Hot Topics

The Best Advice I Can Give You About Prayer

Jonathon M. Seidl

April 29, 2024 | 4 minute read


This week is the National Day of Prayer, and I’m going to give you the best advice I’ve ever received when it comes to the purpose of prayer. It’s advice that I used to smirk at, maybe even roll my eyes at a little. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned how essential it is. And today, I realize how lost I would be – and how lost I was – without it. 

Here’s the advice: just pray. Pray more than you think you should. Pray more than you think you need to. Pray often. Pray everywhere. Pray out loud. Pray silently. However you do it, just pray

I get it, that advice probably seems a little trite. I’ve been there. Especially if you grew up in the church or are familiar with faith, the command to pray is something that’s become like background noise. I don’t say that disrespectfully, but it’s just the reality. Prayer, unfortunately for many of us, has become like the remedy my wife prescribes for every single one of my ailments: drink more water. 

I’m not wrong, right? 

I think for a big chunk of my life, at least, that’s how I treated it. And the water analogy is even more spot on the more I think about it. Just like we know we need to drink water, we know we should pray. Just like water, we know the power of prayer does something for our health. Just like water, we know prayer is a little mysterious – how does a liquid form the lifeblood of our cells, and how does prayer form the lifeblood of our spiritual lives? We can have all the scientific and spiritual answers in the world, but in the end there’s just some sort of mystery to it. 

It just works. The water works and the prayer works. And both are essential. 

I think you’re probably asking two questions: How does it work, and why does it work? Let me quickly tackle both. However, know that what I’m able to detail in this short blog post isn’t the comprehensive answer. It can’t be. Books and books have been written on the topic, and I’ll actually recommend one of those at the end. 

How Does Prayer Work? 

This isn’t a cop-out, but I don’t know how prayer works on God’s end. I don’t think anyone really does. In the end, we talk and God listens. And then, at times and in different ways, he decides to speak back to us. Sometimes that’s through his word, sometimes that’s through an inner voice that can actually sound like ours but is telling us stuff we would never say, and other times it’s random. I’ve experienced all three. 

But I can tell you this about how it works on our end: It changes us. It does. When I bring my thoughts, concerns, dreams, ideas and whatever else to God, it changes me. It puts me in a posture of humility, which is essential to growth, and it opens me up to things I never would have thought or imagined. That’s the purpose of prayer.

Why Does Prayer Work?

Once again, I’m going to give you an answer that you may not like: Prayer works because it works. I can’t fully explain why it works, but it just does. Sure, there are some deep theological reasons, but there’s always another question below whatever answer you get. It’s like asking, “Why is there gravity?” You might say, “Well, because the earth spins.” But then there are just more questions: “Well, why does the earth spin?” Until you finally get to the point of saying, “Because it does. It just does.” 

At some point, that’s where we get with prayer, both in the “how” and the “why.” How and why does prayer work? It just does. 

I’m a living, breathing, example of that. Even as a Christian I was a skeptic. Maybe you don’t hear a lot of Christians admit that, but I’m not afraid to. And I think every person who follows Jesus, if they’re honest with themselves, has been a “prayer skeptic.” How can you not be? It’s kind of wild when you think about it: you say stuff to someone you can’t see and he answers in ways you cannot audibly hear. Friend, that’s a mystery. And it doesn’t make sense. 

But it works. I’ve seen it work in my life, especially over the last year. In dramatic and radical ways, I’ve seen the power of prayer. Just ask my wife.

All of that brings me to my final point, and that is to encourage you to go deeper. Last summer, I put together a reading list for the season, and the first book I recommended is one that I consider a pillar in my life. It’s called “A Praying Life” by Paul Miller. Here’s what I wrote at the time, and I think it bears repeating here: 

I don’t think there’s one single work that I came across at such a perfect time in my life than this book. Full confession: I’ve always struggled with prayer. One of my big questions was always, “If God knows everything, then why do I need to pray? Why do I need to ask for things that he already knows will or will not happen?” Paul Miller answers that question and then some. Not only did he help me understand exactly why prayer is important, necessary and helpful, but he also watered my soul in areas I didn’t realize were dry. If you look at my copy, every page has multiple underlines, highlights and notes like, “YES!” This book is about prayer, yes, but it’s about so much more. It’s about our relationship with our creator and how to cultivate that. It’s about slowing down. It’s about investing in what matters. It’s filled with stories and practical tools that, if you’re like me, will change your life. 

Friend, I highly recommend if you’re at all interested or confused by prayer (which, who isn’t?) you read this book. It will either change your mind, renew your mind or blow your mind.

But more than anything, I encourage you to pray. We have this idea that we have to be experts at it. You know what most of my prayers look like? Journal entries. You know what most of my vocal prayers look like? Five-second sentences throughout the day. Even though I do have a formal time with God every morning, it doesn’t look like hours of me talking. I want you to understand that. 

So pray how God’s Holy Spirit – who he calls “the helper” – leads you. Pray whatever way feels good and right. Pray in beautiful ways. Pray in clunky ways. But whatever you do, just pray.

It’s the best advice I can give you.


Jonathon M. Seidl

Jonathon M. Seidl

Jonathon M. (Jon) Seidl is a writer, speaker, and digital media strategist. He’s the author of the #1 bestseller, Finding Rest: A Survivor’s Guide to Navigating the Valleys of Anxiety, Faith, and Life.

Search for what you’d like to read about