Prayer Requests and Learning How to Pray

Can You Pray in Your Head?

  • Whitney Hopler Contributing Writer
  • Updated Jan 31, 2022
Can You Pray in Your Head?

Do you have to pray out loud for God to hear your prayers? Or are silent prayers also effective? Praying in your mind, rather than by speaking words, seems more appropriate than verbal prayers in certain situations – such as in your private devotional times with God, or during crises when finding the right words is challenging. But can you pray in your head with confidence that God hears you?

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Can You Pray in Your Head?

You can pray in your head. God hears your silent prayers, because God is always with you and aware of what’s happening in your life. Moreover, God has given you the freedom to express your prayers in any way that works best for you.

Joshua 1:9 assures you that, “… the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”. By focusing on God’s constant presence with you, you can offer a prayer to God in your mind anywhere and anytime. There is no need to worry about attracting God’s attention to your prayers. God is aware of all you do – including praying. In fact, God wants to have an ongoing conversation with you through prayer. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 urges you to “Pray continually”, while Philippians 4:6 urges: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything…”. It’s not possible to pray constantly if you have to verbalize every single prayer. So, how can you carry out an ongoing conversation with God, as these Bible verses are encouraging you to do? You can do so by choosing a prayerful state of mind – which sometimes involves praying in your head. In that state of mind, you focus your awareness on God and “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). You welcome God into all your experiences and ask God for his guidance and intervention in every situation. You turn your thoughts about every situation in your life toward God, and pay attention to what messages God wants to send to you. This ongoing conversation involves both silent and spoken prayer.

You have the freedom to pray in whatever ways work well for you. As 2 Corinthians 3:17 says, “… where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Sometimes, you may choose to pray silently, in your head. That’s always fine, and sometimes that’s what’s best.

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How Does God Hear the Prayers in Your Head?

God knows your thoughts, and because of that knowledge, God hears all the prayers in your head.

Even before you speak a word, God knows it completely, since God perceives your thoughts wherever you are. Psalm 139:1-4 reveals: “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.” Hebrews 4:12 says that the Word of God “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” As God judges thoughts and attitudes – both bad and good – he responds to them. “The Lord detests the thoughts of the wicked, but gracious words are pure in his sight” (Proverbs 15:26).

So, can you pray in your head? The answer to this is: God hears your prayers on all occasions, whether you’re praying out loud or praying silently in your mind. You can be confident that God will hear the prayers in your head as he listens to your inner thoughts.

Not only does God hear and respond to prayers in your head, but he also helps you express them whenever you need assistance putting your prayers into words. Romans 8:26 says, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

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Are Prayers More Powerful When They Are Spoken Out Loud?

Your prayers are all powerful. You don’t have to worry that praying silently in your head will diminish the impact of your prayers. In fact, sometimes silent prayers help quiet your mind and tune into God’s powerful presence with you. I’ve experienced many awe-inspiring moments sensing God’s presence with me during silent prayer. My book Wake Up to Wonder describes one time when I took a break from a stressful workday to pray silently in a local church’s sanctuary that is always open for prayer. The stillness in the church seemed to be embracing me with a sense of peace, which left no room for stress to linger. No other person was there with me, but God’s Spirit was there. As I prayed in my head, the words of Psalm 46:10 came to mind: “‘Be still, and know that I am God.’”

There are certain situations when speaking your prayers out loud makes more sense than praying them in your head. For example, when you’re praying with other believers in order to help each other, it can be especially encouraging to pray out loud so that everyone can hear. Prayer is a vital part of the fellowship of believers within the church. Acts 2:42 records that in early church gatherings, people “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” together. You may also prefer speaking prayers out loud when your emotions compel you to do so. Psalm 81:1 urges: “Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob!” Sometimes you simply feel like praying out loud as a way of emphasizing your enthusiasm, vocalizing your concern, or expressing other types of messages to God.

However, in other situations, it’s most appropriate to pray in your mind. For instance, you may find it’s best to pray silently when you’re in emotional pain. 1 Samuel chapter 1 records Hannah praying in anguish over her infertility. “Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard…” verse 13 says. God answered that prayer in Hannah’s head by giving her a son: Samuel, who grew up to become a faithful prophet and judge. It’s also best to pray in your head rather than pray out loud to draw other people’s attention to your prayers. In Matthew 5:5-8, Jesus reveals that God knows what you need before you even ask, and encourages private prayer: “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

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Can You Pray in Your Head? – A Personal Prayer Answered

In Wake Up to Wonder, I share a wondrous answer God sent to a prayer that I prayed only in my head. While on a trip to Israel, I broke away from my tour group to pray for the people of Syria, who were caught up in a tragic civil war nearby. I sat down, closed my eyes, and simply poured out my thoughts and emotions to God silently. I chose not to pray out loud because I didn’t want to interrupt our guide’s tour narration and distract my fellow travelers. But I felt compelled to pray, so I did so in my head. After a few minutes of heartfelt silent prayer, I opened my eyes and saw a magnificent white horse standing right in front of me. In awe, I gazed into the horse’s eyes and felt a strong sense of love and peace. I even felt that somehow, the horse had heard and understood my silent, yet fervent prayer. Then these thoughts came to me: God loves every soul in Syria completely. God’s heart breaks over the war there. God wants all people to have compassion on each other. God’s permissive will allows war to happen, perhaps to allow good to win over evil. The horse stayed for quite a while, but disappeared without a trace in the few seconds it took me to pick up a water bottle. What, or who, was that magnificent horse? That’s a mystery. However, I knew my silent prayer was effective. I hadn’t spoken a single word out loud, yet I was sure after that encounter that God had indeed heard and responded to my prayers simply through an exchange of thoughts.

Whether you pray in your head or out loud, if you trust God to answer your prayers according to what’s best, you can be sure that God will listen and respond. As 1 John 5:14-15 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.” Don’t hesitate to pray in your head the next time you want to communicate with God that way.

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headshot of author Whitney HoplerWhitney Hopler is the author of the Wake Up to Wonder book and the Wake Up to Wonder blog, which help people thrive through experiencing awe. She leads the communications work at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. Whitney has served as a writer, editor, and website developer for leading media organizations, including, The Salvation Army USA’s national publications, and (where she produced a popular channel on angels and miracles). She has also written the young adult novel Dream Factory. Connect with Whitney on X/Twitter and on Facebook

This article is part of our Prayer resource meant to inspire and encourage your prayer life when you face uncertain times. Visit our most popular prayers if you are wondering how to pray or what to pray. Remember, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, and God knows your heart even if you can't find the words to pray.

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