How to Pray to God
I simply want to recommend four resources to help you to pray. One is essential, and the other three are very helpful.
- The Bible – It is surprising how many people separate reading their Bible from their prayer life. The two naturally go together. We should pray before we read, pray as we read, and pray after we read God’s Word. One simple acronym I learned from John Piper is IOUS. Before I read God’s word personally, I recite the following verses from the Psalms.
- “Incline my heart to your testimonies” (Ps. 119:36). Here, I’m asking the Lord to stir up within me a desire to hear from him as I read his word.
- “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Ps. 119:18). Here, I’m asking the Lord to provide insight and understanding as I read his word.
- “Unite my heart to fear your name” (Ps. 86:11). Too often we come to God’s word with a divided heart. We are distracted by many things. In this request, we are asking that the Lord help us to focus our heart upon his word that we might have an appropriate reverence for it.
- And finally, “Satisfy me in the morning with your steadfast love…” (Ps. 90:14). I want to come away from my reading of God’s word filled with gratitude at the reminder of his goodness and love.
Then, I follow my reading plan (usually with the help of an audio version). If something particularly stood out in my reading, I might go back and pray through that passage. But this is something we have to learn with practice. It’s not easy to simply turn a passage of Scripture into prayer. So here’s a few tips:
- Start with the Lord’s Prayer. It provides a thematic structure that is really helpful. You’ve probably heard the acronym ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). Someone taught that to me when I was younger. Each of those categories are found in the Lord’s Prayer. The Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechism takes time to explain how we might use each petition in the Lord’s Prayer as a guide in our own prayers. There is a wealth of wisdom provided in those catechism answers.
- Once you are comfortable with praying through those categories in the Lord’s Prayer you can turn to the Psalms and try to turn the words of the psalmist into your own words. Borrow the theme and even the language, but don’t feel like you have to pray every verse. The next resource will help you practice this approach.
- Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney. The problem with our prayer life is that we typically fall into a rut of saying the same things. We might be convinced that we need to pray more, but we simply don’t know what else to pray. The solution is to learn the language of Scripture, especially the Psalms. Let me just read one example he gives in praying through Psalm 23 (“The Lord is my shepherd…”).
Lord, I thank you that you are my shepherd. You’re a good shepherd. You have shepherded me all my life. And, great Shepherd, please shepherd my family today: guard them from the ways of the world; guide them into the ways of God. Lead them not into temptation; deliver them from evil. O great Shepherd, I pray for my children; cause them to be your sheep. May they love you as their shepherd, as I do. And, Lord, please shepherd me in the decision that’s before me about my future. Do I make that move, that change, or not? I also pray for our under-shepherds at the church. Please shepherd them as they shepherd us.
He continues to work through the next few verses of that Psalm turning it into his own prayer. It is really helpful to see examples like this as you are first starting out. I’ll provide a link in the description for you to purchase this book. I highly recommend it.
A similar tool, much older, and really good is…
- A Way to Pray by Matthew Henry, edited by O. Palmer Robertson. This book was first published in 1710 under the title, A Method for Prayer, with Scripture Expressions Proper to be Used under Each Head. Matthew Henry has done a great service to the church in providing a wealth of examples for praying on various subjects. And I’m grateful for this updated edition from O. Palmer Robertson.Again, let me provide one example of the prayers in this book on the relevant subject “When a plague of infectious disease strikes your land, cry out for the Lord’s mercy.”
Bless our bread and our water, and take sickness from our land. Deliver us from the pestilence that threatens to engulf us. Command the destroying angel to put his sword into his sheath. Be moved to pity when you see our calamity, and restrain your hand of judgment. Exod. 23:25; Psa. 91:3; 2 Sam. 24:16.
He provides so many examples in this book, it is worth keeping close by.
Finally, I recommend…
- Echo Prayer App I primarily use this to keep track of the people who have asked me to pray for something specific. It is simple and clean and helps rotate through the various requests on a regular basis.
Now, you could easily spend hours praying to God using these various methods and tools, but they can also apply to you if you only have 5-10 minutes. Regardless of how long you can spend in prayer, I encourage you to use God’s word as you do. Learning to pray the promises of God helps to guide our minds and guard our hearts. And we need that help every day.