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Prayer Requests and Learning How to Pray

What is Prayer?

  • Betsy de Cruz Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
What is Prayer?

Do you ever feel like you have to pray just right, or it won’t work? Have you felt like your prayer wasn’t answered because you didn’t have enough faith or pray long enough? I’ve felt that way too. Maybe that’s because we make prayer too hard. So often, we make it all about us finding the perfect words and approach. We think we have to pray just right for God to hear and respond.

Yet Jesus reassured his disciples with these words: “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” (Matthew 6:7-8). 

Prayer Isn’t a Formula You Have to Get Right

God’s hearing our prayers doesn’t depend on our praying long enough or hitting upon the right phrases. Prayer is an invitation to come before our Heavenly Father who knows our needs and longs to hear our voices. God hears and responds to us because He is faithful and has compassion on His children. 

My prayer life grows deeper when I take a few focused minutes to pray each morning like Jesus did (Mark 1:35). This gets me in the right frame of mind to keep praying later in the day. I’m learning that prayer can be simple and natural as breathing.

Prayer isn’t a ritual that depends on closing our eyes and putting on holy faces. We don’t have to kneel or sit. We can pray while walking, driving, or working. God responds to a two word cry for help in the middle of a busy afternoon, just like He does to a focused prayer time after reading Scripture in the morning. Praying doesn’t have to be complicated. God delights in any simple words we offer Him.

Prayer gives us the opportunity to relate to God in these 10 ways:

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1. Talk with God

1. Talk with God

As believers in Christ, we have an amazing privilege; our Heavenly Father invites us to talk to Him! In Jeremiah 29:12, He invites His children to speak and promises to listen: “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” We can read God’s Word and talk to Him in the morning to align our hearts with His at the start of the day, and we can also talk to Him as we go about our daily routines.

We may think we have to pray with fancy words, but prayer is just talking to God. Throughout the day, God longs to hear our simple prayers:

  • Thank you for this breakfast, Lord.
  • Help me stay calm in this traffic jam.
  • Lord, help me love this person right now.
  • God, will you show me what to do?
  • Lord, I love you. Be with me.
  • Goodnight, Lord.

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2. Praise Him.

2. Praise Him.

Earlier this year, I read a devotional series based on the Lord’s Prayer, and I realized I’d let praise slip away from my prayer life. Yet when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He taught them to start with praise: “Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy” (Matthew 6:9).

For several weeks I tried an experiment; I began my morning prayer time praising God for His power, greatness, majesty, and love. I saw several positive results. The first one was that I knew my praise honored God and put me in right relationship to Him. The second was that praise built my faith. When I remembered God’s amazing attributes and power over all creation, my confidence in Him grew.

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3. Be quiet before Him.

3. Be quiet before Him.

We think of prayer as talking, but any relationship involves listening as well as talking; we can even be quiet in the presence of someone we love. Psalm 46:10 tells us, “Be still, and know that I am God,” and sometimes our souls just need to get still in God’s presence to remember His glory, power, and love. When we quiet our hearts before Him, we put ourselves in a posture to receive what we need from Him.

When we sit quietly in God’s presence, we’re better able to listen. What if we echo the words of 1 Samuel 3:9, “Speak, LORD, your servant is listening”? Of course, listening to God is subjective, and we can never be 100 percent sure it’s His voice we’re hearing, but when I ask God to speak to me, I’m often surprised by that still, small voice I recognize: a thought that comes to mind, a Scripture I read, or a word of wisdom a friend gives me.

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4. Ask God to change your heart.

4. Ask God to change your heart.

The word “repentance” used to make me cringe because honestly, I didn’t want to remember my own sin. But I’m learning that calling my sin to mind, confessing it to God, and asking Him to change me ushers in spiritual renewal. Acts 3:19 holds a promise for us: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” When we acknowledge our sins, God moves in to restore and renew us.

Lately in my morning quiet time, I pray along with the words of Psalm 139:23, 24.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way” (NASB).

I often jot down a simple list of sins that come to mind and ask God to change my heart. 

  • When I confess worry, God’s Spirit brings peace.
  • Where I repent from irritability, God renews my patience.
  • When I confess anxiety due to an overwhelmed schedule, God points out my next steps.

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5. Tell Him your needs.

5. Tell Him your needs.

Although prayer is so much more than asking God to help and provide for us, our Heavenly Father does indeed care deeply about our needs and longs to supply them. Philippians 4:6 entreats us, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (NLT).

When we come to God in faith, asking Him to supply our physical and spiritual needs, we can trust He hears us and will provide. Try a 30 day experiment; keep a list of needs you pray for and look back over it from time to time. Add notes in the margins as you see God’s answers. Your faith will grow as you remember His faithful provision.

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6. Present others to Him.

6. Present others to Him.

As Christians, we have the awesome privilege of participating in God’s work by praying for other people. Although we often neglect it, our most powerful and effective ministry as Christians is prayer. We can impact our children, friends, family, and loved ones as we pray for them.

I have a tendency to worry about the people I love, and when I don’t worry, I try to control situations and make them better through my own efforts. Yet all my worry won’t change a thing, and my tired efforts will always fall short. When I turn those worries into prayers, I’m calling on an all-powerful, always-loving God to intervene and to work His will in situations and people I’m powerless to change.

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7. Thank Him.

7. Thank Him.

As we pray, let’s not forget to thank God for what He’s already done in our lives. When was the last time you thanked God for sending Jesus to die for you? Have you thanked Him recently for the gift of His Holy Spirit? When we thank God for the many spiritual blessings we receive, it honors Him and opens our eyes to the abundant life He’s giving us.

Thank him for everyday blessings like your dog’s faithful friendship or your child’s smile. Thank him for answering your prayers. What if we make it a point to thank God for what He’s already done before we ask Him for something new? If you’re having trouble seeing things to give thanks for today, ask God to open your eyes to abundance and gratitude.

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8. Ask for guidance.

8. Ask for guidance.

Do you ever feel confused about what to do next? Ever find yourself in a situation that looks impossible? Prayer provides an opportunity to ask God to guide us. Whether you face an important life decision, need God’s wisdom for a tough situation at work, or just need to know how to respond in a difficult conversation, God’s Holy Spirit will show you your next step when you ask Him for guidance.

We can pray along with these reassuring words:

“In you, Lord my God, I put my trust… Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, And my hope is in you all day long.” (Psalm 25:1,4-5)

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9. Ask for empowerment.

9. Ask for empowerment.

When I feel particularly tired, it’s often because I’m running on my own strength, but I’m learning to stop and ask God for help. My own reserves of strength will only get me so far, and exhaustion serves as a warning signal that I’m running on empty. God promises to empower us by the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. 

Maybe God has called you to do something that looks way too big. Perhaps you’re facing a tough situation that leaves you feeling weak. Maybe you’ve been walking through a time of trial and you’re wondering how you can possibly take one more step. Ask the Lord to fill you with His power despite your weakness. Ask Him to give you the strength you need to take one more step. Call on Him to give you the power to live for Him today.

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10. Turn your heart toward God.

10. Turn your heart toward God.

Finally and most of all, prayer is an opportunity to turn our hearts toward God. We have the amazing privilege of coming before the Lord of the universe. “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” (Psalm 145:18). When we call on God and turn our hearts to Him, He sees and hears us; He is with us.

So whatever your need today, friend, look to God. Don’t wait for the perfect time to sit down and pray. Don’t wait until you have the perfect words. Let’s lift our voices to God in the morning quiet, on the way to work, and while we walk the dog, make dinner, or go shopping. All it takes is a few words. Let’s turn our hearts towards God in prayer today. He longs to hear us.

Betsy de Cruz writes to encourage women to get God’s Word in so they can live their faith out. She finds that sticking close to Jesus saves her from pulling her hair out when life gets crazy or discouraging. Betsy’s free guide, 10 Days to More, shows readers 10 ways to do devotional Bible study. It’s available at her blog, Faithspillingover.com, where you’ll find Bible study and prayer tips, as well as encouragement for family life and everyday faith. You can also find Betsy on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. 

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