I struggled with prayer for years. I wanted to be close to God, and I heard other people talk about hearing God’s voice and walking with Him. But when it came to prayer, I just felt awkward and I didn’t know what to say. I heard the prayers of others and was intimidated and thought, “Wow, I could never pray such beautiful and powerful prayers like them.” I didn’t understand that prayer is simply a conversation with God.
Until one day, a friend encouraged me to spend five minutes a day trying to pray. She said,
“The reason it feels awkward is because God is a stranger to you. You’ve heard about Him. You’ve accepted Jesus but you haven’t truly developed a relationship with Him yet.”
Many people are where I was. They want to develop a relationship with God, but struggle with the aspect of prayer. First, remember that those Christians who have such beautiful and powerful prayers did not start praying the way they do today. No, it took time and intentionality to steward the discipline of prayer.
Push Through the Awkwardness
It might be helpful to think of your early prayers as a sort of “blind date”. Naturally, you’re going to feel awkward—you don’t know God yet. Not deeply and personally.
But if you take the time to push through the initial awkwardness and continue meeting for regular “dates” (e.g. prayer time), then you’ll develop a relationship. A deep, abiding relationship that sustains you through life’s storms. One that comforts you in your darkest moments and reminds you that you always have a friend who will never leave.
Getting to this point takes time and intentional effort. But there are things you can do to develop and even strengthen your prayer life…
Understand What Prayer Is
The idea that prayer is a conversation with God sounds so simple on the surface. But when you first start praying, it can feel more like a monologue. After all, you’re talking, but you’re not hearing anything. Or are you?
It’s easy to miss God’s voice, because He doesn’t always respond right away or in the exact manner we’d hoped. You might pray about money worries, only to find twenty dollars later in the day when you’re at the grocery store. By this point, maybe you forgot about your prayer.
Perhaps you pray about a friend’s upcoming surgery, and don’t think about her speedy recovery. Yet these are answered prayers. You simply weren’t aware of them.
Ask the Holy Spirit to Open Your Eyes
Start your conversations with God by asking Him to open your eyes to the way He’s working in your life and the lives of those around you. Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you and make you aware of all the answered prayers that are happening. I have learned that prayer does not have to be this eloquent extravagant speech filled with pretty words and poetic song and verse. Prayer is simply having a heartfelt conversation with God, just like you’re talking to your best friend or Father. There is no perfect format or style, just talk to God.
He already knows every thought you have ever had and ever will have anyway. He just wants to hear your voice and build an intimate relationship with you. Some find it easiest to keep a prayer journal and write their prayers down. Others find it helpful to simply keep a list of what they prayed over. Make sure to add the date to your prayers. Later on, you’ll be able to look back and see how God has answered every request you’ve made.
Every Prayer Is Answered
Some Christians assume that if God did not give them what they asked for, the prayer is unanswered. Yet God always answers His children. Every single time. Every single prayer. In all history, there has never been nor will there ever be a prayer unanswered.
Every prayer is answered. Not every prayer is answered in the way we’d hoped or in the timeline that we’d hoped. Perhaps you prayed to be married by twenty-five. Maybe you prayed your daughter’s illness would be cured.
God could answer your prayers for a godly spouse when you’re twenty-seven or even fifty-seven. God could answer your prayers for your daughter’s illness after she’s suffered for five, ten, or even twenty years.
This is where the difficulty of prayer happens. It’s easy to let doubts distract you. You might even be tempted to ask, “If I don’t get what I want, what’s the purpose of prayer?”
God Is Not a Vending Machine for Prayer
Sadly, there are some Christian communities where praying to God is presented as a type of vending machine. If you say the right words at the right time, then poof, God will grant your wish!
The problem with this approach is that prayer is about developing a relationship. A relationship with the Creator of Heaven and Earth. The one who knit every one of your cells together, who knows you more deeply than you know yourself (Psalm 139:13-14).
In a healthy relationship, you have freedom to say “yes” or “no” to someone else’s request. You can say “yes” if you want to cook dinner this evening. You can say “no” if you’d rather go out for dinner instead.
God gave us the beautiful gift of free choice. Yet many Christians don’t feel this same freedom should be applied to their relationship with God. They feel that God’s every answer to their prayers should automatically be “yes”.
When you’re always expecting God to do what you want when you want and how you want, you’re not seeking a relationship with Him. You’re seeking a transaction. This is dangerous ground and creates space for disappointment and disillusionment.
God’s Will Prevails
This is a hard truth to accept, especially when you’re praying for what seems to be in line with His will. You’re not approaching the request like a vending machine. You know that God has the free choice to say “no”. You understand this truth.
But you’re praying for what you know based on Scripture to be His will. Perhaps you’re asking God to restore your marriage or deliver your spouse from alcoholism. Maybe you’re begging Him to heal your child from a horrible disease.
Still, years or even decades may pass with God continually saying, “no” to your request. There are many reasons God denies us what we truly want.
Sometimes, it’s to grow your faith, such as He did with Joseph. At the end of over a decade of hardship, Joseph was able to confidently proclaim,
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)
Other times, God has already granted your request, but it is an issue of timing. Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, longed for a child of her own. But it wasn’t until she was late in life that she was granted this.
The reason had nothing to do with Elizabeth and everything to do with the timing of her request. God planned to use John the Baptist to go before the Messiah (Luke 1:17).
However, regardless of how God answers your prayer, you can rest confident in one thing. God will always do what’s best for you, as evidenced in Romans 8:28.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Why Should I Bother Praying?
At this point, you might wonder why you should bother praying. After all, God will do what He knows is best, and He’ll work everything out for your good. There’s no real point in having conversations with God.
But there’s an interesting moment recorded between God and King Hezekiah in Isaiah 38:1-8. In it, the king has become very ill, and the word of the Lord reaches him, telling him that it’s time to get his affairs in order.
Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord,
“Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. (Isaiah 38:2-3)
Soon after this, another word from the Lord arrives. In this one, Hezekiah is told God has heard his weeping, and he will be granted another fifteen years of life, as well as having his health restored.
It’s a fascinating event, because it shows that God can be swayed by the prayers of His people. God may plan a certain course of action, but because of your prayers, He may choose a different one.
No one can know the mind of God. It’s simply too vast to contemplate. But again and again, Scripture shows that God can and does adjust His plan based on the requests of His beloved children (that means you!). Those conversations with God can bring about big changes and result in answered prayers.
Conversations With God Start with Sharing
In many ways, we can look at conversations with God simply as “sharing”. Maybe you share how your day went with your kids, your spouse, or even your pet. Perhaps you share about a fight you had with your co-worker or a funny moment that happened at school.
If prayer is a conversation, then start with sharing. Tell God about your day. Let Him know what happened—whether good or bad. Ask Him for what you need. Maybe that’s wisdom to know how to navigate a tricky project at work, or perhaps you need strength to continue caregiving for an ill family member.
At first, it may not feel as if God is listening to you. You may hear only silence, and in the silence, it’s tempting to believe that God is ignoring you or has forgotten you. But consider this: when you’re truly listening to someone else, aren’t you silent? Don’t you give the other person space to speak?
You’re not ignoring the other party. You haven’t forgotten them. You’re simply respecting their right to speak.
It’s the same concept with God. What you interpret as a silent dismissal is God patiently bending close to hear your words. He delights in hearing from you, and He loves to listen when you speak. His silence may be that He is simply waiting on you to speak.
God Is Never a Passive Listener
As you develop an active prayer life, you’ll begin to see how God responds to your requests. David recorded an interesting moment in Psalm 18.
“In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” (Psalm 18:6)
David talks about God hearing his prayers, but then he makes another beautiful point in the next verse. He talks about how smoke poured from God’s nostrils, how God was furious on his behalf.
It’s tempting to believe that God is a passive listener. You may think of Him as this kindly grandfather who listens to your prayers, before patting your head and sending you on your way without actually doing anything.
Yet Psalm 18 is a powerful reminder that God is never passive. He is always active. He is always working on your behalf. This means you can rest assured that when you pray and have a conversation with God, He is not ignoring you. He is listening to your words, and they are spurring Him to act.
What About When I Can’t Pray?
The topic of prayer is well and good. A conversation with God is a wonderful thing to have…but what about the days when your heart is too full to pray? When life has once again knocked you down, and it seems as if you’ll never rise again? What do you do on those days?
In these moments, it can be helpful to remember Romans 8:26,
“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.”
The Holy Spirit that lives within you as a child of God is interceding on your behalf. On the days when you can’t find the words, when the pain is too deep, and the waves of anguish continue to batter your heart, know this: the Holy Spirit is praying for you.
In this moment, the Holy Spirit is communing with the Father, sharing your deepest longings and your sharpest hurt. He is pleading for exactly what you need, even when you are silent.
Calling Out the Name of God
Some Christians find it comforting to just begin calling out the name of God in these moments. Like a child crying for their Father, repeat His name again and again. You might use a comforting term of endearment, like “Daddy” or “Abba” or “Papa”.
Cry out like the beggars on the side of the road who yelled out the name of Jesus. It’s recorded in Scripture that each time the destitute and weak called out, Jesus stopped. He paused whatever He was in the middle of to listen to those who needed Him the most. He was never too busy to hear and heal.
Journaling What Cannot be Spoken
Sometimes when I feel I can’t open my mouth in prayer, I will journal instead. It is in those moments of journaling out my raw heart that the Holy Spirit takes over. I can release what could not be spoken and draw closer to God through journaling in the secret place with Him. God sees your heart, and He also sees what you write in your journal, the same as if you spoke it aloud. When you journal, your heart speaks and God listens. Journaling is still a way to have conversations with God.
Approach God Boldly
When you talk to God, pray boldly. Come to His throne in full confidence. Not as a beggar hoping for scraps of affection. Arrive instead, knowing that you are a beloved child of God. You come not as a beggar, but as an heir.
In Hebrews 4:16, Paul instructed the children of God to…
“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Not only should your approach be bold, but also your prayers. Phillip Brooks said,
“Pray the largest prayers. You cannot think a prayer so large that God, in answering it, will not wish you had made it larger. Pray not for crutches but for wings.”
Prayer is a conversation with God. It’s a wonderful, deep conversation that has the power to change you, change your situation, and even change the world. But more than all that—more than any results or changes you see—it’s the beautiful beginning of a deep and abiding relationship with the One who created you. That’s worth everything.
21 Bible Verses on Prayer:
I want to leave you with a list of 21 Bible verses on prayer. Don’t just read them here and dismiss them, look them up in your Bible and study out what God’s Word has to say about prayer. The Bible is living and active, there is so much more to God’s Physical Word (The Bible) than merely reading words on a screen. There will never be a more important topic to study than prayer. Prayer is the pathway to a deep and intimate relationship with God Our Father. Prayer helps cultivate time in the secret place with God. All relationships are built on communication, and God is no different. You will never have a relationship with God without Prayer. Without a relationship, you simply have religion!
On the days when you’re not sure how to pray or even what to pray, remind yourself of these powerful verses from Scripture…
- “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” – Jeremiah 29:12
- “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” – 1 John 5:14
- “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4
- “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” – Matthew 21:22
- “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” – Jeremiah 33:3
- “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” – James 1:5
- “As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.” – Psalm 42:1 (NLT)
Interceding for Others
- “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” – Matthew 18:19-20
- Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. – Acts 7:60
- “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” – James 5:16
- “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” – Jeremiah 29:7
- “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” – Matthew 5:44
- “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” – 1 Timothy 2:1 (NLT)
- “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” – Ephesians 6:18
- “Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” – Psalm 50:15
- “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7:7
- “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6
- Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” – Isaiah 35:4
- “You, LORD, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry…” – Psalm 10:17
- “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” – Jeremiah 32:27
- In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!” Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help. – Psalm 31:22
God Longs to Hear from You
Imagine the joy and delight of hearing from your best friend after ten years of silence. You would be thrilled to hear from them. You would be overwhelmed with joy.
In the same way, God also rejoices to hear from you! It brings a smile to His face when you show up in the throne room. He rushes forward to hear from you. In excitement, His voice booms, “Welcome child! I have long awaited to hear your voice. Tell me everything!”