Chaplain's Corner: Prayer Part 2 – How to Pray

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jason Gilleland
  • Special Warfare Training Wing/Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-CHAPMAN TRAINING ANNEX, Texas--As mentioned before, prayer is an essential part of a spiritual life and is used by many people as a means of comfort, direction, and hope. It is important that we know why we pray because the “why” gives a sense of purpose to our prayers. In addition to knowing why we pray, we also want to understand how to pray. For some, prayer seems daunting because they are unsure how to pray “well”.


As a new Christian, while attending a Bible Study I was asked to pray out loud. We would take turns praying aloud, going around the circle of people. As I awaited my turn, my hands began to sweat and I began to listen intently to the prayers of the other people in the circle, trying to get an idea of what to say. When it was finally my turn, I fumbled through a few requests, said “amen” and we finished. I remember thinking afterwards “Lord, teach me to pray”. (Luke 11:1)


One thing that should be greatly encouraging, is that prayer is something that is developed. We do not start off with deep theological communication, but with simple, childlike prayers and over time, our prayers eventually become stronger.


What are some ways we can become stronger in our prayers?

Pray Consistently. Maybe the simplest means of developing in prayer, is to actually pray consistently. This is the use or lose principle. I remember having to learn Greek while studying for my Master’s degree, in order to read the New Testament in the original language. After a year, I could open the book and just start reading the Greek language. However, after graduating, my Greek New Testament sat on the shelf collecting dust and when I opened it up a year later, I struggled to get through a single chapter! Likewise with prayer, if we do not consistently engage, we will lose both the means and the confidence to pray.  


Use scripture. One of the most helpful pieces of advice I have gotten on keeping your prayer life fresh is to use scripture. Regardless of what faith background you come from, whatever text is meaningful and important to you, can be used as a springboard to start off your prayers. As you meditate on the text, you can use it to guide your prayers. As you pick different portions or verses, you will have different ideas for how you can pray. For many there are texts, poems, or songs that resonate, and it can feel as though the writer is expressing what we ourselves are feeling inside.


Pray with others. This may be especially challenging for introverts but praying with others is something that can be extremely helpful in developing your prayers. Earlier I talked about my experience praying out loud for the first time in a prayer circle. Without a doubt, initially it was challenging but as time went on, I really listened to what my chaplain was praying, and I used his prayers as the framework for building my own.


Read about prayer. Reading about prayer is no substitute for prayer itself, just like reading a book about riding a bike is no substitute for actually going out and trying to ride. However, reading a book about prayer in addition to praying, can be helpful and will provide you with new and valuable ideas. One of the most powerful books I read on prayer was a biography on George Muller’s prayer life. Just reading about the life of a faithful man of prayer, and how God used his prayers to do so much good in the world, was inspiring and gave a great example of what a strong prayer life looks like.


To become strong in prayer takes time. It is something that is learned and developed just like you would develop in learning another language, sport, or playing a musical instrument. Although prayer can seem foreign to some, hopefully these tips will help you grow in your prayer life. Next time we will discuss outreach and the importance of acting upon our beliefs.