Do you find it hard to pray? Whether you don’t know what to pray about, find yourself praying the same things over and over again, or just don’t know where to start, here are a few simple concepts to help jumpstart your prayer life.
Dear God, Please/Help…
One of the fundamental expressions of prayer is what is often referred to as supplication (Eph. 6:18; Phil. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:1 ESV). The word most often translated as supplication and sometimes as prayer (Luke 1:13; Rom. 10:1; 2 Cor. 1:11) describes an “urgent request to meet a need.”1 There is an aspect of prayer that is closely connected to the idea of begging or pleading (Matt. 7:7-11; Luke 18:1-5). The word supplication refers to something that needs to be supplied.
When we make requests or supplications to God, we are recognizing that we need something that God can more ably supply than we can. Through Christ, we can approach God’s throne of grace, “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Truly, Christians can say, “Our help in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 124:8). We should ask for His help as frequently as we can.
If you feel like your prayer life is in a rut, ask yourself what requests or supplications you can make to God. What can you ask God for? Maybe there is something that seems to be lacking in your life (necessities, peace of mind, financial security, etc.). Maybe there is a stressful situation at work, school, or in your home. Maybe you don’t even know what to say and all you can muster is “Dear God, please act.”
Certainly, all of us have some things that we need to ask God for—things that we can request. They might not be in the forefront of our minds, so “please” or “help” can be a helpful prayer starter when we are talking to the Father.
Dear God, Thank You…
The more we have been asking God the more we should be thanking God. No matter where you are or who you are, if you are a Christian, you have a reason to thank God. And, the more we ask God for, the more we can thank Him. Starting prayer with thanks is not only a way to jumpstart your prayer life, but it is a good way to stay in a positive mindset of gratitude. Sometimes we do ourselves a disservice by dwelling on the opposite of that which is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). Prayers of gratitude help us meditate on the good in our life and thank the One who is responsible for it all.
The Scriptures are filled with examples and commands for God’s people to be thankful and to give thanks. God should be thanked for His salvation (Ps. 118:21) and forgiveness (Isa. 12:1), what He’s done for us through Christ (1 Cor. 15:57; 2 Cor. 9:15; Col. 1:12), and our basic necessities and provisions (John 6:11; Acts 27:35; 1 Tim. 4:4-5).
All in all, Christians are to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18), abound in thanksgiving (Col. 2:7), and our prayers should always be accompanied with thanksgiving (Phil. 4:6; Col. 4:2). Sometimes we read what the Bible has to say about how thankful we should be and think, “that’s impossible.” But how often do we try to be as thankful as possible? God knows what’s best for us, and being thankful has proven benefits in addition to being what God commands. The next time you are not sure what to pray about, “count your many blessings, name them one by one” and give thanks to the Father.
Dear God, Forgive…
One of the many blessings of being in Christ and walking in the light is, “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). One of the most sublime blessings of being a Christian is having an advocate with the Father in Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1). We can go to the Father through Jesus and confess our sins to receive forgiveness.
The next time you are not sure what to pray about, ask yourself if there is anything in your life you need to repent of. Even if maybe there was no sin you’ve committed, maybe there is something you should have done that you didn’t (Jas. 4:17). It is good to get into the habit of asking God for forgiveness because “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Prov. 28:13). We should strive to be like David describing the blessing of his own forgiveness:
I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found (Ps. 32:5-6a).
A regular prayer life requires mindfulness and effort. Maybe you are struggling with getting into a regular habit of prayer. If so, I hope you find this list helpful. What are some things that you’ve found to help your prayer life? What phrases or requests help you get out of a rut in prayer?