How to Pray: A Biblical Guide to Prayer

Daily prayer is essential to a healthy Christian life. Learn why and how we should pray according to scripture.

Updated Nov 09, 2023
How to Pray: A Biblical Guide to Prayer

Table of Contents

What is Prayer?

Prayer is the elevation of the mind and the heart to God in adoration, gratitude, and a request for the spiritual and material things we need.  Our Lord Jesus Christ instructed us to go into our inner room and there pray to God the Father in secret. This inner room indicates the heart, the essence of our being.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." ~ Philippians 4:6

Prayer is doxology, praise, thanksgiving, confession, supplication, and appeal to God. "When I prayed I was new, but when I stopped praying I became old," wrote a renowned theologian of early Christianity. 

Prayer is the path to renewal and spiritual life. Prayer is strength, refreshment, and joy in communion with God. Through the grace of God and our disciplined efforts, prayer lifts us up to a mindful, loving communion with God in which everything is felt in a new presence of God's grace. Prayer becomes a personal dialogue with God, a spiritual breathing of the soul, a foretaste of the bliss of God's kingdom.

Daily prayer is essential to a fruitful Christian life. Learn why and how we should pray according to scripture.

How to Pray

Praying in the Christian tradition is a deeply personal and meaningful practice. While there are various ways to pray, here is a general guide on how to pray in the Christian tradition and beliefs:

  1. Find a Quiet Place: Find a quiet and comfortable place to focus and have a sense of solitude. This can be in a church, a dedicated prayer space at home, or anywhere you can be free from distractions. ~ "But when 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." (Matthew 6:6)

  2. Begin with Reverence: Start your prayer with a sense of reverence and an awareness of the presence of God. You may choose to light a candle or use other symbolic elements to signify the sacredness of the moment. ~ "Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe" (Hebrews 12:28)

  3. Adoration and Praise: Begin your prayer by adoring and praising God. You can express your love and gratitude for who God is and for His blessings in your life. Use words and phrases like "Heavenly Father," "Almighty God," and "I praise and worship you." ~ "Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name." (Hebrews 13:15)

  4. Confession: Confess your sins and ask for forgiveness. Acknowledge your shortcomings and seek God's mercy and cleansing. You might say, "Lord, I confess my sins and ask for your forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ." ~ "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)

  5. Thanksgiving: Give thanks to God for His grace, love, and blessings in your life. Express gratitude for specific things or events. For example, "Thank you, Lord, for my family, my health, and the love you show me daily." ~ "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

  6. Supplication (Petition): This is the part of your prayer where you present your requests and concerns to God. Ask for His guidance, help, and intervention in specific situations. Pray for others who may be in need as well. For example, "Lord, I ask for your guidance in [specific situation]. Please heal [name] and provide for [name]." ~ "Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints," (Ephesians 6:18)

  7. Intercession: Pray for others, such as family, friends, the community, and the world. You can also include prayers for peace, justice, and the well-being of all people. ~ "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people," (1 Timothy 2:1)

  8. Use Scripture: Incorporate Bible verses and passages into your prayers. You can use them to guide your thoughts and express your faith. For example, the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) is a model prayer given by Jesus. ~ "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness," (2 Timothy 3:16)

  9. Listen and Wait: After presenting your requests, take time to listen to God in silence. Be open to His guidance and speak to your heart. ~ “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10)

  10. Close in Jesus' Name: It is common in Christian tradition to close your prayer in the name of Jesus, acknowledging Him as your Savior and Mediator. ~ "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus," (1 Timothy 2:5)

  11. Amen: Conclude your prayer with "Amen," which means "so be it." This is a statement of faith, signifying your agreement with the prayer and your trust that God will respond in His way and time. ~ "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen." (Romans 11:36)

  12. Consistency and Persistence: Maintain a regular prayer routine. Consistency and persistence are essential in deepening your relationship with God through prayer. ~ "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9)

Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to prayer; it can evolve over time as your relationship with God deepens. The key is approaching prayer with sincerity, humility, and a desire to connect with the divine.

Types of Prayers

There are many different types of prayers in Christianity, but some of the most common include:

  • Adoration: Prayers of adoration are used to express love and reverence for God. They often focus on God's attributes, such as His power, wisdom, and goodness.
  • Confession: Prayers of confession are used to admit our sins to God and to ask for His forgiveness. They can be a powerful way to cleanse our hearts and minds and to start fresh in our relationship with God.
  • Thanksgiving: Prayers of thanksgiving are used to express gratitude to God for all the good things in our lives. They can help us to focus on the blessings that we have received and to appreciate God's love and care for us.
  • Intercession: Prayers of intercession are used to pray for others. We can pray for our loved ones, for people in need, and for the world as a whole. Intercessory prayer is a way to show our love for others and to ask God to work in their lives.
  • Petition: Prayers of petition are used to ask God for things that we need. We can pray for our own needs, as well as for the needs of others. Petitionary prayer is a way to express our trust in God and to rely on his provision.

In addition to these general types of prayers, many specific prayers are used in Christianity. For example, some prayers are said before and after meals, prayers that are used in worship services, and prayers that are used for specific occasions, such as weddings, funerals, and baptisms.

Prayer Topics and Examples

  1. The Lord's Prayer
  2. Hail Mary Prayer (Catholic)
  3. Morning Prayers
  4. Healing Prayers
  5. Prayers for Strength
  6. Prayers for Protection
  7. The Serenity Prayer
  8. Night or Evening Prayers
  9. Prayer of Jabez
  10. Sinner's Prayer

Bible Verses on How to Pray

Matthew 6:6 - But when 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.

James 5:16 - Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Romans 8:26 - Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Philippians 4:6 - Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Matthew 6:7 - “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.

Ephesians 6:18 - Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints

Mark 11:24 - Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

The Lord's Prayer

This is surely the most common prayer used by Christians. This prayer was given to us by Christ and is written in the Gospel of Matthew 6:9-13 as a part of the Sermon on the Mount and in the Gospel of Luke 11:2-4.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors;
and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Why Should We Pray?

As we pray sincerely within our hearts, we grow in prayer. By the grace of God, we experience the blessing of the presence of the Holy Spirit working within us. To experience the grace of God's holy love, to allow the cleansing and healing work of the Holy Spirit, and to use it as light and strength for daily living -- such are the fruits of true prayer.

Christ tells us in the Gospel of Luke, "how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13b). Pray for renewal and the growth of our souls. Pray to give thanks to God for all he provides in our life. Pray to seek forgiveness for our sinfulness as humility is a requirement for prayer. We are commanded to pray regularly in our life throughout the Bible:

"Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people." (Ephesians 6:18)

"And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart." (Luke 18:1)

"Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving." (Colossians 4:2)

Only the Holy Spirit can guide us to pray as we should. Just as a child learns to walk by walking, we can best learn to pray by praying, trusting in the help of God. Put your whole soul into your prayer and think about the meaning of every word. Be persistent in prayer and do not yield to carelessness or neglect. Strengthen your prayer through a lively faith in the Lord, a spirit of forgiveness toward others, and genuine Christian living according to God's commandments.

Pray with awareness – so that we can have a genuine connection with God.

Pray with humility – for this kind of prayer goes directly to the ear of God.

Pray with love and grief – with delight and thanksgiving, but also with authentic repentance and sincerity.

Pray from the heart – even if we pray with ‘the words of another’ they should be declared as if they are our own.

Pray with hope and total faith in God – because He knows our life.

4 Simple Steps for Prayer

If you're brand new to prayer and want some very straightforward instructions for getting started, follow these four steps:

Start with Simple Prayers

We might think we have to pray passionate, persuasive words for God to hear us, but in reality, He listens even to our shortest prayers. 

“The fewer the words, the better the prayer,” said Martin Luther. Isn’t that reassuring? We can talk to God in everyday language, just like we talk to a friend. We don’t have to pray long. God delights in a simple word of praise, like “Lord, I love you.” He treasures the anguished prayer of a mother when she calls, “Heal my child.” He answers the simplest request: “Lord, give me strength for today.” 

Read the Bible and Pray Over Verses

If you want to have a more effective conversation with God, read Scripture. Let David’s words in the Psalms enliven your prayers. Stop in the Gospels to pray over a verse that strikes you, asking God to work that truth into your heart. Let the words of Paul’s letters give you specific prayer requests for yourself and the people you love.

Make Prayer an Essential Part of Your Day

You should have a precise rule to pray both morning and evening. Stick to a schedule for praying. You are forming a discipline that is beyond what you will feel like doing. This is not a leisure practice but a path to be in fellowship with your God. You will need to have a distinct set of guidelines that you follow each time with no reasons for shortcutting them.

Focus on Each Word - Concentrate Your Attention on Praying

As you begin to pray, focus on every word of the prayer. Bring the meaning of the words into your heart. Do not rush through the prayers like you are in a hurry to get them over. Let them slowly enter into the depths of your heart with humility and awe of God

After you begin to recite your prayers, you will find that your mind will want to roam. While you are reciting the words of the prayer, your mind can jump to something completely separate. Don’t be worried, as this is natural due to the forces that do not want us to pray to God. Work to concentrate your attention. Recognize that when this happens, you are no longer praying. When your mind does wander, be gentle with yourself and go back and recite again what you said while your mind was elsewhere.

"How to Pray: 5 Practical Tips" -
"Daily Prayer Basics" -
"What is Prayer" -

Photo Credit: Unsplash's editorial staff is a team of writers with a background in the Christian faith and writing experience. We work to create relevant, inspiring content for our audience and update timely articles as necessary.

This article is part of our prayer resources meant to inspire and encourage your prayer life when you face uncertain times. Remember, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, and God knows your heart even if you can't find the words to pray.

Prayers for Healing
Morning Prayers
Prayers for Family
Prayers for Surgery

Prayers for Strength
Night Prayers Before Bed
Prayers for Protection
The Lord's Prayer: Our Father

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