Sincere prayer is perhaps the most personal, private act a person can make. Each religious tradition has its own customs, practices, rites and doctrines surrounding prayer. If you believe - or at least hope - in a God that hears prayers and may answer them, it shouldn't be hard to believe that the form of your prayer is not nearly so important to God as the act of praying.

Here are some ideas to help you pray:

Find a private place

Your sincere and honest prayer is not for public consumption. The prayer you might perform in public is not the prayer you might offer alone where no one can watch or hear. Depending on your living arrangements, this may be a place in your home. It may be on a park bench in Central Park. Find a place where you can be as alone as possible.

Pray aloud

If you believe, as many do, in an all-powerful, all-knowing God, then your thoughts are known. The point of saying them out loud is not so they are heard, but simply that they are fully and clearly formed. Speak your prayer. If you cannot find a place that is truly private, you may wish to pray silently. If so, form your thoughts as clearly as if you were speaking them.

Address deity

While it may go without saying, but much as you would start any conversation - and that's what prayer is - you want the being to whom you are speaking to be absolutely clear about who is being addressed. If you have a specific faith tradition, use the name you know for God. If not, simply calling upon God is an honest attempt to connect with the divine.

Offer thanks

Recognizing that your desire to pray may be triggered by a desire to ask for help - and there is nothing wrong with that - starting out with an expression of thanks seems (to this mortal, at least) to be good form. (Remember that form is secondary.) You may find that the simple act of identifying things for which you are grateful will lift your spirit and help you communicate with deity.

Ask for help

Anyone who believes in a personal God who is aware of individuals on Earth should be prepared to believe that such a being would also be willing to intervene - at times - on behalf of those who ask for help. This is likely the reason you want to communicate with God in the first place. If you want wisdom, ask for it. If you want a blessing of health for an infirm loved one, ask for it. If you need food, shelter or just someone to love and care for you, ask for it.


Some faith traditions prescribe a pattern for closing a prayer. If you come from such a tradition, feel free to use the prescribed pattern.

However you choose to pray, consider making time to ponder your prayer before and after you pray. Give God a chance to answer your prayer, to speak to your heart.

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