Many people would define prayer as, “talking with God”. But how do we talk with God? I don’t mean what words we should use, or the right kinds of topics to discuss with God, but the real basics: How can we talk with God? Do we have to say something to get his attention, for instance, or close our eyes? Is it a prayer if we don’t say, “Amen” at the end?
First off, God knows everything. This means that he knows what you say, think, and do. As a result, you can talk out loud to Him, and know that He hears you. Or, you can just think the words you want to say in your mind, and He listens. Some people may find it easier to write (or type) out what they want to say to God, and He sees that, too. Closing your eyes and bowing your head is a means to shut out certain distractions, but it’s not an “activation” to start a conversation with God. If you’re walking down the street and want to talk with God, by all means do so – but don’t shut your eyes! In fact, sometimes reflecting on something in God’s creation – a sunset or a rainy day, for instance – might be what we want to talk with Him about.
Secondly, God is already paying attention to you, and listens to what you have to say. There’s no need to try and catch his eye, wait in line until he’s ready, or look for His presence, because he’s always around.
If you would normally greet friends or family members with a “Hi”, or start notes to someone with “Dear (name)“, feel free to address God that way. If not, He knows when you’re talking to Him. If you feel uncomfortable being less formal, you can address him as “Heavenly Father”, “Almighty God”, or any of the many other titles that He has. The important thing is that you start talking with Him.
Next, just talk. Tell God what is on your mind. He listens to what you say (and think) every day, and doesn’t need you to use any fancy words or grammar. Just be yourself.
Finally, in any good conversation, there’s talking and listening. Listening to God can be much harder than talking with Him, but I’ll leave that for someone else to help you with…
Here’s a good example of prayer from the Old Testament. Previously in this story, the pagan priests tried all manner of things – for hours – to catch their god’s attention (which was futile, since their god, Baal, wasn’t real), but Elijah prayed a short prayer (verses 36-37) to the real God, and the result was fantastic (read all of 1 Kings 18:22-38 for the details).
At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.”
1 Kings 18:36-37 NASB
Keep your prayers just as simple and genuine as Elijah (even if you use a different style from him), and know that the actual God of the universe hears you.
See also some other articles about “prayer”: