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What About Praying to Pray?

No one said prayer would be easy.

But had I missed the obvious?

I didn’t want to repeat myself over and over like a child that won’t take “no” or “wait” for an answer. So how are we supposed to come before the Father in a meaningful way, when prayer is something we have done and tried so many times before?

Because Paul and Jude write about “praying in the Spirit” (Eph 6:18; Jude 1:20), I knew prayer is more than saying the right words.

Like many others, I’ve found help at times by turning Scripture into conversation and praying it back to God. Many times I’ve used “the Lord’s prayer” as a pattern for expressing my desires and needs to the Father.

But I remember the day that, with a deep sense of inadequacy, I asked God to give me the ability to pray to him. The quiet sense of communion that followed caused me to wonder if praying to pray was something obvious that I had missed.

Since then, I’ve thought about the fact that Jesus, himself, said, “I can of Myself do nothing” (John 5:30). Even though I don’t ever remember him ever asking the Father to help him pray, I suspect that he relied on the Spirit in his intercession with the Father.

I’m not saying that if we ask God to help us pray that we can expect God to show us how to say the right words. The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “The Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom 8:26). So I don’t think that “praying” in the Spirit means finding “the right words” as much as finding the right “spirit”.

But, without wanting you to think that “I’ve solved the prayer problem”, and without ruling out the need to be able to use prayer, like breathing, throughout the day to express need or gratefulness, I am becoming more convinced that there is a time not only to pray– but to pray for the ability to pray.

Anyway, that’s some of what I’m thinking about prayer today. Would be interested to know whether any of this tracks with where you are.

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25 Responses to “What About Praying to Pray?”

  1. tplog says:

    Martin Luther believed “praying in the Spirit” was praying scripture and that has been my conclusion as well. It would seem that is your conclusion also, but praying to pray makes so much sense I am amazed I have not heard anyone speak of it before. Something new that I suspect is very old. We ask God to help us with our unbelief. We ask God to help us in times of crisis. We ask God to help us understand scripture. It makes sense that we would ask God to help us communicate with Him. Today is probably a good time to begin. Thank you.

  2. Gale L. Jarvis says:

    Good Morning everyone, Mart, I believe the word ask is one of the key words in my conversations with the Lord, thereby starting with being Born Again, even though God says He loves the world, and it is not His will any perish, i must ask God to save me.
    The Holy Spirit makes intersessions for me, but i must ask Him to do so if, and when i want, and need Him to do so.
    I believe as God says we have not, because we do not ask, and when we do ask, we do not believe it will happen.
    God says the Just shall live by faith, faith comes from believing what God says and living it.
    Ask any thing according to my will and it shall be done, thereby when ever i pray, i try to ask the Holy Spirit to make intersessions for me that are according to His will, and i know He knows my heart, and if they are it will happen, and if not He did not hear me, because they were not according to His will.
    I am one that does not believe God says no, but if what ever i am praying is not according to His will, God will not hear it, as far as the way we see it, God says no, but i would rather believe it is not according to His will in which if it is not, i do not want it to happen, rather than believeing God just says no as an earthly parent just says no.
    I do agree Mart I need to pray for help to be able to learn how to pray better, and to learn about more things from the bible that i can know is according to God’s will, and can know they will happen when i pray.
    All of the promises from God can be ours if ( IF ) i believe them and desire for them to happen to me, and ask the Holy Spirit for help to be sure i understand them right.

  3. desert rose says:

    I like the idea of asking God to help me to pray. It goes with the promise, “If any of us lack wisdom, let Him ask of God and it shall be given him.” God is so good that the Holy Spirit makes intersession for us. Many times, it is the Holy Spirit who sees our inadequacy to pray to God. Then other times, we need to be still to hear God speak to us. Scripture praying I find is very helpful. Then again, I talk to God like I would to my very best friend.

    The Bible teaches us to “Pray without ceasing.” That is having an attitude of open communication with Him all day and all night.

  4. Mart De Haan says:

    I remember years ago, when asked to lead in public prayers, privately asking the Lord for help in making such a prayer, but my guess now is that I was as concerned about not embarrassing myself in public as much as anything. :-).

  5. GodsBride says:

    Sir, I’ve been at that place MANY times! Often (especially as of late), I’ve asked God to help me to pray. I want the LORD with ALL of my heart; yet, too often, I’ve allowed circumstances and situations to “throw me off kilter a bit”. Then, I return to that “secret place”–that place where I don’t just SAY prayers, I PRAY them. How do I do this? Honestly? I simply–with ALL my heart–surrender, and say “Help me, LORD”. I can only seem to do that when I “let go” of me and my “idea” of what prayer should be right then. I truly believe that it is at that point that the Holy Ghost “makes intercession” for me. I may seem to have no words, but thank God for HIS Word. Just to remember it seems to satisfy. :-)
    I know, Sir, that this is basically what you’ve already said. :-) I simply wanted to reiterate.

  6. pegramsdell says:

    Yes, I think it’s a great idea to ask God to help me to pray. Not just praying in the Spirit, but praying for help praying.
    That is wisdom from above definitely.

  7. Joeygirl says:

    Given my struggle with prayer, I never thought to ask God to help me to pray. My struggle, having asked Him for the willlingness to pray, I have rarely felt my words are enough or effectual. In my struggle to remove ‘my flesh’ and it’s expectations, I rely on the Lord’s Prayer. I recite is very slowly, pausing and meditating on each phrase and before I am finished, the Holy Spirit shows up. Adding a little more “stillness” in my life helps. Thank you so much for your thought provoking or should I say prayer provoking thoughts.

  8. paul bishop says:

    Silence and prayer is a way to fill our Think Tank
    and Love Tank ( re-refresh ).

  9. OneEzer says:

    It’s a blessing to me to simply ‘hear’ someone addressing the topic of prayer today. As a security officer at a major airport, I put up with a lot – there are stresses from all sides. Then we hear about the insanity on the news (with a new law Colorado is trying to further the credibility of a homosexual lifestyle); and we wonder what more is going to happen to bring down the country’s morality. I pray at work (when I’m stationed at a ‘lonesome’ post). I’ve been learning to literally ask God the Father to please “hear the intercessions” of the Holy Spirit and of the LORD Jesus Christ our Savior; mostly I ask that with one specific person/ circumstance/ situation in mind. I sense that in some ways, that makes me more of a conduit of the perfect will of God in each regard. Don’t you just love Him, fellowshipping with Him, and learning from Him? He is truly awesome.

  10. daisymarygoldr says:

    You are right; it is not about “the right words”…
    In communing with our Creator we simply open our hearts and pour out our innermost thoughts and emotions just like when we talk to someone very close to us. No formal polished phrases or vain repeated babblings but a sincere expression of our love for Him in plain language and simple words…for God loves to hear His children pray.

    Since this is not any ordinary being but GOD, sometimes we do feel inadequate or somewhat dumb just like the disciples felt when they saw Jesus praying to His Father. We then borrow words from ‘His Word’. There are times when we are too weak and do not know how to pray “as we ought”. In such instances the Holy Spirit helps us to pray ‘according to the will of God’.

    Prayer was never a problem for me. When I was a baby it was silly gibberish goo-goo ga-ga, but as I grew and matured in Christ I not only pray in the Spirit but also pray with my mind (1 Corinthians 14:15)!

  11. daisymarygoldr says:

    “… the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom 8:26). So I don’t think that “praying” in the Spirit means finding “the right words” as much as finding the right “spirit”…”

    Is there a suggestion here about getting filled by the Holy Spirit and pray in tongues a.k.a ‘prayer language’? No offence meant but just checking to make sure I understand it correctly…

  12. Mart De Haan says:

    daisymarygoldr, no, that never even occurred to me. When I talk about a spirit of prayer I’m talking more about an ability to communicate to God from my heart, with or without words, a sense of grateful, reliance, trust, and confidence in him.

  13. poohpity says:

    I have a few questions that have been troubling me about prayer. 1. Is there more power when we have more than one praying at the same time for the same thing. 2. The bible says we can move mountains when we pray, has anyone even experienced anything like that? Sometimes I feel my faith becoming weak when I do not see answers to my prayers. I know all the stuff about no and wait but if He told us to ask for anything in His name even to move a mountain it will be done.

  14. Gena says:

    I’m so glad this subject has been brought up, because I started a prayer jounrnal recently, but I feel like I’m missing something. I know the Lord’s prayer which I use as a template. People send me prayer requests all the time, but I feel like a hypocrite, because I don’t feel like my prayers are very affective at all. It started to bother me so much that I started the prayer journal. Today at my local library, I checked out a couple of books on prayer. While I do sound inexperienced, I did have one prayer where I felt very connected to God. In that prayer I expressed my love for Him very deeply and as a result I felt loved back. It was a wonderfully warm experience.

  15. daisymarygoldr says:

    Mart, Thanks! With that clarification I can breathe more freely now…

  16. Mart De Haan says:

    poohpity, you’re probably way ahead of me on both of your questions. But I think we talked some about whether there is more prayer in numbers on a previous post. And the question about “faith that moves mountains” is one that I’ve also wondered about. I’m going to see if I can post in the morning something for us to test and think about together.

  17. sjd says:

    Luke 11:1 (NIV)
    1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

    I think that you are right in praying to pray. We see in the verse above where the disciples asked Jesus how to pray. We could say that if Jesus had not been in their presence they would be praying to Him, for guidance in how to pray. As I was teaching on Sunday I admitted that prayer is one of the most difficult aspects for me to fully participate in.
    I do also believe it is so much about the attitude of the heart. Simply reciting the Lord’s Prayer word for word is not some secret way to get what we want. It was good to hear someone say that they would meditate on the phrases, thus understanding the heart behind the words. I am interested in Paul’s mention of prayer and how he often “struggled” in prayer for others. I often struggle in life, but it would certainly not be a regular adjective I would use to describe my prayer life. I enjoy prayer and see many of it’s benefits and pleasures, but I need to learn so much more and simply need to take more advantage of that privilege we have to communicte with our Father. Fortunately for me the Spirit intercedes as well. Praying for the ability to pray sounds like a good new beginning.

  18. dejean33 says:

    This is how I think about prayer, … God hears blood ( Genesis 4:10 ), stones ( Luke 19:40 ) and even planks of wood in a home ( Habakkuk 2:11 ).

    I don’t even have to blink for God to hear my prayer. He knows my thoughts before I speak them ( Psalms 139:4 ), as a matter of fact all my days where already written before I WAS ( Psalms 139: 16 ).

    If God can hear these objects …. you know He can hear me, His child ( Romans 8:14- 17, John 1:12 and other locations ) created in His image ( Genesis 1: 26, and 27 ) living with His Sprit in me ( John 14 ) Thank you Jesus !!! Hallelujah !!!

    One last thing, silence is praise ! …… Lets Pray to PRAY !!!! — Better Yet, Lets breathe to pray. Yeah !!!! Thank You Father !!!!

  19. Hephzibah610 says:


    Thanks for the reminder…I remember once when God did just that…He answered my prayer when it was just a thought in my head.

    You remember those shoebox gifts that are sent out at Christmas time? We had sent one out one time before Christmas. Well the organization that sends them sent us a magazine with an update in it a few months later. It told about how things went with the boxes. I had set the magazine aside thinking I would browse through it later.

    Finally I picked it up one day to look at it. I was thinking to myself, “wouldn’t it be great to see a picture of the child that got our shoebox in the magazine?…” I was flipping through the pages and saw that there was some info about Uganda (which was a place that we sponsor a child)….and then I noted a picture nearby…wait, the picture looked familiar…it was the same one that was on the front of the magazine….and the box had the very same paper that we had sent!! (I knew it was ours because at the time I didn’t have Christmas paper and had to use some orange paper with designs on it). You can only imagine my surprise and amazement that God would let me see the little girl that got our shoebox gift…with 6 million boxes going out and that was the one on the front cover!!!

    What it showed me is that God DOES know our thoughts…and before a word is on our lips, He hears……if He would care about such a “little” thing (that I would see the picture), than how much more those things that are life changing…. I keep going back to the fact that not a sparrow falls to the ground that He doesn’t know about….so much more does He love us! He is amazing!!!!

    God bless you and thank you for causing me to remember this…I am encouraged! Hope you are now too :^)

  20. curtisleslie says:

    This is right where I am. Currently trying to develop a more meaningful prayer life. I confess to prayerlessness, rather than struggling as I should, or “wrestling” with God in my prayer closet. Mart, I think your thought of “praying” to pray is a good one. Maybe my asking God more of how I should pray will at least get me to praying. Mart, do you agree that spending time alone with God in meditative thought is immeasurably valuable in our life as Christians?

  21. Ceelojr says:

    Hey Mart. This is something that I’ve been struggling with lately also: saying the right thing to God. What is that all about? I tell myself this, for I can easily find myself engaged in prayers that in some way “patronize” God. He knows my intentions; He knows my heart, and the truth of the matter is that sometimes I don’t know how to pray. Regardless of how much time I have in the church as a preacher and a teacher. I need to ask God to show me how to pray just for that day. For the most part I like Him to initiate our conversations and I have come to depend so much on “Our daily Bread” as a key communication tool with God that allows me to hear Him first. I can easily get caught up in talking at Him vs. talking with Him. In order to avoid this I let Him initiate. He did create us with two ears and one mouth, so doesn’t it make sense to listen twice as much as we speak? Today I lift up a lot of silent prayers to God that involve asking Him to read the pages of my heart and erase all that isn’t in line with His will, but also to write on these pages what should bring glory to His name. Listening to God has become my priority. By way of praise and worship songs, reading literature you guys publish, and simply placing myself in an environment conducive to the admiration of His glory (beaches, mountains, rivers, woodsy areas, etc). Isn’t this what Jesus did? As a result of this type of listening, the Holy Spirit has taken care of giving me the right words to express. In the end I can’t receive the glory for anything because even my prayers are the result of Godly intervention.

  22. Irene Ocskasy says:

    Galatians 2:20 says that “Christ lives in me”. The Holy Spirit of my Risen Lord Jesus Christ lives in me, so when my conscious mind doesn’t quite know what to pray, I simply ask, “Holy Spirit, You know what to say I don’t. Please give me the Words to pray.” Then the words come to my mind, because I have surrendered my mind to Christ. The Lord has given me the privilege of being a “prayer warrior”. This is my life and joy. A day without constant communication with my Lord is impossible, He is my constant consciousness. Perhaps sounds strange, but this is my absolute delight in life. Much love in Christ, Irene

  23. blessjoy says:

    I Think we can all make suggessions and some might just
    work for others,the praying to pray part is good and when we get into ” the secret place of the most high”
    God in His uniqueness visits with each person in a
    seperate and individual way to meet us at the point of
    our need and according to the strength of our desire ,
    learned or unlearned His undeserving love is enough to teach us all we need,Helping us to respond to him the
    way He wants and not how we want,which in our vast understanding differs.Thus the scripture that saids His ways are higher than our ways,His thoughts are higher than our thoughts,And He takes the foolish things of this world to confound the wise.Prayer to everyone is
    A lesson in God’s wisdom that only He can teach.That’s why He made us UNIQUE AND SPECIAL BEAUTIFUL BEINGS TO

  24. lizaellen says:

    I find that there are times I need to turn to God concerning prayer most especially when I’m in an “in-between” season where changes, pruning, new roads, are taking me away from where I really think I need to be, which is close to God, Mary-style, on the floor at His feet, eyes up & locked onto His, ready to listening for all my life’s worth.
    That’s when I start shooting “arrow” prayers up to ABBA. Short “help me; guide me” prayers and then I listen. Eventually God’s answers help me to open my heart to more and more of His will. I’ll take anything that will help to keep my relationship with God open and honest, moving forward with small steps of hope and trust. Scripture includes this advice for a reason – no waste in God’s world.

  25. pmanley says:

    I love to commune with God, but the “spirit is willing and the flesh is weak.” So many things seem to pop up before me that have to be done now and my prayer time gets pushed aside. I have never asked God to help me pray maybe because it is so obvious it was just overlooked. I am definitely going to start. Thank you for your insight.

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