Ways to Pray: Five Essential Elements of Prayer. Prayer Hand.

by Emily Vanden Heuvel

Someone once said to me, “I know why I should pray, but sometimes I just don’t know how to pray.” My advice was to not overthink it. Prayer doesn't have to be complicated. It is an intimate conversation between you and God. There are lots of ways to pray and there is no one right way to do it. But there are numerous strategies, routines, and practices that can guide you in prayer.

Five fingers

Prayer Hand is a simple and easy method: use the five fingers of your hand to help you remember five essential elements of prayer. There are different versions of the Prayer Hand method, but this is the one I learned as a child and that I still use today.


Start with your index finger. Just as an athlete might point to heaven to give God the credit for a big play, this finger reminds us to praise God, to adore him, to tell God what he means to us. For example, “I praise you, God, for being the Creator.”


Second, comes the middle finger, the finger of confession. As the longest finger on our hand, it reminds us of the length and depth of our sin and selfishness and our vast need for God’s forgiveness. We might confess, “Forgive me, God, when I lose my temper.”


The third, or ring finger, is the finger of intercession. Just as we might put a ring from a significant other on our ring finger, this finger reminds us to pray for others. We might ask, “Father, please protect Christians around the world who are persecuted for their faith.”


The fourth, or pinky finger, is the smallest finger on our hand and is a countercultural reminder to think of ourselves less. We are to pray for our own needs, to petition God on our own behalf. For example, “Please God, give me financial wisdom and help me be kind to others.”


Last is the thumb. It represents thankfulness. Notice how the thumb has the dexterity to touch each of the fingers on the hand. When the thumb touches each of our other fingers, we are reminded to rejoice and be thankful in every aspect of our prayer life—our praise, confession, intercession, and petition.

Lift your hands

When you feel stuck in your prayer life or feel like you don’t know what to pray, look to your hands. By lifting our hands to pray we can remember to lift our praise, confession, intercession, petition, and thanksgiving to God.

Did you find this article helpful? We’ve put together a short ebook called “How Do I Pray?”, which introduces six ways to reinvigorate your prayer life. Download it free right here.