Prayer 101 – The Act of Prayer

“Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart with no words than words without a heart.”

~Mahatma Gandhi

The Widow’s story: 2Kings 4:1-7

A widow came to Elisha and shared that her husband had unpaid debts when he died, and she was unable to feed her sons or pay her bills. The bill collector threatened to take her two sons and use them as slaves until the debt was paid in full. 

Elisha asked what she had left in the house. She replied, “Nothing, except a small jar partially filled with oil.” He told her to go borrow containers from all her neighbors, then to take her sons, close her doors, and pour from her little jar into all the containers she had gathered until they were full. She followed directions and filled every container to the top and reported back to Elisha. He told her to go sell the oil to pay her bills and she and her sons could live on the rest.

This story serves as a reminder of what we have learned, “We have not because we ask not; ask and it will be given.” I understand our often reluctance to ask. I’m a really good ‘giver’ but not so good at ‘receiving’ from others. Perhaps I am too proud or simply like the role of giver better. But the action of prayer often begins with our asking for our needs. It forces us to acknowledge our need for help and who can meet that need. It builds dependency and relationships. The more we lean into this intimate relationship, the more we learn God delights to redeem, restore, refill and replenish us.

If you are unsure how to pray this simple acrostic (ACTS) is a great way to start. until you develop your own style.

A= Appreciation. Acknowledge the greatness of God. (sometimes I pray a worship song to Him.)

C = Confession. Admit the things you are doing wrong. Ask for forgiveness and commit to doing better. (This is NOT a salvation issue; this is an obedience issue.)

T= Thanksgiving. Thank God for all the things He has already done for you.

S= Supplication. Ask for your needs to be met. Ask for the needs of others. Don’t treat God like Santa Clause, but pray His will, His scriptures back to him for your needs and requests. (“You said, I have not because I ask not, so I’m asking.”)

And commit your prayer to His will. (I ask these things seeking Your will, not mine.)

Another prayer idea:

When it comes to praying for others, take this request very seriously. Keep a 3×5 card or a prayer journal with each person’s name, the date, and the request. Pray daily for them. Don’t get pious like some showy hypocrite. Ask for the need and for God to grant the request. (Sometimes when I have a lot of requests, I send up arrow prayers with the cards while I am on the treadmill.)

Cards also serve as a reminder to ask the person if and how the request was answered. It will also help you to see that God is still in the business of answering prayers. When the request is granted, write it down on the card with the date. Having a record of prayers and answers is a wonderful boost to the soul when we feel like the world is not going our way.

We have an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, so when we cannot find the words to pray the Holy Spirit will turn your silence or utterings into prayers that whisper in God’s ear. I have experienced this type of prayer. I was so distraught over a situation that had, as far as I could see, no good outcome. The words would not come. I felt in my heart the utterings of the Holy Spirit within me and knew He was interceding for me. In a situation that was anything but peaceful, I experienced the “peace that passes all understanding.” It came from some place deep within myself and I knew things would be alright.

Try praying A.C.T.S below. Write it down. As you use this technique, it won’t be necessary to always write it down but is delightful to look back on a prayer journal as to what you asked for and how it was answered.


C = ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________



“Prayer is not asking.

Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God,

at His disposition,

and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.”
~ Mother Teresa

Down through the ages prayer has been twisted, formulated, and regulated. Do not make this mistake. Prayer is a conversation with a God that delights in every moment we spend with Him. Tell Him what’s going on, and what you think. He already knows it, but He wants to share in our process, hopes, dreams, pain and needs. Pray with a simple heart, vulnerable and authentic.

Pray with Simplicity:

“And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for fifteen minutes of fame! Do you think God sits in a box seat?

“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. ~ Matthew 6:5-8 (The Message- MSG)

What should we do and not do when we pray according to Matthew 6:5-8? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will [a]spit you out of My mouth. ~ Revelation 3:15-16

What does Scripture warn about mediocre prayers in Revelation 3:15-16? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

“The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what they want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best—
    as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
    Yes. Yes. Yes.

~Matthew 6:7-13 (The Message)

What should your prayers sound like? _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.” ~Psalm 143:10

How will we become teachable to God’s will?  ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________