Learning to Pray: 10 Thought-Starters On Praying Effectively

Prayer is an essential part of our day as believers and our spiritual journey. It’s the way we talk to God. And it leads to God working in our lives and in the world. But even when you’ve set aside time, it’s not always easy to know how to pray effectively. 

What should I say? Is God really listening? These are some of the questions that can invade your mind when you start to pray. 

10 Tips to Pray Effectively 

1. Have faith

It can be hard to speak or think towards God when you can’t feel His presence. But you can’t wait for His presence to call out to Him. If we could see God or hear His voice out loud, if He explained every detail and answered every question and prayer immediately, it would no longer require faith. It would take no trust and no relationship. And that’s what God is looking for in His sons and daughters. 

2. Learning to pray daily

When we’re immature in our spiritual journey, we only pray to God when we’re in trouble or we want something. Of course, God loves to help us and give us gifts. But can you imagine how you would feel if your friend or son called you once a year just to ask you for something? We pray daily to build our relationship with God and get closer to Him. And learning to pray effectively helps us get closer to him.

3. Listen

Whenever I’m reading or studying the Bible, or using a devotion book, I ask the Father what He wants to say to me. I highlight the words and phrases that speak to me, and put bullet points in the margins for messages, principles or prayers He gives me. I use a journal to ask God questions and prayer I’m waiting for an answer to. 

4. Follow Jesus’s example

Jesus based his earthly life on connecting to and receiving love from His Father. He invested time in His relationship with His Father in knowing Scripture and in getting alone for solitude and prayer. He humbly chose to be publicly baptized by His cousin John and courageously chose to face the most intense temptation during 40 days in the wilderness.

5. Follow Jesus’ teaching

Jesus taught people to connect to His Father’s presence and love in prayer by learning to pray. During his most comprehensive recorded teaching (called the Sermon on the Mount), Jesus gave an invitation to all of us to connect directly to God and told us how to pray effectively. First off, He tells us what not to do. 

6. How not to pray

During his teaching, Jesus tells us not to pray in public or to babble like pagans, but to pray in secret instead. Basically, Jesus is advising us to make sure we’re praying for the right reasons—not to be thinking about how we’re viewed by others or by ourselves. It’s an easy trap to fall into, bringing you down the pitfalls of self-righteousness. Learning to pray helps us avoid how not to pray.

7. How to pray effectively

Jesus goes on to tell us how we should pray by teaching us the Lord’s Prayer. If you grew up going to church, you likely know the prayer well. But if you break down the elements of the prayer, you can follow Jesus’ directions in a more conversational way, instead of just reciting words to God. 

First, Jesus recognizes God as His Father. He gives up his own plans for the future to rely on God’s will, His perfect plan. That also includes our trust in God to take care of us (our daily bread) and His protection of us from temptation and Satan. Finally, He tells us to seek forgiveness from God, but to make sure we’ve forgiven others before we do so. 

8. Forgive others before asking for forgiveness for yourself

After teaching the prayer, Jesus advises, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others for their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

9. Put God in charge

Let’s go back to that second point of the Lord’s prayer: “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We must stop striving to run our lives and start taking the greatest step of all, to turn over ownership to God. The work to move me out of the way so God will work is prayer. Prayer is the greatest work because it invites God to do the work.

10. Learning to pray rightly

Understanding and learning God’s will is key to praying effectively. It shows us what is worth praying for, because it’s within God’s will. It could be asking God for an opportunity to bless others or share His gospel. Whatever it is, it will be something that brings glory to God.


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