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Updated: Jun 22, 2023

How do I start learning how to pray?

The first thing we need to know is that prayer is talking to God. It’s that simple. Just like our close relationships are maintained by spending time together, so is our relationship with Jesus. There are no magical formulas, no specific format or time. Prayer is having a conversation with God about anything, everything, anytime, and anywhere.

Here are some simple steps to structure our prayer time. { A.C.T.S. }

  • Adoration: Spend time praising and worshiping God. Acknowledge who He is. Praise Him for His attributes of faithfulness, goodness, power, mercy, and love. “I will praise him from the bottom of my heart: ‘LORD, who can compare with you? Who else rescues the weak and helpless from the strong? Who else protects the poor and needy from those who want to rob them?’” (Psalm 35:10).

  • Confession: Confess our sins to the Lord, because He always forgives us. Confession is a daily cleansing exercise. “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong” (1 John 1:9).

  • Thanksgiving: Give thanks to the Lord for the many blessings He has given us. Thank Him for the big and small things in our lives. These are the blessings that we easily take for granted. “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever” (1 Chronicles 16:34).

  • Supplication: Present our requests to God. God is our Father and He is delighted when we come to Him with our requests. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (Philippians 4:6).

The above steps are examples of the many ways we can learn how to pray. Some people like to get up early in the morning to pray, while others prefer night time. People enjoy talking to God while they take a walk, and others like to write silent prayers into journals. Many read Bible passages and turn them into prayers. When needs arise in the middle of our busy days, we can whisper a short prayer and God will hear.

I believe that God honors us when we come to Him as we learn how to pray. Prayer takes a whole new meaning when we realize that Christianity is a relationship, not a mere religion. Relationships are strengthened through sharing. Prayer strengthens not only our faith, but our love relationship with Jesus.

The only key to an effective prayer is prayer itself. “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful apart from me” (John 15:4).

​Jesus and Prayer

Jesus prayed for others. In Matthew 19:13, we read, “Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them.” Despite the fact that “the disciples rebuked those who brought them,” Jesus said the children should not be hindered “for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (v. 14). In John 17:9 we read, “I [Jesus] pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given Me, for they are Yours.” This underscores the need for intercessory prayer.

Jesus prayed with others. Luke 9:28 reads, “[Jesus] took Peter, John and James with Him and went up onto a mountain to pray.” Jesus prayed alone, but He also knew the value of praying with others. Acts 1:14 underscores the importance of Christians praying with one another: “They all joined together constantly in prayer …”

Jesus prayed alone. Luke 5:16 reads, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” As much as Jesus understood the value of praying with and for others, He also understood the need to pray alone. Psalm 46:10 reads, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Sometimes it’s important for us to “be still” before God, but the only way to do this, especially in our hectic culture, is to do so alone with God.

Jesus prayed in nature. Psalm 19:1 reads, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” What better place to commune with our Creator than among the wonders of nature? Luke 6:12 says, “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray …” He could have gone to a home, a synagogue or if He were near Jerusalem he could have gone to the temple to pray. But there were times when Jesus made the decision to pray where He was, which often happened to be in nature. We are surrounded by so much that is “man made” that sometimes it’s difficult for us to remember that this is not our world, but God’s world (Genesis 1:1, Psalm 24:1) full of wonders for us to enjoy.

Jesus could pray as a sprinter or a marathon runner. The Lord’s Prayer is full of wisdom, but it is short enough to be easily memorized and serve as an example of a sprint rather than a marathon prayer. But Jesus also knew how to dedicate long periods of time to prayer. As we read in Luke 6:12, Jesus “spent the night praying to God.” We, too, need to be able to offer short prayers, as well dedicate long periods of our lives to prayer.

Jesus prayed regularly. This insight is gleaned from a passage cited earlier, Luke 5:16: “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” The word “often” is not hidden, but makes it obvious that Jesus prayed regularly. Throughout the Gospels whenever we read of Jesus and prayer, it comes up regularly and naturally. It was simply a part of His worldview, integrated into every aspect of Christ’s life. Can we say the same about prayer in our life?

The prayers of Jesus were heartfelt. Jesus did not pray in a cold, distant manner, but in heartfelt supplication, demonstrating empathy and a genuine love for God. This is demonstrated clearly in John 17, where Jesus prays for Himself, His immediate disciples, as well as for all believers.

Jesus prayed based on His knowledge of God and His truths. The prayers of Jesus were based on God’s revealed truths and, as such, were in line with a solid biblical worldview. In John 4:24 Jesus said, “God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” He also said, “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32), underscoring the importance of truth in the life of Jesus and, in turn, our lives. Proper prayer requires us to have a truthful understanding of God and what He has revealed to us through His Word.

Jesus taught persistence in prayer. “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1). The parable Jesus shared is not meant to depict a pestering disciple who finally bugs God enough that He chooses to respond, but about persistence in prayer and waiting on God and His timing.

Jesus knew that not all his prayers would be answered as expected. This is a difficult prayer lesson to learn, but the fact of the matter is that not all our prayers are answered in ways we expect. Even Jesus knew this hard lesson as he cried out to God the Father from Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-44). Three times Jesus prayed for God to allow an easier path, but Jesus knew, “Yet not as I will, but as You will” (26:39).

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