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Is it best to pray sitting down, standing up, bowing down, or kneeling? Should your hands be closed, open, or lifted to God? Do our eyes need to be closed when we pray? Is it better to pray out in nature or a church? Should we pray at night before we go to bed or in the morning when we wake up? Are there specific words we should use in our prayers? How should we start our prayers? What’s the proper way to finish a prayer? These questions, and others, are commonly asked about prayer. What’s the proper way to pray and do the things mentioned above even matter?

Too often, prayer is seen as a “magic formula.” Some people think that if we don’t say the right things precisely or pray in the proper position, God won’t hear and answer our prayer, which is entirely unbiblical. Our prayers aren’t answered based on when we pray, where we are, what position we’re in or in what order we word our prayers. In 1 John 5:14-15, we’re told to have confidence when we pray, knowing our prayers will be heard and answered as long as it’s in God’s will. Similarly, John 14:13-14 says God will do whatever we ask in His name so that the Son will bring glory to the Father. Ask for anything in His name, and He will grant it. According to these and several other scriptures, prayers are answered based on whether they’re asked according to God’s will and in Jesus’ name to bring glory to Jesus.

Is there a proper way to pray?

So, what’s the proper way to pray? According to Philippians 4:6-7, we should pray without being anxious and pray about everything with thankful hearts. Our prayers will be answered with the gift of His peace in our hearts. The right way to pray is to pour our hearts out, be honest, and be open because God already knows us better than we know ourselves. We should present our requests, keeping in mind that God knows what’s best and won’t grant a request that’s not His will for us. We should express our gratitude, love, and worship to God in prayer without worrying about saying the right words. God cares more about the content of our hearts than the eloquence of our words.

The closest the Bible comes to giving an outline for prayer is the Lord’s Prayer, found in Matthew 6:9-13. The Lord’s Prayer isn’t a prayer we should memorize to recite to God. It’s an example of things we should go into prayer, trust in God, worship, confession, requests, and submission. We should pray for the things the Lord’s Prayer talks about, using our words and making them our own with God. The correct way to pray is to open our hearts to God. It doesn’t matter if you’re at home, in a church, outside, in the morning or at night. These are all side issues and are subject to personal conviction, preference, and relevance. God’s desire is for prayer to be a genuine and personal connection between Himself and us.

Should we pray to Jesus or God, the Father?

Prayer is typically directed to the Father because Jesus teaches us to pray to the Father. When Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray, He told them to start their prayers with “Father,” as detailed in Luke 11:1-2. In prayer, we should address God the Father, which is the norm because it’s the pattern Jesus gave us to follow. In giving this instruction, Jesus isn’t forbidding prayer from being directed at others in the Trinity, but He’s showing us that prayer will typically be directed to God the Father. Paul also reflects this sentiment. When writing to the Ephesians, he wrote that Christians have access to the Father by the one Spirit through Jesus, specifically in Ephesians 2:18.

This is the posture of the entire Christian life and the pattern for our prayer: by the Spirit, through the Son and to the Father. As Paul explains the Holy Spirit’s role in the life of believers, he highlights how the Spirit gives us the confidence to go to God in prayer. In fact, it’s by the Spirit that we cry “Abba, Father,” as detailed in Galatians 4:6,  which isn’t incidental. Jesus Himself cried out these exact words in His prayer in Mark 14:36. The Spirit moves Christians to address the Father in the same language that God the Son uses. Prayer is a way to express the sonship we have through Jesus. This is the standard shape of prayer and shares the shape of the connections within the Holy Trinity: the Son lives by the Spirit to the Father. As we pray, we come through Jesus into the happy and eternal dynamic.

With that being said, prayer should also be directed to the Son. The New Testament doesn’t prohibit prayer from being directed to Jesus. In fact, there are several examples of people praying directly to Jesus. Some of these examples include Revelations 22:20, Acts 7:59, and 2 Corinthians 12:8. These examples give us a precedent for doing the same. It’s right, good, and proper to pray to Jesus. While there are no examples of praying directly to the Holy Spirit, we can assume that’s also allowed. Given the biblical example of praying to Jesus and considering everything Jesus means to His followers, it would be strange for a Christian to never pray to Jesus.

In this sense, we should pray to Jesus. It should be natural or intuitive to cry out to Him in adoration for all He’s done and for help to follow His path. However, we can also see that prayer shouldn’t always be directed to Jesus, for He Himself teaches us to pray to the Father.

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