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Learning How to Pray for Beginners

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Learning how to pray for beginners can be so intimidating. If you are a new believer or you are new to prayer you may see the act of coming before the Lord of all creation as being so “far beyond you”.

Do we have the right to ask God for things? Are we even good enough to dare approach Him?

Well in this post we are going to discuss learning to pray for beginners or even if you are someone who has been a believer for some time but feel as though your prayer life just isn’t where you want or need it to be.

We are going to address some common myths and misunderstandings about prayer AND about God and get you on the road to praying powerful and effective prayers!

a woman praying and text that says Learning How to Pray for Beginners

How to Pray Using the Bible

Prayer isn’t just about asking for things. Prayer can be an opportunity to grow in our understanding of who God is and how he operates, so we want every aspect of prayer – whether it’s petitioning or praising Him – to line up with what his Word says on the matter.

The Bible provides us with countless examples from which we can learn these truths, as well as many scriptural prayers (as in the Psalms) taught alongside powerful principles that will help guide your words when speaking with Him.

At the end of the day, prayer is a conversation with God. It is not a laundry list of requests that we present to Him but a conversation had WITH Him.

The Bible is our only offensive weapon in the spiritual armor mentioned by Ephesians 6.

The Sword of Spirit, is always at our side and can be used to fight against all sorts of lies told to us through words or actions taken by the enemy without permission from God.

When we pray from the Bible, we not only pray TO God, we pray FROM God. We pray the very words of scripture and, in doing so, we pierce the armor of the enemy himself.

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The remainder of what we see in Ephesians 6 is armor. The Helmet of Salvation is listed WITH the Sword of the Spirit and that is because we put ON Jesus and all the promises of God through faith in Jesus AND we use the Word which the enemy cannot in any way dispute.

Praying words from the Bible accomplishes something else. It gives us the words to say when we have none.

The Holy Spirit Prays for Us When We Cannot

It was right after September 11th and my church held a prayer service.

I am a New Yorker so what happened on 9/11 affected me on a very personal level.

I had friends, former co-workers and even family at the World Trade Center that day. In fact, my own cousin is a true hero and, as an officer, risked her own life to save others and has since suffered (and defeated) cancer due to the aftermath of that day.

I spent days afterwards in tears and fearful of any loud noise I heard. I felt like any loud sound meant another attack.

So the day after 9/11 when things were still very raw, I was notified about this prayer service.

I felt attending would be helpful and hopefully somewhat healing (as it was still only a day afterwards).

We broke out into groups to pray and each of us was to take a turn and when it came time for me to pray, I had nothing.

I had been sobbing since the events happened, I was sobbing when I entered the church and I had been sitting and sobbing through the words of everyone in my group, sometimes sobbing uncontrollably, and I had nothing left.

I watched those two buildings go up as a child. I was an extra in the movie King Kong that was filmed there (it was the scene when he was lying at the foot of the Word Trade Center) and in my later teens, I spent many a day sitting outside in the courtyard there and my friends and I used to actually hide from each other and chase each other around the buildings.

So on top of all the loss of people and all the worry about my friends and family, I watched part of my childhood collapse. I was shaken on so many levels.

On top of that, I learned that two people I knew from the martial arts school I owned, a young 4 year old girl and her mother, passed away on one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center. They were on their way to Disney Land.

So I paused, looked up and took a deep breath, and started praying words from the Bible. I prayed Psalm 91 and I prayed other verses that I had memorized that just came to me in that moment.

I didn’t have the words to say but God did. The Holy Spirit spoke the Word through me when I had nothing but sobs.

And His Word promises us that, doesn’t it?

Romans 8:26-27:

“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. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

ESV

The Spirit intercedes for us when we don’t know how to pray but it also says He HELPS us in our weakness and one of the ways He does this is by recalling for us the Words of scripture. This is why the Bible tells that David hid the Word in his heart so that he would not sin against God.

“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

Psalm 119:11

If we hide His Word in our hearts, as David did, we know what God expects from us but we also know how to pray according to His will and not our own.

Praying the Bible offers us prayers from David and other people like him with hearts just like ours.

They struggled against pride, fear, haughtiness, anxiety and sin just like we do so we can lean on their prayers and also praying as Jesus taught His disciples, and not worry about whether our prayers are in line with God’s will.

Adoration and Thanksgiving

Psalm 100:4 says:

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving

    and His courts with praise!

Praise Him, bless His Name.”

TLV

We should always give God praise and honor for just being God. We should thank Him for all the blessings we have in life and His answer to prayer, but we need to praise Him even when we don’t get the answer we would like.

The Bible tells us, in 1 Thessalonians 5:18:

“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

ESV

It says to give thanks IN all circumstances. It doesn’t say FOR all circumstances. It is referred to as the sacrifice of praise for a reason; sometimes it takes us laying our own wants and needs on the altar and giving them over to the Lord.

It sometimes means our fleshly wants and needs have to perish and we need to birth new wants and needs that are conceived by the Word.

In the ACTS Prayer Method, adoration comes before all else. We praise Him because He is worthy of it just for who He is. Period.

How to Pray for Beginners – Understanding That Prayer is a Conversation

I have a blog post called Prayer is Being in Conversation With God so I won’t go into this too deeply here. If this is something you want to dive deeper into, I would suggest that post.

But I will touch on the important points for you here. Prayer is conversation, plain and simple.

You can read a hundred posts on how to pray for beginners but I can sum it up for you right here; talk to God. It is REALLY that simple.

You do not need eloquent language or flowery talk. You don’t need to sit a certain way or fold your hands.

It is a conversation you have with your Heavenly Father. He wants you to talk to Him from the heart.

Now as you learn to memorize scripture, you will naturally incorporate that into your prayers and that is so beneficial when you don’t have the words (as in my 9/11 prayer meeting above). But heart to heart conversation is really what prayer is all about.

Simply talk to the Lord and tell Him what is weighing on your heart. He knows the answer already! He just wants you to sit and spend time with Him and tell Him what your fears, your hopes, your struggles and trials are.

But like any good conversation, it has to flow in both directions.

You should not just always dump a list of requests on God and then run off and go about your day. Yes, there are times that necessitate that.

We might be dealing with an issue like a health concern where we need to just pray and ask God for help. I am not talking about those moments (and David had plenty of them) of crying out. I am taking about as a general rule.

We need to stop and take the time to listen to what God may be speaking TO US. We need to listen for that still, small voice that gives us guidance and direction.

You might be surprised to learn that many of my blog post ideas, including the very content within some of them, comes out of my time in prayer.

During those quiet moments of listening, God has spoken to me (no, not audibly but in my head and my heart) and given me exact words at times.

The more time I spend with Him in prayer and specifically in the listening, the more often this happens because I become attuned to His voice.

hands folded in prayer with Romans 8:26-27 quoted in the ESV for post on learning how to pray for beginners

How Do I Know it is God’s Voice and Not My Own (or the Enemy)?

Jesus used the imagery of sheep and their shepherd to illustrate this “knowing”.

John 10:27:

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. “

ESV

We hear His voice through His Word and through experience as we begin spending time listening and then measuring what we “hear” against the Word. We need to make sure it does not conflict with the Bible. That is the one KEY way of knowing if something is from God or not.

God will NEVER EVER EVER contradict His Word. If what you believe you heard in prayer goes against the Word, it is not from God.

Test it against the scriptures.

Any spirit that contradicts the Word of God is not OF God, plain and simple. And this is why it is so important to learn what the Bible says and hiding the Word in your heart.

Some people will tell you that “to them” the Bible says this or that. There is no “to them”. The Bible is truth and there is one way, one truth, one life. Truth is not fluid and neither is the Word so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Pray Without Ceasing

So what if you have been praying for something but you don’t seem to be getting an answer?

There is a line from a song called Let Us Pray by Steven Curtis Chapman that says:

And just because we say the word, “Amen”
It doesn’t mean this conversation needs to end
.”

When we say the word “Amen” at the end of our prayer, the conversation shouldn’t end. We need to keep praying!

I always say that prayer is not an act, it is a lifestyle. It is not something we “do”, it is how we live. I cannot even tell you how many prayerful moments I have during my day because many times, I don’t even consciously realize I am having them.

While I may set aside one longer conversation during the day where I sit and speak with the Lord, prayer is something that happens all day long.

When I say “Amen”, that conversation continues. I might be driving and the Holy Spirit might tell me “Don’t go that way.” or I may go to respond to a comment and God will speak to my heart and say “Nope…be a little gentler.”

I have a whole blog post on a lesson God showed me from a simple cup of coffee one morning! God WILL speak to you so let that conversation continue!

I always say that prayer is not an act, it is a lifestyle. It is not something we “do”, it is how we live. #prayer #praying Click To Tweet

These are all continuations of a conversation I began before I even got out of bed.

In Judaism, it is common to say a prayer from the Siddur called Modeh Ani as soon as you awaken that says:

I give thanks before you, living and eternal King, for You have returned within me my soul with compassion; great is Your faithfulness.

As a Jewish believer, I still say this prayer when I wake up and it is the beginning of a day of speaking to and with the Lord.

And I am willing to bet that you have FAR more prayerful moments throughout your day than you even realize too.

How to Pray for Beginners – Learn to Wait

Patience is definitely not my greatest virtue. This can definitely be true of me in prayer too.

I am not going to sugarcoat it and tell you that waiting on God is easy because it is not. I am not going to tell you that it gets easier with time because it really doesn’t.

When we are desperate for an answer, waiting is tough!!

But it IS something we have to learn to do (again, learning to wait and it being EASIER to wait are two different things).

God’s timing is not our timing and His way of getting us there is not OUR way of getting us there.

Part of praying and then BELIEVING is trusting that God will answer our prayer HIS way, in HIS time, the way HE deems best and sometimes my friend, the answer is ‘no’.

God has a plan and a purpose for each and every one of us. He knows when situations are good for us and He knows when they are not. But we also have free will and we can sometimes get in our own way!

We need to let God be God and submit ourselves to Him and His will and trust that He will work things out for our benefit in the end.

Some answers to prayer just take time and we have to be willing to wait. And while we wait, we pray and pray some more!

Start the Conversation

Prayer is not some formal act that requires certain protocols. Just speak and listen.

You are approaching your loving Father. He requires no special stance or ritual. He just wants to hear from His beloved.

So when asked by someone how to pray as a beginner, I simply say “Just start talking…God is listening.”

Start the conversation. Sit down right now and just talk to Him. He is just waiting to hear from you!

Be sure to get your ACTS Prayer Method Workbook below as my gift to you!

ESV  –  “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

Tree of Life (TLV) – Scripture taken from the Holy Scriptures, Tree of Life Version*. Copyright © 2014,2016 by the Tree of Life Bible Society.  Used by permission of the Tree of Life Bible Society.

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