What’s the Right Way to Pray?
So very many books, articles, sermons, and podcasts have been written about prayer. It’d be easy to think there’s nothing left to say… and maybe there isn’t anything new. But I see a growing angst and confusion all around me about how to pray in the midst of personal and worldwide crises.
When you let issues around or within overwhelm you, prayer can feel like climbing a mountain. Moments of doubt have bombarded all of us: Am I saying the right words? Are my prayers doing anything? Am I being heard? How do I pray?
I often hear others say they don’t feel comfortable praying — in a group, with a close friend, or even while alone. Sadly, a self-consciousness clouds what is meant to be the most beautiful experience we can have: a conversation with our Creator.
You see, prayer isn’t so much about petitioning, although you will petition God at times. Prayer isn’t about trying to get God’s attention. His eyes have never left you. You don’t have to convince God to help you; He’s been leaning toward you since before you took your first breath. No, prayer is more about you leaning toward Him.
Isn’t That Too Simple?
- Leaning toward God?
- How do I even do that?
- And isn’t prayer a bit more complicated than that?
Well, yes, there’s more to it than just leaning toward God, but this simple posture does more than you could ever imagine. Leaning in — mentally, emotionally, even physically — to the God you can’t see somehow opens a door for you to begin to see Him. When you lean in, you’re telling Him you’re willing.
You’re willing to listen.
You’re open to see from His perspective.
You’re stepping beyond yourself and the physical world around you.
Many people avoid silence. It can be very uncomfortable. But try leaning into the pregnant pause. Be still. Stop talking. Stop listening to all the other sounds and voices around you. Pause and listen to the silence, and then give God the floor. Give Him the microphone. He doesn’t need one, but when you mentally hand one to Him, He helps you hear what before seemed silent.
What Does God’s Voice Sound Like?
God speaks in so many ways. Personally, I’ve heard Him speak through dreams, visions, scripture, nature, numbers, circumstances, audibly, and other people. But most often He speaks to me in my mind with thoughts or pictures as I’m listening and/or writing. I love this description from author and teacher Mark Virkler:
“God’s voice sounds like spontaneous thoughts that light upon your mind while your eyes are fixed on Jesus.”
Jesus tells us in John 10:2-5 that His sheep know His voice. James 1:5 encourages us to confidently ask God for wisdom because He gives it generously. Jesus prayed in John 17 for you and I to be one with the Father even as He and the Father are one. All of these point to a relationship of conversing back and forth.
Hearing God is important to your prayer-life because the most powerful prayer you can pray is to agree with God. To agree with His character, teachings, and words in the Bible. But also to agree with how He’s praying in this very moment.
But What If I Don’t Have Hope?
How do I pray when I don’t have hope? I still choose to position myself to listen. When I focus my thoughts on Jesus, read His words in the Bible or in my journal, worship, and allow Him to lift my eyes to see the higher truth I’m missing, hope begins to flow through me again.
I’ve come to believe hope is one of the most valuable gifts God gives. When I let my hope become overshadowed by circumstances or emotions, it feels like life is draining from me. My head begins to bow in discouragement, and I’m unable to see the truth before me.
Romans 15:13 is one of my favorite reminders of where hope comes from:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” NIV
When I don’t know how to pray, when hope is waning, listening to His voice lifts my head again. To see Him. To hear truth. To know there’s more to the story. To set my gaze and agree with Him in my prayers. To trust.
Prayer as a Lifestyle
The more often you lean in, the more often you listen and agree and allow God’s Spirit to fill you with His wisdom, truth, and perspective — replacing old thought patterns for new and drawing you to joyful obedience — a few things will happen:
- You’ll experience the joy God feels toward you.
- Overwhelming issues will shrink in comparison to God’s majesty.
- Hope will flow continually through you, by the Spirit of God.
- You’ll notice how conversations with God come with increasing ease and faith.
There are no dead-end roads for God. He can step over any mountain and show you how to, as well. He longs to lift your head and hear your words joined with His. He delights in partnering with you.
Summary: How Do I Pray When I Don’t Have Hope?
- Lean in.
- Focus your thoughts on Jesus, picturing Him with you.
- Listen and write down the thoughts/ pictures that light upon your mind.
I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions below. And if you want to take your prayers to a new level, please check out Pray Forward: prayers that align my will to Yours. This collection of 80 prayers draws you deep into the heart of God, directing your emotions, opinions, and focus into alignment with the One who knows all and is wholly for you.