Prayer

20 Things to Pray For: Tips for a Better Prayer Life in 2020

Ross McCall


Do you ever find yourself struggling to know what to pray for? You want to make prayer part of your daily routine, but you feel like you are repeating yourself. You want to freshen things up.

You are not alone. For many Christians, prayer can sometimes feel dry or stale. Prayer is talking with someone who loves you deeply and knows you intimately, so it might be hard to admit or deal with when the conversation has seemed to dry up. Part of the problem can also be the temptation to see prayer as talking to God rather than talking with Him.

But everyone goes through times when praying feels like walking uphill. So we’ve created this list of things you can pray for when you need a little inspiration. Each item on the list comes with a verse from the Bible to shape your thinking and an example of how you might pray in response.

Treat this list as open-ended and please add more suggestions in the comment section at the bottom of this page.

You can also explore our beginner’s guide to prayer.


If you’re in a hurry, use this list to jump to a specific prayer idea:

  1. Praise God for Who He Is
  2. Thank God for What He Has Done
  3. Pray that You Remember God’s Love and Grace for You
  4. Pray That You Would Love Your Neighbors
  5. Talk to God About Someone in Need
  6. Pray for Someone Who Does Not Yet Know Jesus
  7. Pray That You Would Love Your Enemies
  8. Pray That You Would Give Your Time, Money and Energy
  9. Pray for Your Church or Christian Community
  10. Pray for Your City and Nation
  11. Pray for Civic and National Leaders
  12. Pray for Kindness
  13. Pray for Humility
  14. Pray for Teachability
  15. Pray for The Ability to Forgive
  16. Pray for Obedience
  17. Pray for Your Mind to Be Renewed
  18. Pray for Purity
  19. Pray for Responsibility
  20. Pray for Courage

1. Praise God for Who He Is

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What the Bible says

“For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1:16)

Why it matters

Praising God for who He is a part of prayer.

The verse above is a reminder about who you are communicating with when you decide to pray to God. You are not just talking with some kind of spiritual force that cannot be named. How would you have a conversation with something like that?

When you pray, you want to be confident that the One you bring your deepest hopes, ambitions, regrets and fears to can be trusted with them. Since God created all things through and for Himself, He alone has the power to hear all our prayers and answer them. So it is appropriate and important when you pray to start by acknowledging Who you are talking with and what makes Him unique.

How you might pray

God, You are incredible. You are the source of everything good in life and the creator of a beautiful world. I praise You for being who You are. Thank you for creating all things, including me, for Yourself.


2. Thank God for What He Has Done

What the Bible says

“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Why it matters

John 3:16 is part of a conversation between Jesus and a religious teacher named Nicodemus. It comes at a moment in their conversation when Jesus is trying to help Nicodemus understand what it means to be born again, or become a Christian, by trusting in Him. In Jesus’s explanation, one word captures the essential character of God, and that word is “love.”

God demonstrates His love for you in all sorts of ways. This verse reminds you that when you pray, it is good to regularly come back to thanking God for His ultimate act of love. Without His willingness to let Jesus die on the cross, your relationship with God would not be possible.

How you might pray

Thank You, God, that You loved the whole entire world. Thank You that You loved me before I loved You and You were willing to demonstrate Your love by making the ultimate sacrifice for me — Your death on a cross. Thank You for giving me the gift of eternal life.


3. Pray that You Remember God’s Love and Grace for You

What the Bible says

“Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. ... As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love. If you keep My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love.” (John 15:4-5, 9-10)

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Why it matters

It is easy to let your walk with Jesus turn into a list of moral dos and don’ts to try to earn or keep God’s love and approval of you. But living that way is exhausting, impossible and not the hope that the Bible teaches about a relationship with God through Christ.

You are loved, saved and accepted by God because of your faith in Jesus, which is a gift that you can’t take credit for. Every day, you need to be reminded of — and remain in — God’s great love for you (Ephesians 3:14-21) and remember that His love is a gift you accept and cannot earn.

If you’re going to thrive and experience the fullness of your relationship with God, you need to daily be reminded of what that identity and acceptance are based on: His love for you. Apart from Him and that love, you can do nothing.

How you might pray

Jesus, help me to remember that You love me and that I need You and Your love every day. Thank You that who I am and how You feel about me is based on who You are and Your love for me. Thank You that I cannot earn Your love and acceptance, but because of what Jesus has done for me and the faith You’ve given me in Him, I have it. Help me to live differently because I am perfectly loved by You.


4. Pray That You Would Love Your Neighbors

What the Bible says

“We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-38)

Why it matters

The only reason you can love God, yourself or those around you is that God loved you first. He made a way for you to have a relationship with Him and experience His love so you can be changed by it and love others as a result.

In fact, loving your neighbor stands beside loving God as one of the greatest commandments God has given, as Jesus teaches in Matthew 22. After a similar verse in Luke 10, Jesus explains it further with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In this famous story, Jesus defines who your neighbor is.

It’s tempting to simply think of the people you like — who are like you or physically close to you — as your neighbors, and God definitely wants you to love and pray for them.

But Jesus takes it a step further, presenting a person who crossed the barriers between people who were not alike — who were even considered enemies — as the example of how to love. He is calling you to love not just those you choose to be a part of your life but everyone you come across.

There is no clearer or more simple way to start to love someone in your life than to approach God on their behalf. Perhaps you could make a list of people in your life whom you are praying for or want to pray for. Look over your list. Are the people on it mostly like you in ways that make you feel safe being in relationship with them?

How you might pray

Father, please help me remember Your great love for me. Show me how I can demonstrate and communicate my faith in You and Your love to the people I live, work and play alongside every day. But help me to also notice those people who are on the fringes of my community and world, and give me the courage to reach out to, learn from and love them in tangible ways.


5. Talk to God About Someone in Need

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What the Bible says

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)

Why it matters

Paul wrote a letter to the church in Philippi to ensure they had the right priorities as a community of Jesus followers. He knew that their unity was under threat because of the fierce opposition they faced for their beliefs. He wrote the letter from prison, where he had been placed for preaching the gospel.

It’s very easy, when you pray, to get bogged down in talking with God about all the things going on in your own life. This verse reminds you that, as a Christian, you have the opportunity and the responsibility to pray for the people you care about, and even for people you have never met.

As you pray, try to develop the habit of setting aside time to talk with God about other people. Share your concerns for them because He cares. One of the most practical ways you can help anyone is to invite God into their present situation.

How you might pray

Father God, I know You care deeply about the people in my life. Right now _______ is struggling with _______. I want them to know You love them and are ready to help them through this time.


6. Pray for Someone Who Does Not Yet Know Jesus

What the Bible says

“Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with His promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining Himself on account of you, holding back the End because He doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change.” (2 Peter 3:8-9, The Message)

Why it matters

For followers of Jesus, it’s important to have a sense of urgency and not take for granted that God gives everyone their time on earth as a chance to come to know Him. The author of the passage above, Peter, was warning the people he was writing to that human history as they knew it would come to an end when Jesus returns.

It’s important to remember that you don’t have all the time in the world to address the issues in your life and community. But at the same time, God works on a very different timeline than you do.

All of this is vital when it comes to having the right attitude as you pray for people who do not yet know Jesus. In today’s culture, everyone is used to receiving fast or immediate responses to most of our requests or needs. God may not always answer you with the speed you would like, but that is because He knows everything that will happen over the course of your life and the lives of the people you care about. God’s timing is perfect, and He knows when you need to persevere in prayer for someone you are desperate to see come to know Him.

So as you pray for people you hope will know and experience God’s perfect love, it’s vital that you learn to trust in God and His timetable rather than insisting He work on yours. Otherwise, you are likely to become frustrated and even bitter about what you wrongly see as unanswered prayers.

Don’t give up. Keep praying. God loves and cares about the person you are praying for more than you could even hope or imagine.

How you might pray

Thank You, God, for pursuing me before I took You seriously. Please show _______ how much You love them in a way they can understand, and use me to invite _______ into a relationship with You. Show me how to care for them and show them Your love. Help me to trust in Your perfect timing, God, and not give up.


7. Pray That You Would Love Your Enemies

What the Bible says

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-45)

Why it matters

Enemies come in various forms, some seemingly greater than others. For the crowds listening to Jesus, the word “enemy” would have triggered thoughts both of feuds within their own communities and families and of external threats to their very way of life and integrity as the nation of Israel.

Now here comes Jesus, telling them that loving God and loving others requires them to do the opposite of what comes naturally: to love those enemies. His teaching is completely consistent with what God was demonstrating through the life of Jesus Himself. He came to earth to rescue God’s enemies to their heavenly Father by giving of His own life for them in every way He could — including suffering and death.

Perhaps “enemy” feels like too strong a word for people you find it difficult to love. You may have a very clear picture of who has been an enemy in your life, or you may not. But as you pray, ask God to show you who you’ve been viewing as an enemy and invite Him to change your heart toward them. Ask Him to show you how you can love them in tangible ways.

How you might pray

Father, whether I’m aware of it or not, I know there are people in my life I feel angry toward or hurt by. Give me the humility I need to forgive them, love them and pray for them without expecting or needing anything in return.


8. Pray That You Would Give Your Time, Money and Energy

What the Bible says

“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Hebrew 13:16)

Why it matters

The instructions in this passage of Scripture about how to give are set in the context of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice, as well as the sacrifices made in the Temple that preceded it. Both are acts of devotion and worship to God.

So you are encouraged to have the right mindset whenever you think of giving something that is precious to you back to God. Your thoughts of what you are choosing to go without need to be replaced by a consciousness of whom you are giving to, what He has done for you and how much He deserves in return.

When you pray about giving, it’s easy to think mostly about money or tangible possessions. But really, God invites you to be conscious of whatever is most valuable to you, and that might be time, money, energy or even your reputation. He waits patiently for you to recognize anything you might value more than Him, even subconsciously.

How you might pray

Father, I want to offer You everything I have, but I find it hard sometimes. Show me clearly if I am holding something back or if there is a specific need You want me to meet.

Learn more about the topic of giving with this simple self-study guide.


9. Pray for Your Church or Christian Community

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What the Bible says

“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:4-5)

Why it matters

In any Christian community, some members will have more visible responsibilities while others tend to go unnoticed. Some will have titles, like elder or deacon, while others won’t and may think their contribution is somehow less significant because of that.

This chapter in the Book of Romans encourages everyone to be aware of the truth that all believers are precious members of the body of Christ and no one has a higher status in the eyes of God than anyone else.

As you pray, ask God whether you need Him to grant you more humility because of the perceived status you hold in your community or whether, in fact, you need to recognize your own contribution and value to others more clearly.

How you might pray

God, I know that I cannot grow in my faith without the support of other believers. Please strengthen my church and our leaders so we can make a difference where you have placed us.


10. Pray for Your City and Nation

What the Bible says

“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name,

Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’” (Matthew 6:9-10)

Why it matters

The prayer Jesus uses to teach His followers how to pray begins with a request for God’s kingdom to be expressed fully in our world.

These verses can serve as a prompt to think about the broader communities you are a part of, such as your city and your nation. But it’s vital that the focus of your prayer is bringing the needs of those communities to God rather than praying in grandiose ways you think will impress others praying along with you.

Are the words of your prayers an honest expression of your heart before God, or are you feeling tempted to craft your words for other people to hear? If you are struggling with this, take Jesus’ advice and pray alone so you know there is no one there to impress (Matthew 6:5-6).

How you might pray

Father, may Your kingdom come in _______ as it is in heaven. Draw people in our community closer to You, and use me to change the community I am part of.


11. Pray for Civic and National Leaders

What the Bible says

“The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.” (1 Timothy 2:1-3, The Message)

Why it matters

The Jewish people in Jesus’ time were living under the authority and overwhelming power of the Roman Empire. Many Jews eagerly awaited the arrival of the Messiah, a leader they thought would deliver the Jewish nation from Roman rule.

In this passage, Paul encourages Jesus’ Jewish followers, who were still experiencing Roman oppression despite accepting Him as their Messiah, to pray for their perceived oppressors. This was controversial, to say the least. But Paul explains that because God wants everyone to hear the invitation to become part of His family, the early church needed to pray for the salvation and well-being even of their perceived enemies.

In our time, this command is as relevant as ever. It’s easy to pray for political and cultural leaders you already agree with. But are you willing to bridge the divides in our culture by praying for those you disagree with?

How you might pray

Jesus, I pray for the leaders in my city and my nation, that You would give them wisdom and Godly character as they make decisions each day. I also ask that you help me to become more conscious of the needs of Your people in other countries and to think beyond my own immediate community.


12. Pray for Kindness

What the Bible says

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)

Why it matters

In Colossians 3, there is a description of what it means to clothe yourself with Christ. In practical terms, it means choosing to adopt His qualities as your own in a permanent way that demonstrates you have been changed forever by knowing Him and giving the Holy Spirit control of your life.

Kindness is one of the qualities of Christ listed in this verse. Why is this so important? Perhaps because God knows it is contrary to your human nature, which inclines you to put yourself first.

Kindness to the degree demonstrated by Jesus as He lived among people who would ultimately betray Him is counter-cultural in any culture. This radical kindness, including loving enemies, stands out to people and provokes them to ask why you would choose to live this way.

As you pray, invite God to show you opportunities to demonstrate Christlike kindness to the people in your life — and to complete strangers.

How you might pray

Lord, create in me a heart brimming over with compassion and kindness.


13. Pray for Humility

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What the Bible says

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

Why it matters

In Philippians 1, Paul implores the members of the church in Philippi to live lives worthy of the gospel of Christ. This involves both believing in Him and willingly enduring suffering for the sake of the gospel.

Paul knew that for a community to live this way, it would need a level of unity that does not come naturally. He knew the people he was writing to well enough to know the internal disputes and rivalries that could easily undermine their witness for Jesus. So he calls them to live lives characterized by humility, and he does so by describing the humility of Jesus, the man who deserved honor above all others.

When you pray for humility, be prepared for God to reveal prideful behavior in your life and for Him to ask you to humble yourself in very practical ways. He may, for example, prompt you to apologize to someone you feel you deserve an apology from yourself. Or He may challenge you to forgive someone you find it hard to forgive.

How you might pray

Jesus, please help me to be humble, especially when I feel like my pride has been hurt.


14. Pray for Teachability

What the Bible says

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26)

Why it matters

Jesus knew exactly when He was going to die. As He saw that day approaching, He dedicated more and more of His time to instructing His closest followers, His disciples, about how they were to live because they would be the founders of His church. A large section of the Gospel of John is dedicated to telling us what Jesus told them.

Naturally, His disciples were afraid at the thought of ever being without Jesus. How would they remember all His teaching? How would they live if He wasn’t there to guide them?

He promised there was no need to fear because His Holy Spirit was going to come and live within them, guiding and comforting them and giving them the strength they needed. But they would need to choose to obey His teaching as a demonstration of their trust in God every day.

If you have asked Jesus to be the Lord of your life, that same Holy Spirit lives within you, providing all the things Jesus promised His disciples.

Take a moment to focus on this incredible truth before you pray, and invite the Holy Spirit to do whatever He wants to do in you and through you.

How you might pray

God, give me a teachable heart so that I am able to take on board everything you want me to know and believe.


15. Pray for The Ability to Forgive

What the Bible says

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

Why it matters

Paul wrote these words to the church in Ephesus — a church where he had spent a great deal of time as a missionary. He was acutely aware that their way of living was being observed. Ephesus was an ancient port city, once thought of as the most important city in Greece. As people from other nations passed through the city every day, it’s fair to say the world was watching how this community of Jesus followers related to one another and to others.

Whether or not you live in a community as significant as Ephesus, if you are a Christian and the people around you know that, the way you live is being noticed too.

If you want to live a life that points people toward Jesus, you need His strength to grow beyond normal human patterns of behavior like holding grudges and unforgiveness. Your motivation is not just because people are watching but because Jesus calls you as His follower to forgive others as He forgives you. This is not normal or easy by any stretch of the imagination, but as you ask God to help you do this, people will see and experience His love and forgiveness through you.

As you pray about your way of life, ask God to make you aware of any unforgiveness you need to deal with.

How you might pray

Lord, give me a heart that’s ready to forgive, and help me to receive your forgiveness when I don’t think I deserve it.


16. Pray for Obedience

What the Bible says

“In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)

Why it matters

When you see your faith as simply a set of rules to be obeyed if you want to avoid negative consequences, it’s difficult to experience joy. This is why these verses remind us that obedience to God and heartfelt, loving devotion to Him are one and the same thing.

Obeying God is living according to His perfect design for your life rather than being ruled by the world, your flesh or the devil. If you want to overcome the things that tempt you to disobey God, it helps to think of your faith in terms of a loving relationship. The outcomes of your choices will either nurture or damage it.

As you pray, ask God to show you where you are struggling to obey Him and to reveal why. He is so much more patient with us than we deserve or can even imagine.

How you might pray

Lord, may I be quick to listen to and obey You.


17. Pray for Your Mind to Be Renewed

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What the Bible says

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

Why it matters

The way you think often determines the way you act. The church God has built to bring about change in the world always faces the danger of being corrupted by the widely accepted ways of doing things in the culture around it.

The letter to the Romans teaches us about the change that happens in you when you become a Christian and the change God continues to bring about in you. As you spend time in God’s Word and talk with Him in prayer, He shapes your perspective on what is most valuable, on your purpose in life and on the pathway to peace and joy.

How you might pray

God, please renew my mind so that I will know what You are calling me to do. Help me to do the right thing rather than the accepted or “normal” thing. As I read Your word, remind me of who I am, who You are and what my purpose here on earth is.


18. Pray for Purity

What the Bible says

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

Why it matters

This verse is the sixth of what are known as the Beatitudes. Jesus made these simple statements intending that they would be memorized by His listeners. That’s why each beatitude is concise and all of them follow a similar pattern.

The difference between those listening to Jesus in person and us today is that we now read these statements through the lens of His death and resurrection. We know that purity is not something we achieve through sticking rigidly to religious rules. It develops as we depend on Him to help us live in obedience to His standards, moment by moment.

As you pray and seek God in your life, ask Him to make you aware of areas of impurity so you can invite Him to cleanse your mind, heart and soul.

How you might pray

Jesus, I want my thoughts, words and actions to please You. Please search my heart and show me anything that offends you.

(Learn more about battling the things that would damage your relationship with God.)


19. Pray for Responsibility

What the Bible says

“So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.” (Romans 14:12)

Why it matters

If you are a Christian, you know that there are ways of living that please God and other ways that displease Him. God determines right from wrong and has the authority to judge anyone. It’s often tempting to try to look at the lives of other believers and find fault to try and distract us from or make us feel better about our own behavior, but Jesus commands us not to judge others (Matthew 7:1-20).

The part of the Bible that the verse above is from is full of strong warnings about judging others or treating them with contempt because they do not follow God in exactly the way you do. One day we will all face God. Understanding how much grace He has shown you will come with an understanding of how little you deserved it.

When you pray, ask God to remind you as often as He needs to that while you may be concerned about someone else’s way of living, you are ultimately responsible for your own.

How you might pray

God, You have given me time, talents, resources and relationships. Help me to make the best possible use of all these things, and teach me to withhold judgment on how other people use their own.


20. Pray for Courage

What the Bible says

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Why it matters

Jesus knew that if His disciples thought of their lives only in terms of their time on earth, they would end up hopeless and disappointed. He knew every struggle and persecution they would face — even the ways they would die.

So in His final conversation with them before He was taken to be crucified, Jesus made sure to teach them about looking at life from an eternal perspective, the way God does. They would face many days that would feel like defeat unless they entered them already knowing that victory was ultimately theirs because of Jesus.

If you are not the kind of person who naturally thinks about heaven and eternity very much, it’s important to ask God to give you His perspective on whatever is happening in your life at any moment. Seeing your life the way He sees it will allow you to experience peace that would seem ridiculous to someone who does not know God.

How you might pray

God, I pray that Your presence will always give me the courage to face whatever happens in life, and I ask You to help me look at the days of my life as You do.

(Learn more about persevering as a Christian.)


Prayer Strengthens Our Relationship With God

If your prayer life ever feels stuck in a rut, ask yourself what it would look like to really enjoy time with God.

The Bible talks a lot about enjoying God. It’s part of how He shapes us — how He helps us know what we need from Him and what to pray for.

“Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

Are you interested in learning more about prayer? Check out “How to Pray: A Beginner’s Guide.”


Some of the content on character traits was adapted from Anne Arkins and Gary Harrell, “While They Are Sleeping: 12 Character Traits to Pray for the Children You Love” (Little Rock: FamilyLife Publishing, 2010).

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture references are taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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