How to Pray to God
A prayer Guide
Often I hear people saying something like this: "I really had a hard time, so I needed to pray to God. I just don't know how to do it."
Well, this is far from unusual in our postmodern society. The distance between the church and most secularized people is increasing which results in ignorance when it comes to spiritual matters.
Only few decades ago you could take for granted that people in the western world were able to cite The Lord's Prayer by heart. Not so today. Many people cannot cite only one single prayer. No wonder they may feel lost when they are in a situation where they really need to pray.
Maybe you have found this article because you are in exactly that situation? If so, I encourage you to continue reading, as I'll try to answer your questions as best as I can.
A secret God-language? Forget it!
One of the main obstacles for praying is the mistaken assumption that there is kind of a special "language" you have to use when addressing God. As if there were certain old fashioned, solemn formulas you had to use to qualify your words as a real prayer.
Fortunately it isn't so. If you read the Bible, you 'll see that even Jesus himself prayed spontaneously in a plain language.
But what about The Lord's Prayer, then? Isn't the Lord's Prayer kind of a formula? Well, not really. It is true thet Jesus commanded the disicple to pray this way, and it is true that this prayer has been used and memorized for centuries. But this very prayer was indeed intended to avoid prayers with long formulas: And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words, Jesus says in that context.
Talk to God like you talk to your friend
In fact praying is - at least in principle - easy. Imagine that you are sitting in front of your best friend. When talking to him are you considering if there a certain ( old-fashioned? ) words you have to use if you want him to listen? Of course, you aren't. Since he is your best friend you'd talk to him in a plain way, using common words.
Now, God wants to be your friend. And you can talk to God like you talk to your friend, using plain words, even saying "eh" and "you know" now and then! Easy, right?
In other words when you want to pray to God you can ask God to help you excaltly as if you were asking your friend to help you.
When it becomes difficult ...
Now, you already know how to pray, and some might say that I could just as well stop writing now: Mission completed!
I wish it were that simple! Unfortunately it isn't. Becuase sometimes people are in a mood - due to the circumstances of their life - where they just can't pray. Not becuase they don't know that they can talk to God as if it was to their best friend. Oh yes, they know that perfectly well. But they may be that depressed, that angry, that apathetic or that weary that it is impossible for them to express themselves iin a prayer.
I remember when I was staying at a Bible School that our prinicpal once said to us: "If you feel you are not able to pray, in the end you can always say The Lord's Prayer." Wise words, telling us why the Lord's Prayer has been - and still is - so valuable to so many people. The Lord's Prayer is in many respect almost universal. Let's take one of the prayers in The Lord's Prayer: Give us this day our daily bread. In the end this is not only a prayer about loaves, but in fact covering any prayer for anything we are in need of.
That's why I would say that even if there is no such thing as a special prayer-language and even if you can talk to God like to a friend, it is still recommended to learn The Lord's Prayer by heart. Are there circumstances in your life where you find it hard or even impossible to pray, you can always say The Lord's Prayer! Remember that.
Should I sit? Stand? Lie down?
What about your body then? How should you position yourself? Well, there isn't really a commandment about that in The Bible. On the contrary, the Bible shows us that you can pray in even the most extreme situations. In the Gospel according to Luke a robber asks Jesus to remember Him when He returns to His Heavenly Father - while hanging on a cross!
You can do it in the bus on your way to school, in the car on your way to work, while moving the lawn, or while waiting in the queue at Walmart. This is typically what one might call spontaneous prayer, because some concern suddenly strikes your mind in a specific situation, or the suituation may in itself be the cause of a prayer, for example, you may pray that you'll reach your working place in time, not being late, as you've been all too often.
that said, it is definately an advantage also to set time aside for prayer. I am not sure if scheduled prayer is a proper expression, but I think you know what I mean. Find a place where you are alone and not likely to be disturbed, so that you can concentrate on your prayer and nothing else.
It is not menitioned in the Bible that you should fold your hands. Anyway, it is a good idea because Satan is always tempting you to loose concentration. When your hands are folded, at least your hands ( doing nothing ) will not be the reason why you loose concentration.
Often you see people praying with eyes closed. Again, nothing about eyes closed when praying is commanded in the Bible. But when your eyes are closed it's much easier for you to concentrate.
Thus, folded hands and eyes closed are not commanded. But both are good habits to help your concentration when praying.
In some congregations, mainly the Roman-Catholic, certain objects such as a Rosary or a prayer rope are commonly used. Such remedies are not even mentioned in the Bible. Anyway they can be a helpful guide through a prayer. For example each pearl in the Rosary can symbolize a prayer. Used this way a Rosary might be helpful also to christians from other, even protestant, denominations.
How to pray to God: Conclusion
All that said, it should be clear that praying to God as such is really quite simple. Even a little child can do it. Praying only becomes difficult if you and I make it difficult. God is there anyway, always willing to listen to you like a good friend. Don't think that much what to say or what to do. Just do it! Just pray!
Really challenging, on the other hand, is to be disciplined about praying. But that's another part of the story, which might be the subject for another article ...