When I was a missionary, I worked with hundreds of people who had never really prayed before and helped them to learn to communicate with their Heavenly Father. Some of them struggled at first to feel comfortable praying, but eventually learned.

So, should prayers be free-form or memorized? I believe the Savior Jesus Christ taught us to pray to the Father using our own words in an authentic way so that we can express our worries and hopes to God. While pondering as one recites a Bible verse may be helpful, true prayer is a two-way communication between a person and God. I have learned that I can pray and receive answers to my prayers from God.

The Bible teaches us exactly how to pray.

Bible Teachings on the Manner of Prayer

Many people recite the Lord’s Prayer as a way to pray. While I also enjoy pondering Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for me while repeating the words to this powerful prayer, I would not use it as a substitution for communicating the feelings of my heart in an authentic, real way to God.

Immediately before Jesus Christ gave the Lord’s Prayer, he said “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do, for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matthew 6:7). Jesus made it clear that he did not want us to pray by simply engaging in a vain repetition of words. He then gave a powerful and heart-felt personal prayer.

Jesus Christ then prayed…

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Matthew 6:9-13

Other prayers from the heart are recorded in scripture. In Genesis 5:23, Abraham prays to God about what he was struggling with and his personal problems.

Why Express Our Worries in Prayer If God Already Knows Our Hearts?

One day on an airplane I was asked by the person next to me why we should pray when God already knows our hearts, and already has perfect knowledge of what to do.

I found the answer, which is well-expressed in the Bible Dictionary:

The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.

The Bible Dictionary, Prayer

This thought is also expressed in Acts 1:24 when the 12 apostles selected a new apostle after Judas’s death. They prayed, saying “Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen.” The apostles recognized that the Lord already knew the thoughts of their hearts, and yet prayed anyway to ask a question to the Lord that was difficult for them to answer. They prayed using their own words instead of merely reciting a written prayer.

You Can Receive Knowledge from God Through Your Prayers to Him

Soon before Jesus Christ died on the cross, he gathered his 12 disciples for the Last Supper. Jesus said, “Little children, yet a little while I am with you… But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 13, John 14:26).

This scripture shows that Jesus Christ promised that after he left the earth and could no longer physically be with us, he would give us the Holy Spirit to give us knowledge to guide our lives.

Most of the time, when I pray I express my thoughts and feelings to God. I pray about my kids and things I want to be able to teach them, I pray and ask for help in running my business that I can make it to grow and provide well for my employees. I pray for my wife that she’ll have heavenly help in home schooling our children and helping the many people she supports. I pray that I will be strong in resisting temptation and have energy to be active.

The majority of the time, I pray and feel peaceful, but do not receive any instruction from God as to what I should do. Most of the time, the Lord would have us “walk by faith, and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). There have been times, however, when those prayers yielded sudden thoughts that clearly communicated to me what I should do, and how I should do it.

More commonly, however, by praying in the morning when I wake up and also throughout my day, I find that I have access to the Holy Spirit. I will be thinking about a friend in need and will come to know how I can help him. I will be worried about how I can connect with my boys and will have an idea of what we could do together, etc. Sometimes in business meetings I’ll be debating different approaches to a problem and I will feel a sure thought “That is right.”

Most of the time, the answers to my prayers are so subtle that if I did not pay close attention, I may disregard them as my own thoughts. However, at other times in my life I have seen the Lord show his power through an unusual and unmistakeable way. Those experiences are private to me, but they have helped me to know that these thoughts and feelings I have throughout my day are not merely my own thoughts or wishes, but to recognize them as coming from God.

Why Is It Wrong to Pray Only Memorized or Recited Prayers?

First of all, I do not think there is anything “wrong” with reciting a Bible verse or a written prayer and pondering for a while. Actually, I think this is a wonderful practice.

However, you can easily see how this good practice could come between a believer and God if no prayers in one’s own words are ever said. This would keep us from praying about our own lives and the things we are struggling with. In short, it could entirely cut off the flow of communication between a person and God.

I would encourage you to pray each morning right when you wake up using your own words. Kneel down and simply address God by saying his name and then begin to express yourself. If you are in a place where you can speak out loud, do so. If not, then merely think the words. After a few minutes, simply end by saying “In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” Christ asked us to “pray to the Father in my name.”

Separately from this prayer, you could also begin a study of scripture. Read verses in the scriptures and ponder them. Think and spend some time without distraction each day to allow Heavenly Father to give you divine thoughts.

In this way, you can pray in your own words, as well as having time to ponder the scriptures.

Learn How to Pray

If you would like help in learning how to communicate with God, you can have two Christian missionaries come to your house completely free and teach you how to pray. Check it out here.