By Melinda Eye Cooper, Crosswalk.com
There’s no exact way we should start a prayer. God wants to hear from us even if we’re unsure how to begin.
As Christians, we’re in a relationship with an all-knowing God. He loves us more than we can even imagine. Because of Jesus, we can go to God as a loving Father who cares about the smallest details of our lives. He wants us to tell Him about our life struggles and to make our requests known to Him. He already knows what we’re going through. Sometimes we already know what our own children are going through too, but we still like to hear about it from them.
It can feel a bit intimidating to pray especially if we’ve heard others pray who’ve been doing it for years.
Sometimes, getting started can be a problem if we’re a new Christian or new to prayer. Especially public prayer.
Are There Different Ways to Start a Prayer?
If we look to Scripture as our example, we will find some prayers beginning with an acknowledgment of God’s authority and power.
Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” (Samson’s prayer found in Judges 16:28)
Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” (Hannah’s prayer found in 1 Samuel 1:9-11)
I tend to begin prayers with Heavenly Father because that’s who He is to me.
Starting our prayer with praise is always great because He’s worthy of our praise.
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” Psalm 100:4
What about the Lord’s Prayer Model?
When I was young, Dad would sometimes invite me to pray with him and would lead me in the Lord’s Prayer. He’d say a line of the prayer and then have me repeat it. This was a great example given to me as a child.
We can’t go wrong following the example Jesus gave His disciples when they asked him to teach them to pray.
“‘This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ (Matthew 6:9-13)
Again, we see the acknowledgment of who God is in the example Jesus gave the disciples. Another word for hallowed is holy.
It’s a great prayer template to follow – not necessarily word for word, but as a guide for our own prayers.
- Approaching God with reverence for who He is.
- Being yielded to His will here on earth.
- Making our requests known to Him.
- Asking for forgiveness and help in times of temptation
Why does it Matter How We Start a Prayer?
God is perfect, Holy, and just. He always has our best interest at heart. If you know Him, you also know He deserves to be addressed with honor and respect.
It doesn’t matter how we choose to address Him as long as we’re acknowledging how greatly we respect Him for everything He’s done for us (Some of which we are completely unaware of).
Whatever we request in prayer we need to find a place of balance between our hopes and His will. Asking for what we want but knowing God’s way is best. His way may not include exactly what we desire.
Have confidence in God’s answer to our prayer even if it’s not what we asked for. We want His will in our lives just as it is in Heaven.
It’s not always God’s will to heal a loved one or for us to get a particular job we desire.
There’s a popular song about God’s unanswered prayers and how they are some of His greatest gifts to us. The truth is our heartfelt prayers don’t go unanswered. They may not be answered in the way we imagined but God will answer them in the best way for us to grow closer to Him. Guaranteed.
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)
What Should Be in the Middle?
When we know God has been merciful toward us and given us great grace, we want to thank Him. It comes naturally when we recognize our need for Jesus. We’re thankful for God’s perfect plan of salvation prepared for us and our hearts are full of gratefulness.
Often, when we feel drawn to pray, we simply thank Him for everything He’s done for us. Then pour our hearts out to God, sharing our burdens with Him.
The middle might be muddled because we may be distressed and that’s what has drawn us to pray. We may be brought to tears as we pour out what’s weighing on our hearts and minds so heavily, trusting God to take care of our troubles.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
In our distress, the Holy Spirit may step in and pray on our behalf. Maybe we can’t find the words to express our deep sorrow or heartache. Maybe all we can do is weep at the feet of Jesus and release grief.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)
He already knows about our distress but wants us to go to Him with everything. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
How Should a Prayer End?
Have you ever heard a public prayer that goes on and on until we wonder if it will ever end?
People begin drifting, peeking around the room, and checking their watches. Instead of simply speaking to God from their heart, the one praying seems to be seeking attention from others for their ability to continue a long-winded prayer. It’s a turn-off to many, even Jesus.
It’s important to have a humble spirit when approaching God.
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:6-8)
A heartfelt prayer should end almost the same as it begins. Instead of praising the Father for who He is, we honor God’s Son – Jesus.
We often hear prayers end with some variation of ‘In the name of Jesus, Amen.’
There’s no better name to pray through. His name is powerful, mighty, and full of authority. Making our humble requests known to God through the powerful name of Jesus Christ honors Him and shows our trust is placed fully in Him.
Truly, God wants us to go to Him and hears us when we pray.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes
Melinda Eye Cooper grew up in the Missouri Ozarks but lives near Nashville, Tennessee. She and her husband have three sons, two daughters-in-law, and three beautiful granddaughters – and a spunky dog named Lincoln!
Melinda writes articles and devotions. She also writes fiction and is currently working on a middle-grade fantasy novel. She grew up in a large family, and many of her devotions and stories are inspired from her childhood.
This article is part of our Prayer resource meant to inspire and encourage your prayer life when you face uncertain times. Visit our most popular prayers if you are wondering how to pray or what to pray. Remember, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and God knows your heart even if you can't find the words to pray.