How to Pray the Right Way

“I’ve always struggled with prayer,” Katie said to me during a break in sessions. She had come from two states away to attend the “Let Prayer Change Your Life” conference I was leading. “I never know the right words to say. I feel awkward, I lose my train of thought, and I get discouraged.” She sighed. “I’m afraid I’ll never learn to do it right.” 

Thankfully, by the end of the conference Katie was feeling much better about prayer, but she’s not the first person I’ve heard express their doubt and frustration about their inability to “pray well.” They hear ministers deliver long, elaborate petitions during Sunday morning services. They watch how easily others pray, even with no preparation or warning and wonder why they can barely string two coherent sentences together when asked to pray over a meal. 

I thought of these struggling pray-ers this morning. Opening the fridge to get food out to prepare breakfast, a sweet sight caught my eye. It was a picture my 4-year-old granddaughter had drawn for me. I L-O-V-E Y-O-U, she had written in purple magic marker. 

“I picked purple because it’s your fav-rit,” she said. “And then I wrote my name, so you’d merember who it was from.” The letters on Lauren’s love note were uneven and sprawling. The A was twice as big as the L, and the E had four lines instead of three. 

On the back of the note she’d written my name, Gigi, with backward Gs and I’s that looked like lolly pops. Next to my name was a picture of a heart on a chain. 

Do you think I care that Lauren’s penmanship is less than perfect? Or that her E has four lines instead of three? Of course not. What matters to me is that my precious little granddaughter’s heart is full of love for me. So full, in fact, that she had to communicate it. Her love note to me was personal, thoughtful, and oh-so-special, and I will treasure it always. 

I suspect God feels the same way about our prayers. He doesn’t care that we don’t sound polished or perfect. It doesn’t matter to him when we don’t always use the “right” words or follow some pre-established format. All he cares about is that we love him and want to communicate with him.

Perhaps this is why Jesus often used children to illustrate spiritual truths. 

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a little child and had him stand among them.

“And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’” (Mat. 18:1-4). 

I hope the next time you feel the urge to pray, instead of worry about doing it “right,” you’ll concentrate instead on telling God how much you love him. Share with him what’s heaviest on your heart and rest in the knowledge that he’s listening. 

This is the essence of true prayer.

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  1. I love this. It is so important that we remember who Abba is and who is the child. He is not the English teacher correcting our grammar (unless we need that). Instead He is the one that will move heaven and earth to spend some time with me. And you.

    1. Amen, Tim. And what a wonderful way to express that. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Love this illustration of how God views our prayers! I've challenged myself to focus on prayer this year, and your words encouraged me to keep it simple by just talking to God.


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