Knowing how to pray is vital for every believer. Prayer should be as natural as breathing and as pleasant as eating to the believer. It is communicating with our Heavenly Father just like you would your earthly father or a friend.
Prayer is a fancy word for talking to God. Prayer is how God gets to know you.
It’s not formal or stuffy or pretentious. You aren’t trying to impress God; you are trying to tell Him something. He is always ready to hear from His children (just like good earthly parents are).
Just like our communications with each other can different in nature, there can be different kinds of prayer.
You don’t always have the exact same conversation with your friend or family member every time you are around them, so you shouldn’t have the same prayer every time you go to God.
He wants to be included in every part of your life so you should talk to Him about everything. Talk to Him in the morning about the day ahead or the in the night about what happened that day. Talk to Him on the way to work about your meetings or co-workers. Talk to Him during the day to get help on a project. Talk to Him when you hear about a promotion opportunity. Talk to Him when your kids are on your mind. Talk to Him when you are happy or sad or confused or confident or tired or celebrating or any other times. Talk to Him about everything.
He can make the bad times good and the good times even better, but He has to be invited. He won’t barge into your life. You have to include Him with your prayers.
God also wants to meet our needs like any good father, so we should pray and ask God when we have a request. We learn how to do this from the scriptures. In the Gospel of John, chapter 16 and verse 23, Jesus tells the disciples (the ones standing with Him and the ones reading His word) that “in that day you will ask Me nothing. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.” (American KJV). When He said, “in that day”, Jesus was referring to the New Testament days that would begin once He was resurrected. He is telling them to direct all of their requests to the Father, but to make those requests in His Name. If they (and believers today) follow these instructions, the Father will give them whatever they have asked for.
Jesus gives us some important guidelines for how to pray in Matthew 6:5-8. He instructs us to pray privately, just between us and God. Some people tend to show off in front of others and will make flowery prayers trying to impress those around them. They are not really praying to God but performing for an audience and the audience’s approval. God will not respond to that. Jesus also warned us to not use “vain repetition” when we pray. That means we shouldn’t memorize sentences and recite them and call it prayer. It is not prayer and will not be heard by God. God does not want a performance; he wants a relationship and honest communication from His children.
Another scripture to look at here is in 1 John 5: 14-15. In it, John the Apostle tells us that prayer is how we express our trust in God: “this the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us…” The reason we can be so confident in prayer is because “…if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we desired of him.” (King James 2000 Bible) These 2 scriptures let us know that we need to be sure that what we are asking is in line with what God wants for us and we need to ask the Father for it in the Name of Jesus.
Jesus gives us a little more insight in John 16:26-27 when He says, “In that day you will ask in My Name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God.” Jesus is telling us that God wants us to ask Him for the things we need and want that are in line with this will.
One more thought regarding proper prayer: prayer is not thought but spoken words. When you pray, speak out loud. We have no Biblical evidence for “silent prayer”. You don’t have to shout, but you do have to speak. If God wanted thinking to be praying, we would all be telepathic. Thinking thoughts requires no action, but communicating thoughts does. God wants our actions because they reveal our hearts, and Jesus said in Luke 6:45 that our words (which we pray with) come straight from our hearts.
God loves you more than you will ever know, and He longs to have a relationship with you. He wants to exchange ideas and desires and plans and personality with you just like you do with your family and friends. That’s how we all establish and keep relationships with other people and that’s how we establish and keep a relationship with our wonderful Heavenly Father.