hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done On Earth as it is in heaven. Gives us this day our daily bread, And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever, Amen.
When reciting the Lord’s Prayer, truly meditate on the words you’re saying. It’s easy to repeat a prayer so many times that you stop thinking about what it means. Don’t just recite the words mindlessly. Believe the words in your heart.
Matthew 6:5-15 includes other instructions for your prayer life, from when Jesus taught His disciples how to pray. He cautions against public prayer uttered with the intention of attracting attention. Jesus also warns against unnecessarily long prayers with flowery phrases devoid of meaning.
His main message is to pray with a sincere heart.
How to Pray
Learning how to pray really isn’t that difficult. In fact, any genuine conversation between you and God is a Christian prayer! But if you’re a new Christian, or you’ve gotten out of the habit of praying daily, these tips will help you with your prayer life.
Related: How to Pray to God: A Guide to Christian Prayer
Bible Verses on How to Pray
Once again, take a look at Matthew 6:5-15 and Luke 11:2-4. In these Bible verses, Jesus explains how to pray.
“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that 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.”Jesus, Matthew 6:5-8
James 5 commands believers to pray in sorrow and in joy, in sickness and in health. These Bible verses also instructs Christians to pray for one another.
Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.James 5:13-16
Philippians 12 is a beautiful Bible passage instructing Christians on how to work together. It acknowledges our many gifts, all of which advance the kingdom of God. While only one verse explicitly calls Christians to pray constantly, the context is important. We need to remember these commands in every aspect of our day, including our prayers.
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.Philippians 12:9-13
How to Pray the Rosary
The Rosary refers to a set of Catholic prayers. A rosary is a set of beads or knots used to count each prayer uttered as part of the Rosary. How to pray with a rosary is straightforward, if not entirely simple (especially for a Protestant like myself). This form of Christian prayer is particularly helpful for anyone who thrives with repetition.
The Mysteries of the Rosary
The prayers of the Rosary lead you through a specific set of five mysteries in the Bible, with a total of twenty mysteries contemplated over the course of a week. These are:
- Joyful Mysteries (said on Monday and Saturday)
- Luminous Mysteries (said on Thursday)
- Sorrowful Mysteries (said on Tuesday and Friday)
- Glorious Mysteries (said on Wednesday and Sunday)
How to Pray with a Rosary
This set of beads includes a cross and beads of different sizes to remind Catholics to pray specific prayers with each bead. While there are multiple types of rosaries, the standard five-decade rosary contains five groups of ten beads (each group is called a decade).
Since the rosary helps you keep track of the prayers, you’re not distracted by counting.
- On the cross, make the Sign of the Cross and say the “Apostles’ Creed.”
- On the next large bead, say the “Our Father.”
- For each of the following three small beads, say the “Hail Mary,” for a total of three “Hail Marys.” These are for Faith, Hope, and Charity.
- On the chain, say “Glory Be.”
- On the next large bead, announce the First Mystery, and then say the “Our Father.”
- With the following ten small beads, say ten “Hail Marys,” while contemplating on the First Mystery.
- On the chain, say “Glory Be.” (If there is not a chain, remember to say “Glory Be” at the end of the decade).
- On the next large bead, announce the Second Mystery, and then say the “Our Father.”
- With the following ten small beads, say ten “Hail Marys,” while contemplating on the Second Mystery.
- On the chain, say “Glory Be.” (If there is not a chain, remember to say “Glory Be” at the end of the decade).
- Repeat steps 5, 6, and 7 for the rest of the mysteries.
- Conclude with the “Hail Holy Queen.” (If your rosary has a center medallion, you can use this). Make the Sign of the Cross.
How to Pray with Acronyms
Acronyms are an easy way to remember each step in a process. By praying with an acronym, you pray each important thing that God wants to hear from us. The ACTS method of prayer is what I follow for my Christian prayer before bed each night.
- Adoration (praising God)
- Confession (honestly confessing sins and asking for forgiveness)
- Thanksgiving (thanking God)
- Supplication (asking God for help)
The ACTS method isn’t the only prayer acronym available. PRAY is another easy acronym to follow. The sections are similar to ACTS, but these might be easier for you to remember.
- Praise (praising God)
- Repent (honestly confessing sins and asking for forgiveness)
- Ask (asking God for help)
- Yield (submitting to God’s will)
I also recently discovered HEART as a slightly different acronym to help with daily prayer.
- Honor God (praise for God’s awesomness)
- Examine your life (confession and repentance)
- Ask for help (prayer requests for yourself)
- Request for others (prayer requests for others)
- Thank God (gratitude for God’s blessings)
I really love this HEART breakdown of prayer, and I might try it out for myself. Already, my ACTS prayers look quite similar. I confess my sins, ask for forgiveness, and also ask God to help me avoid the same sin. My prayer requests also cover myself and others. It’s good to remember to pray for others. I also like the idea of ending with gratitude.
Related: 3 Easy Prayer Acronyms for Structured Prayer
The Power of Prayer
Christians love to talk about the power of prayer, but I promise it’s more than just a Christian cliché! My best friend recently gave me a notepad to write down prayer requests and answered prayers. While I’ve seen many answers to my prayers already this year, I’m excited to track them more closely.
As seen in the Bible verses shared above, God wants us to pray. In fact, the power of prayer isn’t about us–it’s about God. God wants us to come to Her with everything in our lives, no matter how big or small. God hears our prayers and answers our prayers (even if that answer is no).
The best Bible verses about the power of prayer come from Jesus, our savior.
What Jesus Said About the Power of Prayer
The Sermon on the Mount includes Matthew 7:7-11, in which Jesus explains the power of prayer. Not only does He say that God will answer our prayers, as long as we ask, but He clarifies that God’s answer will be good!
“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”Jesus, Matthew 7:7-11
The power of prayer requires trust in God’s answer, faith that God knows what is best for us, even if we don’t recognize it in the moment. God wants to give us good things, but that doesn’t mean She will always answer “yes” to our prayers.
Mark 11 includes some of the final days of Jesus before His crucifixion. In this conversation with His disciples, He shares the importance of faith, but also the importance of forgiveness.
Conflict with another believer can often be a mountain (difficult problem) in our lives, but God can help us forgive others.
Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”-Jesus, Mark 11:22-25
In John 14, Jesus reassures His disciples about their future. These promises are for us too, as followers of Christ.
I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.Jesus, John 14:13-14
Context is important here. Just because you add Christ’s name to your prayer doesn’t mean it’s a prayer that glorifies God. This commentary on John 14:13-14 explains it well. Our prayer requests must be consistent with the character of Jesus, and their intent must be to glorify God.
Final Thoughts on Christian Prayer
I hope this overview of Christian prayer encourages you in your walk with Christ! Christian prayer is a central component of our faith.
I know it’s easy to get distracted while chatting with God, which is why I appreciate the different ways to pray. I’ve also struggled in the past with my belief in the power of prayer, but reading God’s word helped me.
Start praying daily with access to a Christian library of prayer resources! Discover prayer prompts, prayer printables, and more, all completely free to download.
My mission with Muddling Through Together is to help Christian women with their prayer life. Please let me know what other blog post topics and resources you would like to see here! You can also join our Facebook group to share prayer requests and to respond to prayer requests.
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