how to pray

How to Pray When You Don’t Know What to Say

When you were a child, you were probably taught to pray as Jesus did, by saying, “Our Father, who is in Heaven, hallowed be your name…” or whenever you went to bed, with the standard “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord, my soul, to keep…” Or before we ate, the classic: “God is great, God is good, Lord we thank you for our food…”

And if you prayed consistently, you probably repeated and recycled those same three prayers like an old college t-shirt. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with repeating prayers, but after saying the same prayers a few hundred times, our prayers can become routine, and potentially meaningless if we’re not careful. So, how do you pray when you don’t know what say? It’s easy, just remember the word PRAY.

P is for PRAISE.

Simply start by praising God for who He is and what He’s done for you. I’m talking about the little things we often take for granted: the air in our lungs, the beat of our hearts, the blood in our veins, the strength in our bones, and even the sane thoughts in our head. And I haven’t even mentioned your marriage, your children, your family, and the other people you love. Just ask yourself, “What does God mean to me?” and “What has he done for you?” Now praise and thank Him for it.

R is for REPENT.

Did you mess up? Did you make a mistake? Did you mistreat someone? Then simply ask God to forgive you for it. The more specific you are about the offense, the more heartfelt your prayer will be. Don’t hide from it. God knows you did it. He just wants you to fess up to it. Tell God you’re sorry, and let Him know you take full responsibility for it. But remember, repenting isn’t just apologizing. It’s having a sincere change of heart. So, after you finish praying, don’t repeat the thing you asked God to forgive. But even if you do, God expects you to ask Him for forgiveness again.

A is for ASK.

We should all be familiar with this part of praying. This is when you ask God for what you want. The Bible says in Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it will be given to you, seek, and you will find, knock, and it will be opened for you.” That doesn’t mean God is just going to give us everything or anything we want. It just means if we ask for what we want according to God’s will, we can expect to receive it or trust Him if we don’t. And what God wants for us is to “love him with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbors as we do ourselves” (Mark 12:28-34). So, when you pray, ask God for things that will help you do either of those two things better.

Y is for YIELD.

Not only are we to ask God for things that He wants for us, but we must also ask Him to help us yield to the way He wants us to do it. Loving our neighbors as we do ourselves; forgiving those who’ve wronged us; serving strangers who can’t return the favor; giving up what we want to help give others what they need; making time for others when we don’t have a lot of time; and other things that require a sacrifice of time, energy, and resources aren’t easy to do. That’s why when we pray, we should ask God to help us yield to His way of doing things. Ask Him to give you the right attitude to do the right thing, even when it’s hard. His will be done, not ours.

If you remember and follow this simple acrostic (PRAY), yes, the structure of your prayers will be the same—but trust me, you’ll never say the same prayer twice.

Sound off: Why do you think prayer can be a struggle?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “If you could pray for one thing today, what would you choose to pray for?”