The PRAY acronym is a simple way to remind ourselves of the structure of prayer. Most of us learn to pray as children, and we often take the skill of prayer for granted.
Sure we can talk to God anytime, but having a well-structured prayer can help us better communicate with God.
In fact, God has expectations for our prayers and He loves it when we praise Him. It’s also important that we repent, ask, and yield to His will.
Let’s take a closer look at the PRAY acronym and why it’s a great method to use in prayer.
What Is The P.R.A.Y. Acronym
The PRAY acronym is an easy-to-learn method which covers the basic principles for an effective prayer. Prayer is a deeply personal discussion with God and a specific format is not required.
However, when learning to pray (or regularly praying for others), this acronym can help us gather our thoughts and present them to God in a humble way.
Using example prayers in the Bible, we can learn how God expects us to pray. In particular, we can follow the Bible’s most famous prayer, Matthew 6:9-13, where God teaches His disciples how to pray.
The actual words of the prayer are up to you, but there are 4 main prompts that can help with the structure of our prayer. They are 1) Praise, 2) Repent, 3) Ask, and 4) Yield. Below, we’ll discuss each one and share accompanying Scripture.
When we begin our prayer, it’s important to address God in a way that lifts Him up. If we were to be in God’s presence, we would likely bow before Him and thank Him.
>> read my example prayers for busy mothers
With prayer, we can verbally bow before God. For example, we’ve all heard prayers begin with a variation of “Dear God, thank you for this day and for hearing my prayer”.
An appropriate introduction and “thanks” is necessary and God certainly appreciates humility before Him.
The Psalms, in particular, are filled with worshipful praise and I have found that many times just reading a chapter or “song” as it is written will prepare me for my time alone with God.
Matthew 6:9 …Our Father, thou art in heaven, hallowed be thy name
Psalm 9:1 I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
Psalm 71:8 My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long.
We are imperfect and we sin. We know this and God certainly knows it. After our praises, God expects us to ask for forgiveness for the wrongs we’ve done.
This isn’t an opportunity to feel guilt, rather it’s an opportunity to thank God for giving His life for our sins. We should want to repent and learn from our mistakes (some of which we make daily).
Matthew 6:10 Forgive us of our debts, as we forgive our debtors
Matthew 3:8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance
Luke 5:31-32 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Acts 3:19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped our, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgives us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
God teaches us “ask and you shall receive”. Our requests are common in prayer. We often pray for ourselves, family, and close friends. Sometimes we’ll pray for larger issues such as our city, state, and country.
Remember that asking is part of prayer and not the only reason for prayer. Praising God and repenting before we ask for blessings will help us in prayer and it requires patience.
In our day-to-day lives, it wouldn’t be polite to begin a conversation by asking for something, so we shouldn’t do it with God either.
Matthew 6:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Matthew 7:7 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
John 16:24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full
Mark 11:24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours
Yield refers to being patient and waiting on the Lord. We pray and God hears us.
Yet we must always defer to his will for our lives. Even Jesus fervently asked not to die on the cross, but his last words were “not my will but thine be done”.
In our busy lives we can be impatient, and we may wonder why God hasn’t answered us. Don’t forget that His timing is perfect and He answers every prayer with either yes, no, or wait.
To conclude your prayer, thank God and ask for understanding. God will direct you, even though it may be in a different direction than you expected.
Matthew 6:13 For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever, Amen.
Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another
Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
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.
Why I Like This Prayer Method
There are several prayer acronyms you can use. Some are useful with Bible study or group prayer, while others are specific to individual prayer.
You can check out my articles on the ACTS prayer method (ACTS is great!) and the Five Finger Prayer (less comprehensive).
Similar to the ACTS prayer method, the PRAY acronym focuses on God’s example prayer for us and is a more traditional and respectful way to pray.
The PRAY acronym values the approach to being in God presence and demonstrates the importance of repentance.
Example Prayer Using The P.R.A.Y. Acronym
I come before you, grateful to be in your presence. You are my Lord and Savior and I thank you for hearing my prayers.
Forgive me of my shortcomings. Each day I do my best to live according to your Word, however, I come up short. I know I will always fall short but through my faith I will grow in wisdom and become more Christ-like.
>> example prayers for blessing
Today, I request that you bless my family with health and safety. Protect us from negative influences and from sickness. Give us the strength to take care of our bodies and live our faith.
I ask that You give me patience, for Your timing is always perfect. I will strive to live my life according to your ways. I exalt You and lift Your name on high – ruler over all. Amen.
Additional Tips For Prayer
Part of praying includes listening. When we pray, it is usually in a quiet moment or period of time that we have set aside but listening can seem impossible when our minds are wandering (read how to teach children to pray).
That’s why it is important not to hurry through your time with the Lord. Here are a few tips for keeping your mind on prayer and worship.
- Try writing your prayers. I have found that by writing the words down I am concentrating on the act of prayer and am able to spend a longer time communing with my Lord and Savior.
- Position yourself. Often our body language will take our mind where it should go. On our knees before God is humbling and conducive to a right spirit. As a child I often went to prayer meetings with my parents and everyone was on their knees for an hour.
- Play sacred music. I have found great playlists on Spotify and Pandora. Instrumental praise is a wonderful way to help your mind stay worshipful.
- Make a list. If you don’t write your prayers it is a good idea to always have a prayer list. We normally have many friends and relatives who would love to know you are interceding for them. And it is amazing to see how God answers.
The PRAY acronym is a great way to remember how to pray. Of course, you can create your own prayer – or just wing it like so many people often do.
However, this format of prayer is done in the way that God instructs (there is a right way to pray). All-to-often, we end up praying only when we need something from God.
It’s okay to ask God for blessings but it’s important we also acknowledge His greatness and ask for forgiveness of our sins. If we were next to God we would be in awe of His glory.
When we pray, we should talk to Him with awe! We are lucky to have someone who listens any time of day!