The Words of Prayer

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 If one buys into the idea that prayer is special communication with God [which I think it is], then the most important part of prayer would be the words we use to convey our ideas to Him. Words carry the meaning from the mind of the petitioner to the Father.

But for many, this can be a problem.

Many people don’t feel they can find the words to speak to God. W.Bingham Hunter even has a section of his book* entitled “But I just don’t know what to say.”

Why do people struggle so much?

One reason may be the feeling that prayer must come from the heart and depending on the experiences one has with prayer, this can be difficult. Indeed, the Bible has promises from God about words. Moses is told by God that He will give him the words he needs when Moses says “I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” In the Book of Luke, we are told the Holy Spirit will teach us what to say when the time comes for expression.

But this type of thinking puts a lot of pressure on people with little experience with prayer. They think that God should lead them to say “the perfect prayer” and it will come straight from God. They shouldn’t struggle with the words at all due to Divine intervention.   But really what is wrong with reading a prayer that is prepared in advance if you have to do public prayer? What is wrong with reciting a well-written prayer privately if that prayer fits your needs?


Especially if prayer is something that is new for you.

You feel the need to do it but you just don’t have much history as a man or woman of prayer.

Another roadblock is the idea that a prayer should sound “spiritual.” Ordinary language is really not good enough. Many English speakers feel that using phrases from Elizabethan English make the prayer more authentic, but King James language was not the language of New Testament times. That language was the Greek and Aramaic of the day, what Hunter calls the “speech heard in the markets, on fishing boats and at family suppers.”   This leads to the idea that our language of our day is good enough.   We don’t have to have a prayer sprinkled with “thee, thy and thou”; if our language is respectful, honest and heart-felt, it will be ok.

Our author says on days when prayer does not come easily, admit to God “I want to be alone with you, but I can’t think of anything to say.” He recommends opening your Bible to one of David’s prayers in the Psalms. Reading one of David’s prayers my give you ideas or even serve as your prayer for the day. Don’t worry about reading that pre-written prayer to God; it may be more relevant for you than a mixture of disconnected thoughts that you assemble spontaneously.

Even the most experienced prayer warrior will have a day when pray does not come easily.

It is also important to remember that God’s knowledge of all of us goes beyond the mere words we use. He knows our hearts.   When we can’t get started with the words or we stumble through a prayer, He knows why we are praying. He knows our needs. Hunter says “People who love each other don’t have to talk all the time they are together. (In fact, incessant chatter may be a sign of insecurity in relationships.) If when you do eventually begin pray you trip on your thoughts or tongue, don’t worry about it. God is the only one to whom you can say, ‘You know what I mean,’ and be 100% sure you will not be misunderstood.”

Will prayer get easier if we keep praying?   It might. Prayer is like any kind of activity. The more you practice, the better you will get.   If you never practice prayer, you may always struggle to express yourself to God.

Will prayer ever be guided by God? Will the Holy Spirit ever help us with this special type of expression? It may. Paul says in Romans 8 “The Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”

Rather than waiting for these special moments, it may just be better to just begin a prayer relationship with God with a Psalm, a pre-written prayer or just an admission of lack of words. An honest desire to be in His presence is all that is needed.

I believe God will honor our desire to be with Him, whether we use eloquent words or not.



*The God Who Hears

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