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Describing Prayer

The faith practice of prayer is a way in which we actively submit ourselves and our world to God’s ongoing transformational work in Christ by expressing ourselves to God and listening for God to engage with us.

Putting Prayer into Practice

by Chris Schoon, Director of Thrive-US

One day, after listening to Jesus pray, his disciples asked him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). It was a simple and heartfelt request, but the significance of it becomes evident when we take a step back.  

This account is the only recorded occurrence in which the disciples directly ask Jesus to teach them something. They seem to have no hesitation about healing the sick or casting out demons (Mark 6:13). A few chapters earlier, Luke tells how two of the disciples even offered to call down fire from heaven on a village that did not receive Jesus (Luke 9:54)—a pretty bold offer, for which they get a firm rebuke from Jesus. But somehow, in all they were invited to do as they followed Jesus, the disciples recognized that they needed Jesus to teach them how to pray.

As Jews in the first century, the disciples would have known and sung the prayers that make up the psalms. So it’s not that they didn’t know how to pray at all. But they recognized something different in the way John the Baptist’s followers prayed and in Jesus’ own practices of prayer —and they wanted to learn to pray that way.

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Helpful Resources for Practicing Prayer

Scripture passages on prayer and a resource list of good things to read, watch, and listen to.

How Can I Practice Prayer?

Practicing Prayer Individually

Practicing Prayer with a Group

Practicing Prayer as a Family

Points to Ponder

Explore these questions in personal reflection, at home, or in small groups:

  • What aspects of the Lord’s Prayer come naturally to you (praise and adoration, welcoming God’s kingdom, opening yourself to God’s will, asking for daily bread, asking for and extending forgiveness, praying for protection and deliverance)? Which are harder to practice?
  • What is the ratio of talking to listening in the time you spend with God in prayer?
  • At what times in your life have you felt that you were in “the depths,” as the writer of Psalm 130 says? Were you able to pray during those times? Why or why not?
  • In The Prayer of the Lord, R.C. Sproul observes, “The very beginning of godliness, the very beginning of transformation in our lives and in our society, begins with our posture before the character of God.” What kind of posture might Sproul be referring to here?


“Prayer is not about throwing holy words at God to see what sticks; it is, rather, entrance to a new way of seeing reality, the opening of ourselves to God’s presence, and an act that trains us in love.”

—Rich Villodas, via Twitter (Tweet this quote)

Explore Other Faith Practices

Thrive's Faith Practices Project explores twelve Christian practices or spiritual disciplines: sabbath, gratitude, generosity, hospitality, engaging Scripture, justice and mercy, listening, celebration, prayer, wonder, remembering, and service.