I write a lot of blog posts encouraging us all to pray; to pray in different ways and creative ways, for all kinds of things. But what if we don’t know what to pray? Sometimes our prayers will come naturally – in response to the situations we face, in need, in joyful situations and desperate ones. But sometimes, it’s difficult to know what to pray. Whether it’s because we don’t know what outcome we are looking for, or because we don’t think there is a ‘good’ outcome to be looking for.
So, when we don’t know what to pray, what should we pray?
A great place to start when we don’t know what to pray, is with intercessions: interceding on behalf of other people. Ask the people around you, friends and family members, what do they need prayer for? What situations are they facing? Are there things they are struggling with? What are they celebrating? Reach out. Ask them.
If you can, why not also take the time to pray with other people? This is a great way to keep us accountable to continue praying even when we don’t know what to pray, which can certainly make it harder to keep going. I would also recommend that you ask other people to pray for you too, that you will find the words to pray.
Pray for God’s will
When we pray, we often have an outcome that we are looking for. A person to be healed, an exam to be passed. But when we don’t know what outcome we are looking for, or what the best outcome would be, we can specifically choose to pray for God’s will to be done in the situations. Of course, we should be seeking God’s will in all of our prayers but this time we have no personal preferences and we are laying the whole situation down at God’s feet and choosing to trust that he knows the best outcome and will bring that outcome to be.
A great example of praying for God’s will can be seen in Jesus’ prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane:
“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”Luke 22:39-42
Following on from the Bible passage we just read, the Bible is a great place to turn when we don’t know what to pray. The Bible is God’s word, and God is the same yesterday, today and forever, so we know that these words can be trusted. Spend some time reading, reflecting upon, exploring, studying the Bible. Rest in those words, let the spirit reveal new things to you through them, and use the words of scripture to help lead your prayers.
Use written prayers
When we don’t know what to pray, we can turn to the prayers that other people have written for us. One thing the internet has provided us with is the opportunity to share, and access other people’s prayers in new and easy ways. Some great resources for written prayers include the Church of England, The Methodist Church, 24/7 prayer. I have also written prayers for mental health, prayers for the persecuted Church, and prayers for the Coronavirus pandemic for you to use. If there are any other topics you would like me to write prayers for – let me know in the comments!
Use the Lord’s Prayer
This idea kind of combines my last two suggestions together. Jesus introduces the Lord’s Prayer to his disciples when they ask him “Lord, teach us to pray”:
“He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’”Luke 11:1-4
This of course isn’t the full Lord’s Prayer as we know it, as the rest was added later. But whether in the original form, or the versions we use know, this is a great prayer to use when we don’t know what to pray.
Firstly, you could pray this prayer directly. Memorise it and you have a prayer that is given to us by Jesus, and will be with you wherever you are, whenever you need it. Alternatively, you can use the Lord’s Prayer as a template: look at the different types of prayers included within the Lord’s Prayer: praise, intercession, petition, confession. Go through this prayer and use these different types of prayer to give you a starting place for your own prayers.
Break my heart for what breaks yours
Do you recognise this? These are lyrics from the song Hosanna, by Hillsong United (listen to it here!). These lyrics are also a great thing for us to pray: God, show me what you care about. Open my mind, my heart, my eyes to the things that are happening in this world that are breaking your heart.
When we don’t know what to pray, what better place to turn then the things that God wants us to pray for? The things that he chooses to place upon our hearts. I absolutely love this way of praying. God has certainly put things on my heart and led me to pray for them when I’ve prayed in this way.
My final suggestion for you in this blog post, in my prayer reflections. Throughout Thy Kingdom Come I am releasing four prayer reflection videos. These videos will give you bible readings, reflections and will hopefully lead you in prayer. Watch the first one below, our head to my YouTube channel to see them all!
What situations are you struggling to pray into right now? Have you tried any of these ideas?