An image of a guy sitting alone, when you don't know what to say, the prayer you need is just a talk with God.

How To Pray When You Don’t Know What To Say

SELF | Scott Dill | 16 mins

Whether you’re new to God or not, prayer can feel hard. And to make things worse, life can be even harder. We sometimes don’t know where to start. It feels like we don’t have the right words. Or we feel we don’t have what it takes to get prayer “right.” It can feel impossible when you don’t know what to say. I’ve been there.

But let me ask you, do you ever talk to anyone? Spouse? Sibling? Friend? Co-worker? If your answer is yes—then we’ve got great news for you. You can pray!

I know. You might be rolling your eyes at me right now. Prayer may feel different than just talking. But should it? Maybe not. Like almost anything we do, the more we do it, the more natural it feels. Think of anything you’re good at, and I bet it took practice. Prayer is no different.

Prayer is just talking…to God.

We realize that talking to the invisible creator of all things might feel different than chewing the fat at the water cooler with Joe in accounting. But what if we approached God as a parent? Or a trusted friend? What if God was hanging at the water cooler? (We think he is, BTW)

What if we truly believed prayer wasn’t about getting it “right,” but about getting real. Prayer starts with just being honest and sharing what is on our heart or the heart of a friend or family member.

And why do we believe God will hear us? Because He says so:

Jeremiah 33:3. Call to me, and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

Now you might be asking—how do I actually do this? Great question. But like we said at the top, this is just like talking to a friend. Actually, it IS talking to a friend. The verse below is Jesus talking to His disciples. People who were following Him just like you and I are trying to do.

John 15:15
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

When you don’t know what to say, let’s trust Jesus and talk to him as a friend. With this in mind, we’ve written some prayers for various topics that you can say to God for yourself or for someone else. It might feel strange at first. No problem. Remember, you’re building muscle (the prayer muscle). It just takes some practice.

Here’s how it works:

  1. If you have a private place, go there.
  2. Find a prayer below that describes your situation.
  3. Read the words, but you don’t have to stick to them exactly. And if other things you want to ask God or say to Him come to mind, say those. There’s nothing magical about the prayers we’ve written. It’s just a starting place to bring the God who promises comfort into the pain. Read them, change them, use them as much as you want in faith that one way or another, God will hear you and can bring you through it.
  4. After you say it all, take a minute and listen. See if you hear anything back. That could mean you have a gut feeling, or a thought that doesn’t feel like your own, a song comes to mind, your emotions shift, you have an unexpected idea, whatever it is—write it down. That might be God talking to you too.
  5. See if there’s anything to do with what you heard. Run it by a friend who follows God. Or use the Chat button on crossroads.net to talk to someone who can process it with you. Or as long as what you heard doesn’t seem illegal or terribly against what you know of God, try acting on it! (Asking a friend first is usually wise, though.)

Last, you’ll also notice a Bible verse after each prayer. We’d encourage you to memorize the verse attached to the prayer you need. Maybe print it out and hang it on your fridge or by your bathroom mirror to help you. Why? Because that verse isn’t just something written down 1,000s of years ago. It’s something that’s living right now. It might be hard to wrap your head around. But we believe it’s something God is saying to you right now. And it’s meant to help and be a comfort to you right now.

Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

The Prayer Guide

Look for the prayer that fits your situation and go for it.

I don’t know how to approach God God, I don’t know how to do this—how to talk to you. But I’m going to try right now and say these words. I’m going to step out in faith and trust you can hear me while I share what’s in my head and on my heart. That when you say in the Bible, “Call to me and I will answer you,” you’re talking to me. I’m trusting that there’s no formula or right way to do this. You’re just happy to know I want to talk to you. Will you talk to me? Whether it’s an idea that comes into my mind, or something someone who knows you says to me, I’m going to be listening to you. And I’m going to try my best to believe that you will talk to me. That you will help me hear you better and show me a way forward. Amen.

Jeremiah 33:3
Call to me, and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

I worry that I’ve done unforgivable things
God, I’m coming to you now, but I’m afraid of what you think of me. I’ve made some mistakes in my life. (Say those out loud if you can.) I’ve hurt myself or others. But I’m told you want to forgive ALL things. That I just have to ask. I don’t have to prove myself or clean myself up first. I just have to ask you to forgive me. So I ask that be true for me. And for you to help me not go back to that place of shame again. To move forward with You as I try to follow you to the best of my ability. Thank you, God, for giving me another chance. Amen.

Romans 5:8. …but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Dealing with tragedy God, I’m heartbroken/pissed/angry/__________ (fill in the blank with any word, no matter how intense) now. (Even if you’re mad at God, that’s OK. He can take it). I don’t know how to process what’s happened. But I need You to hear me and my pain. I’ve got a hole in me from this situation, and I need you to fill it. You say that you “heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.” Will you do that for me? I know it will take time, but I’m going to do my best to keep talking to You and to trust that You see me and that you want to heal me. Amen.

Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.

Angry at God (Trust us, it’s totally OK to pray this prayer.) God, I’m so angry at you right now. Do you even see what’s happening? Do you even care? I’m struggling to see your plan or a way forward. It’s taking everything I have to even say these words. I need you to speak to me and show me you see me. So I’m going to risk it all and reach out to you. I’m asking you to take this pain away. To show me that you love me, that’s you’ve not abandoned me, and that you want to heal me. Amen.

Psalm 13:1-2
1. I’m hurting, Lord—will you forget me forever? How much longer, Lord? Will you look the other way when I’m in need? 2
How much longer must I cling to this constant grief? I’ve endured this shaking of my soul. So how much longer will my enemy have the upper hand?

Suffering with fear/anxiety
God, I’m scared and full of fear right now. There are thoughts, ideas, and circumstances that want to send me to a dark place. I need You and Your light. Jesus says, “I am the light of the world, and those who embrace me will experience life-giving light…) I want that light, Lord. Show me how to move from darkness to light. Show me what it means to “embrace” you. Move me from fear to love. From chaos to peace. May I feel your presence and know that I’m not alone; That darkness will not win in my life. Help me to believe that I’m protected and loved by the Creator of the universe. Amen.

John 8:12
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Jesus speaking)

I’ve lost my job
God, I’m scared about the future. I don’t know how this will all work out. Will you meet me in my situation and help me to trust You and the plan you have for me? In the Bible, King David says, “…Not once have I found a lover of God forsaken by Him, nor have any of their children gone hungry.” I want that to be true for me and my family. Please help me to stay strong, and bring me hope in a new job. I pray I can experience the truth that You never leave your children behind. Amen.

Psalm 37:25
I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.

I’m grieving the loss of a loved one
God, I’m heartbroken/pissed/angry. (even if you’re mad at God, that’s OK, he can take it) I feel so lost right now. And I’m not sure I’ll ever be the same person. Will you walk with me through this deep hurt? Will you calm my mind in the quiet moments and give me peace as I grieve this loss? Help me to sleep deeply and wake up believing I can face each day. Jesus says that there will come a day when “no one will take away your joy.” Help me to believe and to trust that you are guiding me there as I walk with You. Amen.

John 16:22
So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

I don’t have direction in my life
God, I’m tired of being confused and unsure about my future. You say that you “have plans to prosper me, not to harm me.” And that you want to give me “a hope and a future.” Show me those plans, God. Put me in touch with the right people, give me the right ideas, that I may start to see a way forward. A way that leads to purpose in my life and a deeper connection with You. Amen.

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

I can’t let go of bitterness God, I’m so angry and resentful of ___ (name the person or situation). You say, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger…be put away from you.” It’s hard to be treated the way I was and do that. Forgiveness feels impossible. It feels so unfair. But I’m pretty sure I’m the one suffering most, and I want to be free. I want to feel peace. So help me, God, to be forgiving for my own spiritual health. Help me remember that You lead my future, no matter what has happened in the past. You are more powerful than this person or situation. You can redeem everything. As crazy as it sounds, help me to one day in the freedom of full forgiveness, to be able to bless this person. Because I trust You and the work you’re doing in me. That you want good things for me that can only come from receiving Your forgiveness by being forgiving. Amen.

Ephesians 4:31-32
31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Suicidal thoughts/depression
God, my thoughts are very dark these days. I don’t know how, or even if, I can go on. But way deep down, there’s a hope that You’re real. And that You really care about me. Will you throw me a life-line? Pull me up out of this pit and show me what a life with hope can look like. The Bible says You lift people out of the “pit of despair.” Will you do this for me? Rescue me, Jesus. I need you. Shut down the voices that are telling me I’m worthless or that things won’t get better. Speak my worth to me. Show me how much you love me. Amen.

Psalm 40:2
He lifted me up from the pit of despair, out of the miry clay; He set my feet upon a rock, and made my footsteps firm.

Lonely
God, I feel isolated and alone. Will You help me find real community? I know You’ve designed me to have friendship and connection. You tell me friendship will “refresh the soul.” But right now, I’m disconnected. Will You reveal yourself to me? Help me to know I’m never alone, even when I’m not physically surrounded by people. Your Spirit will always be with me. Will you help that be enough and go further by sending some good people my way? I want to feel you and experience the type of community you designed for us. Amen.

Proverbs 27:9. Sweet friendships refresh the soul and awaken our hearts with joy, for good friends are like the anointing oil that yields the fragrant incense of God’s presence.

Parenting Struggles
God, I know my child (children) are a gift from you. But it doesn’t always feel like that. And I don’t always know what I’m doing. I’m tired (or angry, confused, frustrated, etc.) and need help in knowing how to parent well. Remind me of the gift they are. Have patience with me and give me insight into how to build into them so that they are a blessing to me and I am a blessing to them. Amen.

Psalm 127:3. Children are God’s love-gift; they are heaven’s generous reward.

Singleness
God, I don’t know if this season is forever or if it’s just for now. But help me walk in my singleness in a way that honors You and your teaching. You say I stay on the path of purity by “living according to your word.” Help me do just that. I can’t accomplish it on my own. Give me strength to avoid temptation and to operate in a way that honors others. Heal the hurt I feel. Clear my mind of the lies that try to shame me for being “alone.” Help me see the fullness of who I am and recognize the beauty of all the relationships in my life. Walk with me as I try to be a good friend, son/daughter, sister/brother to those relationships. Protect me from loneliness, and show me how to thrive. Amen.

Psalm 119: 9-10
How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.

Marriage God, please strengthen my marriage. You call marriage a covenant; A solemn promise to honor the other person at risk and sacrifice to myself. I can’t do that on my own. I need your help. Show me how to love sacrificially. How to honor the other person and to practice humility. I want to understand what becoming “one flesh” really means. What it means to be connected that deeply. Please restore my marriage in every way it needs restoration. Make the way I love my spouse and am loved by my spouse, a reflection of how You love us. Even if it feels impossible, help me trust you to do miracles in us. Amen.

Genesis 2:24. Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.


Written by

Scott Dill

I'm married to a great woman. We have two fantastic daughters. Occasionally, you can find me strumming a guitar or banging a drum. Otherwise, I'm hanging with my family and eating popcorn. God continues to be good to me.

Published on Mar 24, 2021
Process, journal or discuss the themes of this article - here's a few questions to get the ball rolling...

How To Pray When You Don’t Know What To Say

  1. What stood out to you most about this article? Why that?

  2. What’s your history with prayer? If you are the praying type, how has it been for you lately? What barriers do you run into with it?

  3. Where do you most need God to show up in your life?

  4. If the situation you need God for isn’t listed here, try praying something similar. Anything honest works. If you do find a prayer here that matches your situation, great. Start there, and expand with an extra challenge—try believing He WILL show up for you even BEFORE anything changes. See how waiting in faith feels different than waiting skeptically.

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