What Is the “proper” way to pray?

What is the “proper” way to pray? Should we pray standing up, sitting down, kneeling, or bowing down? Do our hands need to be open, closed, or lifted up to God? Is it best to have our eyes closed when we pray? Do we need to pray in a church or in nature? Should we pray in the morning when we wake up or at night before going to bed? Do we need to say certain words? How do we start a prayer? How do we finish? These are some of the questions commonly asked regarding prayer. But does any of this really matter?

The Magic Words?

All too often it’s easy to see prayer as a “magic formula.” If we do not say exactly the right things, or pray in the right position, then we might think that God will not hear and answer our prayers. This is unscriptural. When we pray, where we pray, what bodily position we’re in, or in what order we word our prayers, is not the basis on which God answers our prayers. 1 John 5:14-15 tells us to be confident when we come to God in prayer because we know He hears us and will do whatever we ask, as long as it is within His will. Also, in John 14:13-14, Jesus tells us, “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it”(NASB). These and many other verses of scripture tell us that God will answer our prayers based on whether they are asked according to His will and in the name of Jesus (to bring glory to Him).

Prayer from the Heart

So, what is the proper way to pray? In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul tells us to pray without being anxious, to pray in all things, and to pray with thanksgiving. God then promises to answer such prayers with the gift of His peace in our hearts. The proper way to pray is to pour out our hearts before God, being honest and open with Him, since He already knows us better than we do. We should present our requests to God keeping in mind that He knows what is best for us and will not grant a request that is not in His will. We are to express our love, gratitude, and worship to God in prayer without worrying about the right words to say. God is more interested in the attitude of our hearts than in our eloquence.

A “Pattern” for Prayer

The closest the Bible comes to giving us a “pattern” for prayer is what is called the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. However, the Lord’s Prayer is not simply a prayer to memorize and recite to God. It is an example of what should be included in our prayers—worship, trust in God, requests, confession, and submission—using our own words and “customizing” it to our own relationship with God. The proper way to pray is to express what is on our hearts to God. Our body position, the location, and the time when we pray are all side issues based on personal preference, our convictions, and what is appropriate at the time. God’s basic desire is for prayer to be a personal connection between Himself and us.

Ken Reddington and his wife, Toshiko, are church-planting missionaries in Kochi-ken. Ken is an MK who returned to Japan as a missionary from the US more than 35 years ago.