How To Pray: 5 Secrets To Powerful Prayer

How To Pray: 5 Secrets To Powerful Prayer - T E Hanna | Of Dust & Kings
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It is amazing how few Christians truly know how to pray. If the heart of Christianity is an active relationship with the living God, then prayer is the bloodstream which feeds it. Learning how to pray, then, is essential to a vibrant spiritual life. Yet, far too often,  prayer becomes reduced to a laundry list of requests and petitions, with the occasional praise tossed in for good measure.

As I read the Gospels, I find in Jesus such a rich life of prayer that “laundry lists” become trite and unsatisfying puddles before the great sea in which Jesus seemed to swim. As I look back through history, I see the same trend, that same yearning desire, through the lives of numerous spiritual titans.

Andrew Murray said that, “Some people pray just to pray, and some people pray to know God.”

Fredrik Wisloff echoed that sentiment when he declared that, “You may pray for an hour and still not pray. You may meet God for a moment and then be in touch with Him all day.”

The great Christian reformer John Wesley confessed, “I have so much to do that I spend several hours in prayer before I am able to do it.”

Francois Fenelon, that great 17th century theologian and archbishop, cut right to the heart of it when he observed that “Of all the duties enjoined by Christianity none is more essential and yet more neglected than prayer.”

Prayer feeds the soul. It is the conversational connection between us and the Father, through which our faith moves from mere intellectual assent to vibrant, living, moving, transforming, active, relational reality. While it is certainly true that prayer is one of the most vital of the spiritual disciplines, it is equally true that in prayer, the disciplines converge into something momentous. So, it should come as no surprise that the disciples, after observing Jesus in prayer, bore the same request many of us harbor today: “Lord, teach us how to pray.”

How To Pray: Five Secrets To Powerful Prayer

  • Seek God’s Presence.

    Prayer is born out of a relationship. Eugene Peterson describes it as a river flowing out of the heart of God and returning back to Him. Prayer is how we step into this river. This is a powerful analogy, because it discretely reveals one of the most powerful concepts in learning how to pray: prayer begins with God, not with us. (How worship cultivates the sense of God’s presence)

  • Learn To Listen.

    Soren Kierkegaard once remarked that, “A man prayed, and at first he thought that prayer was talking. But he became more and more quiet until in the end he realized that prayer was listening.” If we want to learn how to pray, then we must remember that prayer is communication in the context of a divine-human relationship. That is, it needs to be a two way street. So often we become so fixated on what we want to say, that we fail to quiet ourselves and allow the space for God to speak. (How to cultivate stillness)

  • Discover His Voice.

    I firmly believe that God still speaks to His people. Often, however, we have become so disconnected from His voice that, even when we have quieted our inner being, we still fail to recognize Him. Rediscovering the sound of His whisper is beautiful, if often overlooked, aspect of learning how to pray powerfully. The good news for many of us is that we still have access to His voice as it has reverberated down the hallways of history, recorded in the pages of Scripture. The more time we spend with Him, the more we get to know that voice, and the greater our discernment in recognizing Him.

  • Yield Your Will.

    So much of popular prayer seems focused on how we convince God to acquiesce to our will, yet this is not the model Christ gave us in demonstrating how to pray. I am reminded of Jesus in Gethsemane, and the titanic clash of his humanly will and His divine will. Sweating drops of blood, we find the anguish of this inner turmoil contained in one small phrase. “Father, if it be Your will, let this cup pass from me; yet not my will but Yours be done.” Submission is, itself, a discipline. When we have come into the presence of God, quieted our inner being, sought His voice, we still have to be willing to surrender our own will to that which He has now made known. This is, perhaps, the most difficult stage in deep prayer, but it is also the most powerful. It is in this stage where we enter into the will of God.

  • Participate With God’s Desire.

    Here, settled into river flowing from God’s heart, aware of His will, we now make petition. At this stage, prayer becomes a manner of participating with what God is already doing, or desiring to do. Prayer in accordance with (and immersed within) the will of God cannot help but leave its indelible mark on one’s heart. This is the type of prayer that will change you. This is also the type of prayer that will change the world.

What insights can you shed on how to pray?

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T E Hanna is the author of Raising Ephesus: Christian Hope for a Post-Christian Age and has published articles across the web on issues of faith and culture.

  • Dennis Joseph Kruep

    Thanks for this post. I recall stopping my daily prayer sessions for many years because they had transformed into the ‘laundry lists’ you describe above. I am going to apply your 5 secrets during my prayer time tomorrow morning.

    I am curious, do you use any online tools like to guide your prayer sessions?

  • Jason Neil Soto

    The communication of God will never contradict the flow of His words in Scripture. Learning to listen is best developed in the study of God’s word. The most trustworthy voice is always heard from Genesis to Revelation.

  • Funmi Akinmade

    A beautiful piece! Thank you for sharing this.

  • Kenneth Dawson

    Wow that post is my Christmas gift thank you very much it will be on my Facebook page–a happy Christmas to you

  • Luke

    We are told to pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, Eph 6:18. We also should allow the Spirit to intercede in our behalf, Ro 8:26, with groanings which cannot be uttered. And I try and remember to take the Lords advice and go in secret and pray the prayer he gave us for a example.

    Mt 6:9 ¶ After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
    10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
    11 Give us this day our daily bread.
    12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
    13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

    This in my mind covers all the bases. God’s will is not always apparent in our lives and the lives of Christian brothers and sisters. He is the potter and we the clay.

  • Tricia Opitz

    Excellent article on prayer. I told my facebook friends about it.

    • T E Hanna

      Thank you Tricia!

  • Jethro Padilla

    this is great…thanks for sharing and It’s an honor for me as well that you also like my posts…keep on writing for His glory

  • Under His Wings Media

    I really like what you said about knowing Gods Voice. To me spending time with Christ & having a personal relationship with him is like when a man courts a women, he spends time to know her, he studies her, her talks to her, he laughs & cries with her, he tells her his inner thoughts, he has faith in her, he trust her, he does all the things he needs to do to establish a personal relationship with her. This is what we should do with establishing a personal relationship with Christ. We know The Lords Voice by spending quality time with Him! Thank you for your post & God Bless!!

  • Christa

    Enjoyed this very much! Well written and a great reminder to be quiet.

  • walter bright

    every time I lift my voice – either to worship or pray – His favor I find…

  • Cristal

    The bloodstream of my life with God…prayer…wow. And yet I neglect the power. And then I wonder why I feel dry or lifeless.

  • Joey Coons

    Awesome blog!

  • Carol Crouch

    Prayer has always been important to me as I have suffered chronic pain from migranes and other things most of my life. When I am in the greatest pain, Jesus is the closest. Sometimes I can sense his presence.
    I have also felt, since I was young, that God has given me a prayer ministry. Providential things happen all the time where I am able to pray for and help individuals through difficult times. People seem to feel able to talk to me about personal issues in these circumstances. I have had the privilege of being part of healings, as well as God working through my prayers to bring other kinds of help to the persons I encounter. It has been a rewarding Journey.
    This is not to say I am satisfied with my prayer life. I like the comments you made in your 5 Secrets. They are valuable thoughts.

  • Aleksander

    I think this site contains some very excellent info for everyone.

  • lbtk

    All the suggestions are wonderful. I especially have to participate in God’s will and remember that He is God and I am not. Sandy

  • Lee Ellzey

    Thanks for sharing these good words!

  • Nelson Ovirhi

    Interested in your teaching

  • Anissa Mathias

    Beautiful, and it raises good points. There are people out there that want God to give them things, and they pray a good game, but when you don’t stop to listen to God, you’re missing out on something glorious and wonderful.

  • W2W Magazine

    When I first gave my life to Christ you could not stop me from praying. I love it!

  • Peter

    Great post and spot on it its contents IMO!

    I’ve recently written abook about prayer which I am just finliazing for print through Amazon, and it has taught me so much about the topic. Who was it said that if you want to know somethng about a topic, write about it?

    Anyhow, even though I’ve learned a lot, I still have so much more to learn. I find praying wonderful, but I always end up praying in bursts. For two weeks I’m enthusiastic, then I forget to pray for a while, then for a week I’ll pray again, then I’ll be too busy or something else will get in the way, and so on.

    For me I’m encouraged by the phrase:

    “The definition of success is getting up one more time than you fall down,”

    so I’m going to try getting up again after each time I fall down in my prayer life.

    Thanks for the post, it’s very encouraging.

  • literary lew

    Very good. I was talking today to a good friend about how hard it is to “listen” to God, how hard it is to get beyond the chatter, what I like to call “god talk”. Thanks.

  • David Hoopingarner

    Reblogged this on Rough-Hewn Blog and commented:
    Very good post here! Let me add a couple of verses to continue the conversation.
    And He spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
    (Luke 18:1)
    Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
    (Philippians 4:4-7)

  • Darrah Stedham

    Secrets 2 and 4 really stuck out to me the most. I’ve never really heard of prayer as a way of listening and yeilding God’s will. But I see your point; prayer is communication, and communication is a two-way street. Although people may see secrets 1-5 as easy I see them as a litte more difficult. I believe you would have to be really mature in your faith to be able to exercise all five in one prayer. Good Post.

  • jelillie

    I would like to reblog this. May I?

    • T. E. Hanna

      Absolutely. If you connect with something from my blog, you have complete freedom to use it however you desire, so long as it glorifies God. :)

  • Don Enevoldsen

    Prayer really isn’t very complicated, is it? A shame we don’t devote more of our attention to it.

    • T. E. Hanna

      It isn’t complicated at all, but I sometimes think that simplicity is part of its challenge. Keep in mind that, in the ancient world, “prayer” was about the ritual which allowed one to manipulate the gods. It was detached, and centered on exerting human will over the will of the gods. Judaism, however, emphasized this immanent deity who took an active interest in our well being. Prayer became about relationship, and centered on submitting our will to God’s. Pretty radical culture change…

      Btw, did you get my email?

      • Don Enevoldsen

        I think you have identified a significant obstacle to effective prayer. Too many believers approach it as a means to manipulate God, which never works. He doesn’t let it work because of the second thing you identified, which is that he has an active interest in our well being.

  • Naphtali

    Very good. And yes, spending time alone with God has altered my life that it convicts those around me. It’s almost funny.

  • Dana

    Great post, Thomas. I know there are a ton of books out there on the topic of Prayer, but do you have any you especially recommend?

  • Tahlitha Chadwick

    Yes…there are times in prayer that all I want in God is His very presence. Nothing more. He speaks volumes to the quieted spirit.

    Another beautiful post.

    God bless you.

  • spiritualsavant

    Murray also said, “Daily specifc answer to prayer ought to be the experience of every Christian.” Take hold of that one and see where it will drag you :)

  • Chris Jordan

    It’s unfortunate that there are so many Christians today who neither know how to pray, nor believe in the power of prayer. If only we would return to the words of Jesus who said, “Whatever things you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them!” One of my favourite classic works on the topic of prayer is Andrew Murray’s “With Christ in the School of Prayer” – a must-read for anyone wanting to learn how to pray powerful prayers!

  • terry1954

    i enjoy reading your posts

  • thoughtfulspirituality

    Nicely put. What amazes me is how small the range of prayer is for most people (as you point out). There is, indeed, so much more.

    As someone with a Maths background, I found myself coming at this from a slightly different perspective when I was working through prayer. It led me to the notion of a “prayer space”, a conceptual field with 2 dimensions onto which the different types of prayer could be plotted. Everything that most people considered prayer was huddled in one corner! I will be putting that article up (probably in several posts) over the next few weeks and would love to hear your thoughts on it.

    Your five points are really good pointers to true prayer, what is sometimes called “the prayer of the heart”. I hope many will read this and learn from you.


  • aishanoor

    Very well written….certainly gave me some seriously positive advice.