How to Pray

We know we should pray, but most of us, if we are honest, don’t really know how.

I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has determined to spend some time in prayer and found my thoughts wandering to things that I would never have been interested to think about otherwise. Honestly, when I hear stories about people praying for hours-on-end regularly, I don’t understand it. When I think about Jesus fasting in the wilderness for 40 day or praying throughout the night, one of my first thoughts it, “what did he say?” I can’t talk to a person for that long. What do I say to God?

The disciples seemed to feel this same tension. In Luke 11, they say, “Lord, teach us how to pray.”

Jesus answers them with what has come to be called “The Lord’s Prayer” (Lk. 11:2-4; cf. Mat. 6:9-13).

Sometimes, we despair over what we lack because we don’t use what we’ve been given. If we want to know how to pray and Jesus says “pray like this” (Mat. 6:9), we should pay attention.

But what did Jesus mean for us to do with the Lord’s Prayer? It seems obvious enough that he didn’t intend for us to merely recite these words when we pray. There are plenty of other prayers in Scripture and Jesus doesn’t even present the prayer in the same way every time it’s used (cf. Mat. 6:9-13; Lk. 11:2-4).

It seems that this is meant to be a type of guideline for the kind of things that our prayers should include. If we are struggling in prayer, we can’t go wrong by letting the Lord’s prayer be an example.

In light of “hallowed be your name,” we can be reminded that to praise and revere God. In light of “Your kingdom come and your will be done,” we can think of specific ways for God’s will to be done.

I have found Dallas Willard’s book The Divine Conspiracy to be a helpful guide in this regard.

“Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes on our behalf with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts know what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” -Rom. 8:26-27


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