There are more ways to pray than you probably ever imagined. They can be long or short, silent or spoken or sung. Some prayers don’t even need words.1 They can be fun, off-the-cuff exchanges, or hallowed, formal veneration. They can be spontaneous, carefully planned, or written. Write them yourself, or take them from the Bible (many prayers can be found in the book of Psalms) or a devotional book. They can be for yourself or others. They can be prayed in private or with others. They can be simple acknowledgments of your need for the Lord’s blessing as you go about your routine, or they can be earnest petitions for His guidance as you tackle the seemingly impossible. They can be happy, thankful praises, or impassioned prayers of repentance from a broken and contrite heart. They can be prayed on your knees or on the go. The ways to pray are as many and varied as your needs. Here is a look at just a few:
Praise prayers benefit both parties. Not only does the Lord love praise, but praising Him for His goodness puts things in proper perspective for you as well. When you’re weighed down with problems and cares, give them all to Jesus,2 and then start counting your blessings. Thank Him for all He has already done for you, and praise and thank Him for the desired outcome, which is already yours by faith.
That’s what King David in the Bible did. If you think you’ve got problems, consider his! Before he became king, his mentor, King Saul, became jealous of him and tried to kill him several times; after he became king, his own son usurped his throne and David had to depart in disgrace and scandal to another country—and that’s not to mention his foreign enemies! On top of that, he was a horrible sinner and knew it! He seemed to have every reason to be discouraged and complain, but in his psalms he always took a positive approach—at least by the time he was finished. He praised God in spite of his troubles because he knew God would work it all out in the end, because He always had and because He promised to. Because of David’s faith and praiseful attitude, God called him a man after His own heart.3
The best time to get in the praise-prayer habit is before you face major problems, of course. For example, instead of praying a “please, Lord” prayer for your children, you could pray: “Jesus, thank You for the wonderful children You have given me. Thank You for caring for them today. Thank You for keeping them safe, and for helping them to do well in their schoolwork. Thank You for the quality time we’re going to spend together this evening. …”
Most prayer is private, and you can’t get by without that. Private prayers have rewards all their own. There are other times, however, when it pays to pray with others. Jesus promises, “If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”4
In certain situations, there simply is more power in united prayer.
Having others pray with you when you’re passing through a particularly tough time can also be a comfort and source of spiritual strength. Part of our responsibility as Christians is to support each other through our prayers, so avail yourselves of the prayers of others, and offer to pray with them as well when they need it.
When praying about a particular situation with others, try praying a “conversational prayer.” Each person adds a sentence or two on a different aspect, or claims an appropriate Bible promise. You can either go in a circle, or each chime in as a new aspect comes to mind. It’s like having a telephone party line or an Internet chat room conversation with the Lord: You hear what the others are praying, and He hears it all. This way the prayer request gets covered from many angles, and everyone has an opportunity to enter in. If each person keeps their contribution short and to the point—one or two sentences at the most—the prayer will be lively and keep everyone’s full attention.
There is great power in united prayer
Some people are a bit shy about praying with others and sometimes they probably think about what Jesus said, “When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”5 Well, there is a time for that, but there is also a time to pray together!
Sometimes it’s important that you make your request known, not only to the Lord but to others, so they can join with you in prayer, manifest their faith, and confess their dependence upon the Lord along with you. So never be ashamed to ask for prayer when you need it!
The Lord loves to give the answers, and He has to give the answers when He sees we’re united in love and prayer and purpose and mind and heart and spirit. “If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”6 God’s dynamics of the Spirit really operate amazingly! The Lord says that when one can only chase a thousand, two can put ten thousand to flight.7—D.B.B.
No matter what else you’re doing you can always be praying
You don’t have to be down on your hands and knees to be praying. In fact, in everything you’re doing you ought to be praying and looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith.8
Prayer is like breathing, just breathing the Holy Spirit all the time. Stay in constant communication with the Lord, constantly thinking about Him, and you will be anointed and spirit-led in everything you do. If you’re praying about what you’re doing and asking God for wisdom, He has promised to give it to you.
The Lord can save you a lot of work, a lot of trouble and a lot of time if you’ll pray first before you start a job. Pray about it and ask the Lord to help you and lead you, even if it’s just a few words— “Jesus, please help me!” You can pray in a split second and get the answer back quick, but if you don’t take the time to pray, and you lean on your own understanding and your own wisdom, you’re apt to make a sad mistake.
So “pray without ceasing!”9 Ask the Lord about everything, every problem, every decision, and make sure you’re doing what He wants you to do. “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths!”10—D.B.B.
Once you’ve told the Lord exactly what you would like Him to do, you may feel the need to keep praying, but it’s unnecessary to repeat the same words over and over. That’s the perfect time to reinforce your prayer by claiming Scripture promises.
God has made promises in His Word. When you pray, remind Him of those promises. This shows you have faith in Him to keep His Word. It’s a positive declaration of your faith and your knowledge of the Word which pleases God.
If you are praying in a group, try taking turns reading selected Bible verses aloud in place of individual prayers. Or you could alternate short prayers and verses. Or one person can read appropriate verses from the Bible before or after your prayers. You may want to buy or make your own “promise box” (Bible promises on various topics which can be claimed in prayer) for this purpose. (You can also order Key Bible Verses, a booklet of choice verses from the Bible on a variety of subjects, arranged by topic.)11
Prayer in “tongues”
Speaking in tongues (the ability to speak one or more unlearned languages) is one of nine “gifts of the Spirit” which the apostle Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 12:8–10 and refers to again in the next chapter as “the tongues of men and of angels.”12 Sometimes these are earthly languages—tongues of men—but more often than not they are the heavenly languages of angels.
If you’ve been filled with the Holy Spirit but haven’t yet received the gift of tongues and would like to, you can by simply asking Him for it. Then exercise it immediately. Just ask Him to clear your mind, and start praising the Lord out loud and nonstop. Let go of your thoughts and your tongue, and let the Holy Spirit take over and speak through you. It may sound like gibberish or baby talk to you, especially at first, but the Lord knows exactly what the Spirit is praying on your behalf.
Speaking in tongues is a wonderful way of praying and praising. It’s mainly for your own benefit, for your encouragement, inspiration, and edification. It will thrill your own spirit.
Short, simple prayers throughout the day are good and needed, and the Lord hears them and answers accordingly. But when you are faced with a crisis or very important decision, you need more than that. All prayers should be sincere, of course, but not all prayers have the same level of intensity and fervency, because some situations are more serious than others. Sometimes you need to cry out to God in desperation, with your whole heart.
Desperate prayer that is full of faith can miraculously alter even the most difficult situations.
The Lord leaves a lot up to us and our concern and prayer
You’d be surprised how much God depends on our prayers, how concerned we are. When we’re faced with a needy situation, He wants us to show concern and pray specifically about it. If we really believe, every prayer is heard and answered. But if we don’t pray, it is not done. God can do anything, but He puts the responsibility of prayer on us.
The very intensity with which we pray and really mean it or desire it is reflected in the answer. The recipients of our prayers are not going to receive any more than we send. We have to visualize the people or situations we’re praying for, and pray for them with that thought on our heart, asking the Lord specifically for what we want Him to do.
Prayers are answered with the same intensity as they originate. Like a beam of light focused on a mirror, it will bounce back with as much power as it began with. If we only pray with half a heart, we only get half an answer. But if we pray with our whole heart, we get a wholehearted, strong answer.
Are you exercising your prayer power? Heaven will reveal what good we have done—or could have done—through prayer.—D.B.B.
A young country boy was keeping his sheep one Sunday morning. The bells were ringing for church, and the people from the village were flocking to attend, when the little fellow began to think that he, too, would like to pray to God. But what could he say? No one had ever taught him any prayer. So he knelt down and started to recite the alphabet—A, B, C, and so on to Z.
A man happening to pass on the other side of the hedge heard the boy’s voice, and looking through the bushes, saw him kneeling with folded hands and closed eyes, repeating, “A, B, C … ”
“What are you doing, young man?”
“But what are you reciting the alphabet for?”
“Well, I didn’t know any prayer, but I wanted God to take care of me and help me to care for the sheep. So I thought if I said all I knew, He would put it together and spell all I want.”
“Bless your heart, son. God will hear and answer. When the heart speaks right, the lips can’t say wrong.”
Sometimes I do not even pray in words,
I take my heart in my two hands
And hold it up before the Lord;
I’m so glad He understands.
Sometimes I do not even pray in words,
My spirit bows before His feet,
And with His hand upon my head,
We hold communion, silent, sweet.
Sometimes I do not pray in words,
For I am tired and long for rest.
My heart finds all it wants and needs
Just resting on the Savior’s breast.
Say to the Lord each morning, “Here I am, Jesus, my friend, my Savior, my teacher. I stand before another brand-new day. I know I’m not capable of anything on my own, so I ask You to fill me with Your love and strength for today. I can’t muster it up on my own, but You’ve promised that if I’ll only ask, You’ll fill me to overflowing with Your love to give to others. So here I am now asking You to fill me to overflowing with love. Give me enough love so that I can pass on a bit of heaven to those whom I’m with today—my family and friends, or others I meet. As I give a little bit of love, a little bit of heaven, I’m giving a little bit of You, Jesus, and that’s what I want: I want to give You. I want to reflect You. I want to share You and Your wonderful love with everyone.”
If you ask in faith, He will do it. He’ll answer your prayer and give you enough love and strength for each day, one day at a time.