A girl in trouble was afraid and wanted to pray, but didn't know what to say in a prayer. She couldn't even scream.
A young man who had rebelled, had a motorcycle accident and was so messed up that the police didn't call an ambulance, not expecting him to live. The young man was desperate to cry out to God, but - what should he say?
Many people want a little list, or outline or some sentences that they can memorize - then, when they pray those words, presto, God will grant them whatever they ask. Or so they hope.
That is not how it works. A memorized prayer far too quickly becomes a reciting exercise.
Jesus gave His disciples a perfect prayer example, but He also taught that God wants us to pray from our spirit or heart, that is, from our most sincere selves. It is wise to learn the kinds of praying we can do, and then to just be transparently ourselves when we come into God's presence. Then we will know what to say in prayer, because we have a sense of who He is, and who we are, and the longing of our heart.
Of course, if we know what kinds of things God wants to hear from us, we'll know what to say in prayer.
God does not need to be reminded how great and awesome He is; but we do. Expressing to God how marvellous and wonderful and powerful He is, helps us to get those truths clear in our mind, and such sentences help us to be in awe - to worship God.
This is hard to do in just a short sentence or two. Sometimes we must spend several minutes singing or speaking back to God how wonderful He is and reviewing some of the things He has done, or what He is like before we really convince ourselves that we are in the presence of the most powerful being and authority in the whole universe! Allow yourself to really get into this awe-filled emotion and tell God how much you love and adore and respect Him.
Prepare by spending some time before you pray, reading the Bible and reviewing, or learning new things about God's character and deeds. This will inform and improve the worshipful things you say in prayer. They will increase your faith too, so that when you ask for help, you will believe easily that He will answer you.
Our human tendency is to forget to say thanks. So make an effort to think about all the wonderful things God has already done for you, or provided to you, and say 'thank You' in your prayers. Once is not enough. Thank Him again each time you pray. The more often you do this, the more things you will notice - that were from God! You will have yet another thing for which to thank and praise Him.
Even if you run out of things that you are sure God has done for your personally, you can always praise God for who He is, and what He has done for all humanity on this earth. For example, God created this whole world and every creature in it. He made every human who ever drew a breath - including you! God thought up a perfect plan of salvation; He knew we could never save ourselves or be good enough, so He sent His Son, Jesus, to die in our place and take the death sentence for us. That is a marvelous, tremendous truth! But there is so much more! God raised Jesus up from the dead, and that means all who trust in Him for their salvation will rise too, and live forever more in Heaven. And then God sent His Spirit to come abide in each believer to guide us and remind us of His truths, and to give us the power to live godly lives that please Him!
The more you read and study the Bible to learn about God the more things You will have to say in prayer as you thank and praise Him from the depths of your heart. Think about His great love and mercy - think about His mighty deeds throughout the history of the earth - you will have plenty to say in prayer!
That kind of worship leads to a sense of our own unworthiness and our sinfulness. We see that in the Bible in the prayers of Job, Isaiah, Daniel, and Ezra, and others. This is not the place to give up though. If we confess our sins to God, showing Him that we are truly sorry we did them, He promises to forgive and cleanse us for Jesus' sake.
So in this part of your prayer time, express your sorrow for your sin and ask to be forgiven. Then express your gratitude by faith that God has kept His promise and forgiven you and now sees you as being in Christ Jesus, His beloved Son.
The wonderful thing about confessing our sins and receiving God's forgiveness, is that we will then begin to have peace and a tremendous joy that surpasses words to express it! This great sense of relief and freedom helps the next kind of praying to flow easily.
Requests or petitions are the things you want to ask God to do for you. There is no point in being too shy. Sure God reads your mind and knows what you need before you ask, but to stretch your faith He often will hold back from granting you those things until you come in bold, believing faith to ask those requests of Him.
God delights to answer the prayers of His obedient sons and daughters, but how are we going to know that He is answering our prayers if we have not asked for anything?
There are some extremes to avoid, however.
Some people preach that God wants to give you everything your little heart longs for. Just ask, and it will be yours. Now just think about that; does a wise parent give their child everything they ask for? That's foolish - and not good for the child. In the same way, God exercises His rights as our Heavenly Father, to withhold some requests for us until we are mature enough or able to handle the results. Sometimes He knows that we ask in ignorance, with no idea how wrong it would be for us to receive what we ask for. It is liable to ruin our lives further on in life. Let's be thankful that God is not a genie who grants our every wish.
Other teachers go around telling Christians that all we must do is get our will in line with God's. We are not to ask for anything, just get our hearts in a place of utter submission to whatever God wants to give us. That's an unhealthy half-truth. God does not want to turn us into automated robots. We are to thoughtfully make decisions - in line with God's will. That includes our prayer requests.
Study the Lord's Prayer of Matthew 6:31-33 (also known as "Our Father...") to see how Jesus made requests of the Father. You might also want to read about the life of George Mueller, who prayed very specifically in Bristol, England, and was able to feed thousands of orphans in his homes on the basis of the answers to those prayers. George did not ask people for money. He only asked God in prayer, and recorded his requests in journals, where he also recorded when and how they were answered.
Intercession is asking on behalf of others instead of ourselves. The Bible is full of examples. If we followed them we would likely spend more time on intercessory prayer for others than all the other four kinds of praying already mentioned. However, it is harder to get people to pray gladly and consistently for others. Most folks, even Christians think mostly of themselves.
Jesus told His disciples to pray for workers in soul-winning. Many are ready/ripe, but there are not enough workers to bring in the spiritual harvest. Pray for all the Christian workers you know.
Pray for your loved ones, and others who need to know the Saviour too.
Pray for your government leaders and for peace in Jerusalem.
When people find out that you pray and get answers from God, you will soon have plenty of requests from them to pray on their behalf.
God could have assigned evangelism to the angels. But Jesus gave that assignment to His disciples, and all of us who have become His followers too. If we don't pray for the salvation of others, and do our part to share the good news, many people will not be saved. Therefore, intercession is very important spiritual work!