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4 Simple Ways to Stop Worrying about How to Pray

Dr. Roger Barrier

Dear Roger,

I’m a new Christian, and I got invited to a Bible study. Everyone in the circle prayed a nice prayer, but when it came to my turn, I didn’t know what to say. Please help me.

Sincerely, José

Dear José,

It's time to get serious about prayer.

COVID-19 is running wild as it kills hundreds of thousands and stymies a worldwide economy. Riots and racial tension make news every day. Hurricanes have been smashing into Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. Fires have devastated the western states. Some white supremacy groups have set a goal to bring down the United States government. Oregon has decriminalized the possession of cocaine.

Personally, I pray for the protection of our republic. There’s little doubt that the Constitution, which has served us well for over 300 years, is under attack. I’m concerned that our nation is divided to the point of destruction.

Many Christians are praying for the health and success of our entire world. However, in some ways, what happens to our world is dependent upon the actions of Christians as described in 2 Chronicles 7:13-14;

When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Most Christians never get serious about prayer until a problem arises in their lives.

How many Christians pray consistently? Unfortunately, my experience is that most Christians pray very little. If we were to receive $10 a minute for the time we spent in prayer each week, most of us would be unable to buy groceries.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/leolintang

Jesus Focused on Prayer at All Times

1. Early in the morning:

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. – Mark 1:35

2. All night:

Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spend the night praying to God. – Luke 6:12

3. Before choosing the Twelve Disciples:

Jesus spent the night praying. … When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated as apostles. – Mark 3:14

4. When life was unusually busy:

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. – Luke 5:15-16

5. When He was healing and casting out demons:

The people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sicknesses, and he laid his hands on each one and healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people. – Luke 5:40-41

6. During His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane:

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.' – Matthew 26:36

7. On the cross:

From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ...My God my God why have you forsaken me? Matthew 27:46

What Is Prayer?

It’s simpler than you think. Prayer is simply talking with God.

The only prayers that the disciples knew were those of the Scribes, Sadducees, and Pharisees. Their prayers were filled with pride and endless repetition. These men knew very little, or perhaps nothing at all, of the heart and character of God.

On the other hand, the disciples heard often the prayers of Jesus. They were so fresh, passionate, and relevant.

So, one day they said, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).

So, He did: “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name” … and continued praying what we call “The Lord’s Prayer.”  

The astounding thing here is that no one had ever called God, “Father.” Jesus’ prayers were compassionate, gentle, purposeful, and full of humility! He was talking with His father in heaven.

Most Christians learned how to pray from listening to others. As a child, I always hoped that the pastor would not call on Mr. Long to pray the closing prayer at church. He seemed to pray on and on forever. I thought that’s why his name was Mr. Long. But now I know better.

I really learned to pray watching and listening to the prayers of my mother and father. Sometimes, when I got up really early, I would peek around the corner of the bedroom door to see my father on his knees in prayer.

During high school, my prayer life really improved. The leader of our group recommended that we put a chair in front of us and imagine that Jesus is sitting there. Then, just talk to him, as we would chat with each other. I still do that.

5 Simple Truths to Help You Pray

These five simple truths have always helped me to pray:

1. Prayer is like talking to your best friend.

2. Prayer is “family talk.”

3. God is not someone we fear. He’s our father.

4. Have a nice chat!

5. Prayer really isn’t that hard.

It was raining the first time that Tom Terry ever went to church. Riding his motorcycle by our church one Sunday night, he was intrigued as he passed by a parking lot full of cars. He wondered what could be so interesting. So, he turned around and came to church.

We were having an evangelistic service, and 25 or 30 people responded to the Gospel, coming down front to meet with our counselors. I was still surrounded when it was time for the service to end. I pointed to Tom and said, “Why don’t you lead us in a closing prayer.” I thought that Tom was one of our counselors.

I have forgotten what he prayed, but I recall it was very, very short, something like, “God help us all.” I like to think that he prayed the same prayer as the Philippian jailer during the earthquake, “Lord save me!” But I doubt it.

Tom and I still laugh about that moment. He and his wife Diane ultimately joined Campus Crusade for Christ. Tom now oversees the Jesus Film ministry, which has reached millions all over the world with the life-transforming Gospel.

Prayer plays a powerful part in bringing God’s invisible power to bear on a visible world.

stack of four blocks in palm four ways to prayPhoto Credit: ©Getty Images/Gajus

Four Prayer Models You Can Use Right Now

1. “ACTS” is an acrostic that covers most everything that we need to pray.

“A” stands for adoration (praise)

“C” stands for confession

“T” stands for thanksgiving

“S” stands for supplication (requests)

2. Pray the Scriptures.

For example, pray Philippians 4:4-7:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I’ll say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Then, take a moment to enjoy the peace of God.

Or, pray Philippians 3:10-11:

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Ask God to set your heart and mind on becoming a spiritual mother or father at any price.

3. Pray in the mind.

Praying in the mind is where most Christians spend their time praying. Often, this includes making a prayer list of requests that we’re asking God to care for or grant. A prayer journal helps to keep track of what we’re praying for, which prayers are answered, and how.

Praying in the mind often involves worship, songs of praise, hymns, and spiritual songs which teach theology, give glory to God, and draw us closer to the heart of Christ.

It’s easy to allow the mind to wander. We must turn our attention back to God whenever we lose focus.

Praying in the mind refers to our constant thinking about things that need prayer and dealing with them accordingly.

Praying in the mind also means that we cultivate the art of quieting our thoughts so that we can hear God speak:

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in his heaven and you are on the earth, so that you were to be few. As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speaks of a fool when there are many words. – Ecclesiastes 5:1-3

Isaiah spoke for God in Isaiah 30:15, “In quietness is your strength.”

4. Pray in the Spirit.

Paul wrote:

I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind. I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind. – 1 Corinthians 14:15

Praying in the Spirit often occurs after we have prayed in our minds, gotten quiet, and listened for God to speak deep within our human spirit—the inner shrine where God dwells.

The Holy Spirit often brings to mind people and events that need our prayers that we had no way of even knowing about in the first place.

We often feel the intercession of the Holy Spirit when we can’t put our feelings into words.

Praying in the spirit occurs when we are communicating Holy Spirit to human spirit. Paul wrote:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans with words cannot express and he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. – Romans 8:26-27

Jesus shared the same truth:

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the father seeks. God is spirit and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth. – John 4:23-24

Theologian St. Augustine declared, “I lost much time in the beginning of my Christian life by trying to find God outwardly rather than by looking within.” And pastor Lloyd Jones wrote, “Our ultimate position as Christians is tested by the character of our prayer life.” I agree wholeheartedly!

Well José, I hope you find my answer helpful. May you be fervent and powerful as you come to the Lord in prayer.

Love, Roger

Related: Listen to our podcast, Teach Us to Pray with Christina Patterson. You can find all the episodes at LifeAudio.com. Here's Episode 1:

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

Ask RogerDr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his 35-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.

Editor's Note: This Ask Roger article features insights from Roger's daughter, Brie Barrier Wetherbee, a sought-after Bible teacher and conference speaker, author, analyst, and Christian theologian. 

Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at roger@preachitteachit.org.