If you’ve ever struggled to know how to pray, you’re not alone. My husband and I led a small group of young adults last year, and many of them were brand new to church and to Jesus. They were also brand new to prayer. For the first several months of the group, he and I would pray aloud to open and close our time together. After a while, we started asking members of the group to lead in prayer. Often this prompting was met with some feelings of apprehension or inadequacy; after all, doing anything for the first time can be awkward or nerve-wracking, especially when it involves “church” stuff. But what began as nervousness or uncertainty of how to talk to God became some of the purest, most sincere prayers I’ve ever heard— especially when they laid aside the pressure to sound important or smart or holy, and just laid their hearts out, bumbling and bare before God.
Jesus knew that we would need help learning how to pray. His way of teaching us to pray is simple, but it is powerful. The prayer Jesus lays out in Matthew 6 (often called the Lord’s Prayer) is not flashy or long. It is a humble recognition of God’s holiness, submission to God’s will, and request for God’s power, provision, and forgiveness. As we learn how to pray, this is the best place to start (and a great place to come back to!). We can literally pray the Lord’s prayer as Jesus said it, or we can pattern our prayers in the same way: adoring God, asking for His help, confessing our sins and finding His forgiveness, and submitting to His will in our life.
As we grow in faith, we grow in prayer. Our prayers might sometimes be long, pleading or praising for extended time about specific things. Our prayers might sometimes be short, as simple as “help!” or “thank you.” The good news is, God wants to hear them all.
There’s no perfect way to pray. The best thing you can do is just start.
Pray through the Lord’s prayer. If you know it by heart, that’s great! If not, try memorizing it from Matthew 6:9-13.