HOW TO PRAY
What does it mean to "pray
effectively?" To know how to pray, we must know
the meaning of the word "praying." The dictionary defines
praying as addressing God, making a fervent request, beseeching
and imploring. The Roget's Thesaurus defines praying as
invoking, supplicating, communicating with God, worshipping,
begging, adjuring and pleading. It further associates prayer
with devotions, services, chapel, entreaty, supplication and
The purpose of this short paper is to explain to Catholics
how to pray. Greater details on specific areas may be
obtained by reading other related spiritual material, by
consulting your priest or by participating in group discussions
during Bible studies.
First of all, when
we pray to the Heavenly Father, there are
guidelines that we should follow. Jesus blessed the world with
a prayer that is most pleasing to the Heavenly Father, the
"Lord's Prayer." Jesus said, pray then in this way:
Our Father in Heaven,
The Lord's prayer is rich and complete in itself. It teaches us
how to praise the Heavenly Father. It teaches submission to the
Will of God. It shines in Divine love that is reflected by the
soul's forgiveness of others and God's mercy for such a soul. It
asks God for His protection against temptations.
hallowed be Your Name.
Your Kingdom come.
Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one. [Matt. 6:9-13]
Other ancient texts of the Bible conclude by saying:
"For the Kingdom and the power and
the glory are yours forever. Amen."
In this conclusion, the Lord's Prayer ends by glorifying the
Almighty Father. No prayer is greater than this perfect prayer
that was taught by Jesus.
we pray? There are five important reasons to do so:
- God is the Creator and giver of all things.
- God is worthy of prayer.
- Prayer is the means by which the soul communicates with God.
- Jesus taught the necessity to pray.
- God answers prayers.
THE KINDS OF PRAYER
Praying comes in many forms. While some believe that praying
only means to honor and love God, there is more to a prayer
life. Praying may consist of any of the following methods of
approaching God. They can be done privately or with others. We
can combine one or some of the following ways of praying.
By adoring God.
"O come, let us
worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!"
and "For whosoever shall
call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" [Rom 10:11]
By calling upon God.
"Listen to the
sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you I pray." [Ps.
By praying and singing to God.
"About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to
God, and the prisoners were listening to them." [Acts 16:25]
By singing to God.
Virgin Mary sang the Magnificat to God. [Lk. 1:46-55]
By singing and playing music.
solemn processions are seen, O God, the processions of my God,
my King, into the sanctuary - the singers in front, the
musicians last, between them girls playing tambourines." [Ps.
By meditating on God's ways.
will meditate on your precepts, and fix my eyes on your ways."
By revering God.
"A God feared in
the council of the holy ones, great and awesome above all that
are around Him." [Ps. 89:7]
By glorifying God.
"The heavens are
telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his
handiwork." [Ps. 19:1]
By thanking God for received blessings.
"When I remember you in my prayers, I
always thank my God." [Phlm. 1:4] All Christians should thank
God for the blessings that some often take for granted. The Lord
should be thanked for the blessing of a new day. He is the
provider of clothing, food, shelter, the family, friends,
employment, assets, and the list continues...
By worshipping God. Prayer worship is entirely different
from all other forms of prayers. Its purpose is to glorify the
Heavenly Father for His goodness. During this form of prayer,
you do not make any requests or give thanks to the Lord for
blessings that have been received. This form of prayer is
strictly to praise God in recognition for His love in the world,
His glory, His greatness, His power and all the titles He
By showing love towards others, this being prayer in
action. "Now the whole group of those who
believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private
ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held
in common." [Acts 4:32]
By showing hospitality towards others, this being another
form of prayer in action. "When she and
her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, 'If you have
judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my
home.'" [Acts 16:15]
By making supplications to God for the needs of individuals
and those of the Church. "The Lord has
heard my supplication; the Lord accepts my prayer." [Ps. 6:9]
Supplication is synonym to appealing to God, petitioning
God or requesting from God. Supplication includes two
categories, asking favors from God for oneself as the petitioner
and asking God for others as the intercessor.
"Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the
church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in
the name of the Lord." [Jas. 5:14] When doing
supplication to God for the needs of others, you should join
your prayers with those of other Catholics.
"For where two or three are gathered in
the name, I am there among them." [Mt. 18:20]
By being devout towards God.
certain Ananias, who was a devout man according to the law and
well spoken of by all the Jews living there." [Acts 22:12]
By sharing with others.
you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or
under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." [2 Cor. 9:7]
By reading the Word of God daily.
"Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy,
and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in
it; for the time is near."[Rev. 1:3]
By teaching the Word of God to others.
"Then Philip began to speak and starting
with this scripture, he proclaimed the good news about Jesus."
All of the above reflect a life of prayer, being God minded in
all things. The Christian who has God on his mind in all his
action can be said to be walking in the likeness of Jesus.
HOW TO APPROACH GOD
When approaching God in prayer, it is necessary to have the
right disposition. As such, one should begin by humbly
confessing his sins. "Then I acknowledged
my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, 'I will
confess my transgressions to the Lord,' and you forgave the
guilt of my sin." Ps. 32:5]
PRAYING ACCORDING TO GOD'S WILL
For a prayer to be answered, it must be in accordance to God's
Will. Otherwise, you may receive what you asked for, not being
happy with the end results. God has answered undesirable
prayers, providing thinly for the soul.
"He gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among
them.." [Ps. 106:15] What is most important is not the
obtaining of worldly needs, but rather the spiritual needs of
your soul that is eternal. As a general rule, do not ask for
what you can do without. That way, you can have the assurance
that if you ask according to the will of
God, He will hear you. [1 Jn. 5:14]
WHEN SHOULD YOU PRAY?
The Holy Bible teaches that you should
pray without ceasing, always giving thanks for this is the will
of God in Christ Jesus for you. [1 Thes. 5:17-8]
WHERE SHOULD YOU PRAY?
The Holy Bible teaches that you should
pray everywhere, lifting up your hands in holiness, without
doubting or insincere thoughts. [1 Tim. 2:8]
Does praying require that you attend a church? Not necessarily.
God is everywhere and there are sanctifying benefits to
worshipping in different locations. When you pray in the Church,
you pray in the physical presence of Jesus who is in the Holy
Tabernacle. During the celebration of the Mass, you have the
opportunity to receive the physical presence of Jesus in the
Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. When you pray outside the
Church, you are in the spiritual presence of Jesus who dwells
HOW SHOULD YOU PRAY?
Sincere prayer is offered with a humble heart in complete
obedience to God. "If my people who are
called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and
turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and
will forgive their sin and heal their land." [2 Chr. 7:14]
What posture should you take when you pray? Praying on one's
knees is an established Christian practice.
"Then Jesus withdrew from them about
stone's thrown, knelt down, and prayed." [Lk. 22:41] In
the Old Testament, Nehemiah prayed before
the King while standing up. [Neh. 2:4]
The posture that should be taken at the moment of prayer will
vary depending on how your heart feels, how it has been called
by God to pray. If you are laying in bed while preparing to
retire for the night and feels a need to talk to God, you can do
so while laying down. The importance of the posture is secondary
in comparison to the importance of maintaining a daily
communication with God, be it while taking a walk, sitting down,
relaxing or reflecting upon God during work. As your
relationship grows in God, the Holy Spirit will teach you,
telling you what posture you should take in reverence for God's
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU PRAY?
"You should pray in the Spirit at all
times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert
and always persevere in supplication for all the saints." [Eph.
When one has God in his heart, he uses
every opportunity to pray to God in order to maintain ongoing
spiritual strength. "Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his
face continually." [1 Chr. 16:11]
The proper number of times per day to converse with Jesus cannot
be measured. This would be like asking, "How many times should I
speak to my spouse during the day?" There will be moments when
God will inspire you to pray (God speaking to you) and moments
when God's burning love within your own heart will move you to
pray on your own. Praying then becomes an ongoing sharing of
love. The frequency of praying can then be compared to the
amount of time spouses speak to each other during the day.
Considering the fact that not all souls have achieved this level
of sanctification, the Bible provides guidelines as to how often
a soul should pray. David prayed three
times a day. Dan. 6:10 One Bible passage mentions praying
in the morning. "O Lord, in the morning
you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you, and
watch." [Ps. 5:3]
Another Bible passages mentions praying three times a day.
"Evening and morning and at noon, I utter
my complaint and moan, and he will hear my voice." [Ps. 55:17]
When prayer is only done twice a day, it is recommended that it
be done in the morning and in the evening. The morning prayer is
an opportunity to thank God for the new day and ask for the
needs of the day. The evening prayer is an opportunity to thank
God for the needs that were received during the day, taking a
few moments to reflect upon the day and finally asking God for
protection during the night.
Numerous passages in the Bible teach the importance of fasting
while praying. Jesus fasted while He prayed. This was to teach
that there is strength that comes with fasting. It strengthens
the soul and spirit to resist temptations.
Fasting may include avoiding certain foods as a sacrifice or to
control disordered desires. Whenever fasting is performed, you
are reminded that it should be done in privacy since this form
of personal prayer should remain between God and you. One should
never fast to receive attention from others.
When you pray to God, you must persevere in your prayers. Your
perseverance reflects the importance of what your heart desires
from God. It should never be assumed that God does not hear your
prayer because He does. In fact, God has been known at times to
provide something before the person even had the opportunity to
ask for it. Also, God hears the request while it is being asked.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER WHEN ASKING GOD FOR SOMETHING
1. Will this answered prayer glorify God if obtained?
2. Will this answered prayer lead to my sanctification?
3. Will others be hurt by this answered prayer?
4. Will I be mastered by this answered prayer? Will the answered
prayer master the soul such as when winning a million dollar and
becoming under the control of money?
5. Do I really need this answered prayer?
6. Can I do without this answered prayer?
If you can answer "YES" to # 1, 2, 5 and answer "NO" to # 3, 4,
6, then you should persevere with your request until God answers
THE FULLNESS OF THE PRAYER LIFE
First, by the grace of God, you receive the Word "of" God. God
speaks to you in your heart.
Secondly, you walk "with" God. You converse daily with God in
the same way that you would maintain a conversation with another
Thirdly, you walk "for" God. This involves sharing with others
the joy that you have found in Jesus for the glory of God.
These three actions represent the fullness of the prayer life.
You receive God's love through the Word. You grow in love
through your conversation with God. And you flourish by sharing
the Word of God with others.
Some asks why prayers are not answered although perseverance has
been present. There are many obstacles to overcome when praying.
Prayers asked without faith are not answered.
"But ask in faith, never doubting, for the
one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by
the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in
every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord. "
Before asking God for a blessing, you must have forgiven others.
"Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if
you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven
may also forgive you your trespasses." [Mk. 11:25]
If there is any form of iniquity in your heart, the requested
prayer will not be granted. "If I had
cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have
listened." [Ps. 66:18]
When a requested prayer is made with the wrong motive, it will
not be answered. "You ask and do not
receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get
on your pleasures." You should make requests for things
that will glorify God, increase your holiness and not injure
The words that come from your mouth during prayer must be
sincere, coming from the heart. "Never be
rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be quick to utter a
word before God, for God is in heaven, and you upon earth;
therefore let your words be few." [Ecc. 5:2]
When it is said that the words should be few, this is not meant
to imply that God does not have time to hear your prayers.
Rather, it means that the words should have meanings, having
being considered before they are said. Repetition of the same
words over and over is viewed as having no purpose. These are
not personal words from the heart. "When
you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles
do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many
words." [Mt. 6:7]
If the commandments of God are not kept, God will not answer
your prayer. If you cannot show your love towards God by obeying
His commandments, God may withhold His love by denying answered
prayers. "Beloved, if our hearts do not
condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from Him
whatever we ask, because we obey His commandments and do what
pleases Him." [1 Jn. 3:21-2]
SUMMARIZING EFFECTIVE PRAYING
Have a righteous heart. Obey God's
commandments. Forgive your enemies and ask to be forgiven of
your trespasses. Receive the Church Sacrament of
Receive the Sacrament of the Holy
Eucharist to embellish your soul before the eyes of God.
- Humble yourself before God.
Approach God in a pious manner.
Praise God for all He has done,
His creation, your life, all the goodness around you.
Thank God for answered prayers and
all the other good things you enjoy.
Pray for others before you pray
Last of all, ask God for your
needs according to His Divine will. Thank Him for his
decision, whatever it may be.
By following these basic steps, you should grow in your
spiritual life. Accordingly, you will begin to see the hand of
God at work in your life. You will see some prayers answered
according to your spiritual needs as God determines what is best
May the Holy Spirit guide you from here on in your spiritual
growth in the Most Holy Name of Jesus for the glory of the