You know you should pray. You want it; you need it. But you know how it goes. One of the following scenarios or something similar is pretty common:
- Life is distracting.
You get up early, enjoying the peace of the morning. You intend to get out of bed and spend those precious quiet moments in prayer.
You start saying, “God…thank you for today.”
And then you start actually thinking about today. Your mind starts racing as you’re walking through the morning mentally.
You feel guilty: ”Sorry, God, uhhhh…”
But before you know it, the kids are up, and you’re on the move. God will have to wait…maybe until tomorrow.
- You’re overwhelmed.
Your heart is heavy; you know you want to reach out to God. Maybe you have a quiet moment; maybe there is chaos surrounding you. Either way, you don’t even know what to say or how to start. Then distractions set in…you never really get back around to addressing that weight on your heart.
- You don’t know what to say.
You’re in a prayer or Bible study group. You listen nervously as others offer up their prayers, but you’re not really paying that close of attention because you’re trying to figure out what in the world to say when it’s your turn. When it’s time to open your mouth, you freeze, or you say something that sounds sort of religious so you can pass the baton on to the next person.
Friend, you’re not alone. I know because several months ago I wrote this post about how I have trouble focusing when I pray. Well, it turns out that thousands of people feel the same way. In other words, we’re all kind of a hot mess when it comes to talking to God.
And to make matters worse, it’s really easy to feel guilty about it.
After I wrote that post, I started being very intentional about the way I was praying. I came up with a four-week prayer guide. I’ve also been contemplating what prayer means and all the forms it takes.
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been praying your whole life or whether you are just starting out. We all start somewhere; and we all have something to learn. We are spiritual beings so prayer is natural; yet it is not necessarily something we just know how to do.
If prayer is your struggle, don’t feel bad about it! I found it helpful to study some of Jesus’ fundamental teachings on the subject (he had quite a lot to say about it). Beyond that, I’ve put together a list of prompts for when your mind is simply drawing a blank. They’re divided into categories based on different types of prayer. I’ve included some scriptures for reference in most but not all of the ideas.
In English, when we think of the word “prayer,” we often associate it with presenting requests to God and asking him for help. While that’s not wrong (as we’ll explore below), it’s not the whole story. In Hebrew, the word for prayer, hitpallel, comes from a verb that means “to judge oneself.” Keep that in mind when you read through the Psalms! Prayer can be a time to reflect on your heart and talk about it with God.
- Confession of your sins (1 John 1:9)
- Asking for forgiveness (Matthew 6:12)
- Asking for a pure heart (Psalm 51:10)
- Your honest feelings about your circumstances (including anger, despair, hopelessness and more). For a helpful study, read Lamentations. You don’t have to be happy-go-lucky all the time to be close to God.
Prayers of Praise
Sometimes it does the heart good to simply praise God. You could spend the rest of your life just praying many of the Psalms (try it!). Whether you’re praying the Psalms or just coming up with your own praise, you can think about:
- His love for you (Psalm 52:8)
- His goodness (Psalm 145:7)
- His holiness (Psalm 29:2)
- What he’s done in your life and others’ (Psalm 9:1)
- His Word (Psalm 119)
- His creation (Psalm 19)
Prayers of Thanksgiving
Gratitude is scientifically proven to have multiple psychological benefits. No wonder the Bible tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18). You can be thankful about virtually anything, but here are some ideas:
- Your relationships
- The community you live in
- Your work (Colossians 3:23)
- Your freedom
- Things that make you smile or laugh (Psalm 68:3)
- Forgiveness (Romans 7:25)
- Your trials (yes really—because they’re strengthening and refining you James 1:2–4)
I don’t know about you, but I’ve made some pretty silly prayer requests. But Jesus does say, “Just ask!” (see Matthew 7:7–12). It usually isn’t hard to come up with requests, but just in case you need some prompting:
- Things you’re worried or anxious about (Matthew 6:25–34, Philippians 4:6)
- Your basic needs (Matthew 6:11)
- Your craziest dreams (Mark 11:23)
- To increase your faith (Luke 17:5)
- Wisdom (James 1:5)
- Spiritual strength (Ephesians 6:10–17)
Prayers About the Kingdom of God
The Lord’s Prayer says “Your kingdom come, your will be done.” There are a lot of ways to pray about that! Consider praying about:
- Your government and leaders (Romans 13:1–6)
- Church leaders (Hebrews 13:7)
- Worldwide and local missions (Ephesians 6:18–20)
- Social injustice (racism, poverty, etc)
- The impoverished and suffering
- The persecuted
- The church and/or ministries you are a part of
Prayers for People in Your Life
This might be the easiest thing to pray for, but sometimes it’s also easy to forget! I recommend making your own list, but here are some ideas to get your started:
- Your spouse and your marriage relationship
- Your kids (their faith, their trials, their education, their relationships…)
- Your parents
- Friends who are believers, near and far
- Friends who are not believers
- Your local community
I don’t know about you, but I feel like I need to get busy! If you found this list helpful, you might enjoy my free 7-day guide that walks you through the basics when it comes to prayer.
Since this is the ultimate list, what would you add? Please lead a comment and I will update this post periodically 🙂
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