While there’s no single “right” way to pray for help, hope and healing, our prayers to God could always use a booster shot. These five tips reveal the SMART way to pray to God — and they apply to all situations. I was experimenting with the idea of praying to Jesus with the SMART goal-setting formula, and discovered that it doesn’t quite fit. You’ll see what I mean soon…
Maybe your prayers are for healing, hope or forgiveness. Maybe you need strength to face a stressful work situation, painful family relationship, or toxic chemotherapy treatments for cancer. Maybe you just want a deeper relationship with God, or you’re praying for guidance for a relationship or big life decision.
The SMARTest way to pray to God for help, hope and healing is to be consistent — and that’s not even part of the “formula.” Be consistent and persistent when you’re praying to God, whether you need courage or guidance, love or forgiveness. Keep showing up. Build a relationship with Him. That is the SMARTest way to pray to God. But wait, there’s more! Below, I describe how the SMART goal-setting formula (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) will bring fresh life your prayers.
I felt inspired to write this blog post because my prayers tend to be passive and sorta lame. I’m accepting Christian, happy to flow into whatever God allows into my life. I believe He provides what’s necessary…and if I don’t need it, God won’t give it.
But, as my husband often says, Jesus told us to ask God for what we need and want! We’re called to pray for the desires of our heart, not to just passively accept whatever God drops into our lives. We’re called to be active in our faith, alive in our hope, and fearless with the Holy Spirit.
And wise. Wisdom calls out to us! So I’m heeding her call and learning how to say SMART prayers that require me to lean into God deeper than ever before.
The SMART Way to Pray for Help, Healing and Hope
In goal-setting terminology, SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Here’s what each term means, and how I’m applying to to my prayers today.
1. Specific prayers to God for help
I’ve been praying for “help with my next ‘She Blossoms’ book idea.” I often tell Jesus that if it’s His will that I write a novel, then it’ll happen. I pray for ideas and inspiration, creativity and discipline to write. I pray general prayers for help, but I don’t pray specifically for hope or even healing.
The first SMART way to pray is to be specific. In my situation, this means praying over the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How. Even more specifically:
- Who might walk alongside me as I write this Christian fiction book about Biblical women?
- What do I need before I can start writing a book outline, synopsis, and back jacket copy?
- Where will I write this book?
- When do I want the outline, synopsis, and back jacket copy written?
- Why am I writing this book?
Instead of my general “please help me write a book, Jesus” prayers, I’m starting with specific prayer requests for help and support. I’m praying over the novel, the characters, the story and plot and themes and symbolism. I’m also praying for my literary agent, publishing house, and readers. Specifically!
What about you? How can you make your prayers to God specific, instead of general? Start applying the “S” when you’re learning SMART ways to pray to God for help, hope and healing. If you’re praying for guidance, read How to Figure Out What God Wants You to Do.
2. Measurable ways to pray to God for hope
Hope isn’t a concrete or tangible item — but without hope and faith of epic proportions, our prayers are fruitless. How you measure hope? It depends what you’re hoping and praying for. “M” for measurable is the second step of a SMART prayer life. Typically, measurable means that you have concrete criteria to measure your progress. Are you staying on track with your prayers? Are you seeing results? How will you know if God is answering your prayers for hope, help and healing?
For me, hope and faith fuel my motivation to write my Christian novel. I can’t necessarily measure hope with a yardstick, but nevertheless I’m praying for more hope and faith. I’m praying for so much hope and faith that I get up at 3:30 am, driven by the desire to write my book! When the book is written, I’ll know God answered my prayers for more hope and faith. That makes this part of my prayer measurable, because I can see progress and completion.
What are you praying for? If you’re praying to God for healing, you can measure that by the quality of your health, sleep, appetite, and medical test results. If you’re praying to God for forgiveness, you can measure it by your thoughts and how much you’re actually living by faith.
3. An attainable perspective of praying to God
This is the weakest part of the five SMART ways to pray to God for help. Why is it difficult to set and maintain an attainable outlook on prayers? Because if you can attain it without God, then you’re relying on your power…not His. Attainable means you have the attitudes, abilities, skills, and financial capacity to make your prayers come true. If that’s the case, then why pray to God for hope, healing or help? (To develop a deeper personal relationship with Him, of course! But that’s outside the scope of this blog post).
I’m praying for hope and help writing a Christian fiction book that reveals how 10 women of the Bible might interact in modern day. I’m so excited about the idea! But I’ve never written a novel before. My first book hasn’t even been published yet — it’ll be in bookstores in January, 2019 (Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back, Bethany House Publishers).
I couldn’t write my first book without Jesus…and I won’t be able to write my next book without Him. I believe my goal of writing a novel is attainable, but not by myself. But I can still pray to God with this SMART goal-setting tip! How? By praying and talking to Him about how we’ll attain this dream together. By praying to God for hope and help. By constantly and consciously leaning on His strength for the motivation to take the next writing step. Awesome, God!
If you need healing, read Comforting Prayers for the Loss of a Beloved Pet.
4. Realistic … a SMART way to pray to God?
Wait a minute, is this another SMART goal-setting tip that doesn’t apply to praying to God? To be realistic, your prayers must be actually do-able and achievable. But if your prayers were realistic, would you still need to pray?
Of course you would! Praying isn’t about getting what you want, even your prayers are good and holy and right. Praying to God for hope, help and healing is about strengthening your relationship with Him, trusting Him, and building your faith. The SMART way to pray to God is never about achieving specific goals, whether or not they’re realistic.
So, this isn’t the best example of a SMART way to pray to God for hope, healing and help. Don’t worry about how realistic your prayers are. Instead, talk to God honestly about what’s on your heart and in your mind. For example, it may not be realistic for me to write a bestselling Christian fiction book about a group of Biblical women, but that’s none of my business! It’s God’s. My business is building my relationship with Jesus, and praying for what He sets on my heart and in my life.
5. Timely…nope, not a SMART way to pray to God
To be timely, SMART goals are grounded within a time frame. In my example, this would mean I’d pray to God that my book gets written within four months. Maybe even three! Boy, that’d be swell. Is this a timely prayer? Technically, yes, because it’s grounded within a time frame. Is this a realistic prayer? Hmmm….I’d have to think about that.
Being timely is not a SMART way to pray to God when you set a time limit on Him. But, timeliness can be smart if you set a time frame on yourself. For example, I might give myself three months to write the first five chapters of my book. That’s a timely goal for me, but not a “God, answer my prayers within three months!” demand to God.
Help Praying to God for Help, Hope, Healing
In Powerful Prayers in the War Room: Learning to Pray like a Powerful Prayer Warrior, Daniel B Lancaster says that as Christians, we often struggle to find the words to speak in the presence of God Almighty.
Praying to Jesus may feel foreign or like a ritual, and adding to that frustration, we worry that God isn’t listening. Even if He hears, will He reply?
Prayer was never intended to be complicated. The truth is that Jesus showed His disciples how to pray and He wants to show you how to pray too. This book will help refresh and revive your prayer life — and teach you how to pray with faith, wisdom and love.
You might also find From Believing in God to Having a Relationship With Jesus helpful.
What do you think about my tips for praying to God for help, healing and hope? Your thoughts – big and little – are welcome below! I read every comment, but don’t worry: I won’t give advice or tell you what to do. It’s your turn to talk.
If you’d like to share your prayers below, please feel free. I love Jesus, and know He listens when we speak to Him. God doesn’t care if our prayers are SMART! He just wants us to talk to Him, to remember His name and love for us. And, He wants us to love and glorify Him even if He doesn’t answer our prayers for help, hope or healing. God’s job isn’t to answer our prayers. He doesn’t have a job!
But we do. Our job is to glorify Him in our prayers, in our words, and with our lives.