How to Pray When You Don’t Know How Pray
Just as a father lets a young child help with projects – in order to help the child learn – God lets his children help with his projects too. He could accomplish his purposes alone, but he chooses to let us help for relationship and so we can learn.
There are times when we all don’t know how or what to pray, but when we struggle to pray we end up depending more on other people than on God. Really, every prayerless day is a statement that you don’t need God that day.
“The shortest distance between a problem and a solution is the distance between your knees and the floor.” — Dr. Charles Stanley
Good News and Bad News About Prayer
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. — Romans, 8:26, ESV
The apostle Paul includes himself in this statement: we do not know what to pray. As humans, we have a weakness when it comes to prayer. Even the disciples couldn’t tarry one hour with the Lord, which should encourage us when we feel like we’re “bad” at prayer.
The good news is that God takes your feeble attempt and does far more with it than we could even imagine.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us … — Ephesians 3:20, ESV
God just wants to talk to you. He’s not looking at your flowery, eloquent language—he’s looking at your heart. And if your heart is to partner with him, he will take your tiny, weak prayer and do far more than you can ask or think with it. The only way you can “fail” in prayer is to not do it.
How to Be Confident in Prayer: 3 Keys
We’re told to pray with confidence.
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. — 1 John, 5:14-15, NIV
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. — Hebrews 4:16, ESV
We can be confident, not that we will get what we want, but that we will get what we need for three reasons:
1. Our God has Limitless Resources
If we understand that our Father has limitless resources, we can ask with confidence.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure. — Psalm 147:5, ESV
God has access to anything and everything we need, but limitless resources alone is not all we need to understand how to pray with confidence.
2. Our God has Limitless Wisdom
A rich person with no wisdom does not inspire confidence. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways. — Romans 11:33, ESV
Many of us are thankful, today, for past prayers that God did not answer.
Elijah, being hunted down by a crazy queen, prayed for death, but God knew what he really needed was some food and nap.
Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” — 1 Kings, 19:3-4, ESV
He prays a pity party, but the Spirit interprets and God answers what Elijah really needs.
And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. — 1 Kings 19:5-6, ESV
3. Our God is Generous
Our father is not only rich and wise, he is generous with his children.
He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. — Ephesians 1:7-8, NLT
This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God. — 2 Corinthians 9:10-11, MSG
We can pray with confidence because the God we pray to is generous.
The best of our prayers will always come up short, but that’s why we have the Holy Spirit to help us. God takes our weak, little prayers and does more with them than we could ever ask or think. The only way to mess up prayer is to not pray, so just start. Just pray.
Photo cred: Mourad Saadi