Are you ready for the unofficial start of fall? With Labor Day weekend just ahead of us, I’m starting to feel like fall is here. Which is fine, as long as I don’t expect the weather to cooperate! 🙂
Has there been a time in your life when you weren’t sure how to pray about a situation? Maybe it involved a spouse or a child, a financial decision, a job change, or a move to another state. Perhaps you just couldn’t get clear direction. And we’ve likely all had times when we were just so overwhelmed with life that we couldn’t even think clearly enough to know how or what to pray.
When we’re not sure how we should pray or what to ask for, here’s a list of five things we can do.
1. Believe that the Holy Spirit will help us.
“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” ~Romans 8:26
The Holy Spirit knows the mind of God. He intervenes for us and speaks to God on our behalf. The Spirit strengthens us when our faith is weak. He can take the deep, inexpressible cries of our hearts and bring them before God. When we’re perplexed about how to pray, He already knows what’s best for us.
2. Find Bible examples of how others prayed in difficult situations.
We know that David often cried out to God in the Psalms. In chapter 59, verse 1 as he deals with enemies, he writes “Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God: defend me from them that rise up against me.“
There’s Hannah’s prayer for a son when she was barren in 1 Samuel 1:11. “And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life…”
And our ultimate example is Jesus in the garden before His crucifixion. In Matthew 26:39, we read, “And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.“
3. Pray to God directly from His Word.
Find a verse that pertains to what you’re facing or one that brings you comfort and just pray it to God. I often take Proverbs 3:5,6 to pray for myself or someone in my family.
“Lord, help me to trust you with all my heart and not rely on my own wisdom or understanding. May I acknowledge You in every area of my life so I can know that you will direct my path.“
4. Write out what you’re struggling with.
I realize that this is easy for me because writing is one of the best ways I have to process my thoughts. Even if that’s not true for you, try to at least write out a sentence or two that summarizes how you’re feeling. Sometimes just seeing it written down on paper can help you gain a better perspective. This practice might guide you in how to pray.
5. Remember that God knows our hearts and our minds even when we can’t fully express what we need or want.
We’re likely all familiar with Psalm 139. “O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.” [Verses 1-4]
What a comfort it is to know that God knows us so deeply and individually! He knows us better than we know ourselves and is so faithful to meet our every need. When we don’t know how we should pray or what we should ask for, He is still able to give us exactly what we need.
I remember a time a few years ago when I was confused and heartbroken over a particular situation. Honestly, I didn’t feel like praying. I didn’t have the words to tell God how I was feeling. Yet as always, He was faithful. He brought me through those days and I learned more about Him and about myself.
In the days ahead when we struggle to know how to pray, may we remember to rely on the Holy Spirit’s help, look to God’s Word, and rest in the fact that God knows our hearts and will continue to keep us in His care.
[I updated and republished this post from June 2021 because I find I need it again in August 2023.]
- 10 Things to Pray for When You’re Seeking God’s Guidance
- 6 Steps for How to Pray When We’re Anxious or Afraid
- 5 Bible Verses to Encourage You in Your Prayer Life