I’ve received a lot of questions from new Pagans asking how to pray. In response, I think it’s natural for many Pagans--myself included--to Shia LaBeouf it and say, “just do it,” without any detail. That makes sense, right? Just talk or think or write to your Gods.
But for many new Pagans, prayer is not natural. We all come from different backgrounds; some aren’t used to praying without a holy text, while others have never prayed at all. To top it off, no one wants to feel dumb by talking to nothing. Practitioners want to ensure that the Gods will hear them and that they don’t say anything wrong.
To (hopefully) make up for all the times I answered “just do it,” I’m giving you all a comprehensive discussion about Pagan prayer. Newbies may use this post as a guide, while experienced Pagans might find some new ideas here.
The First Time Will Always Be Awkward
If you feel uncomfortable praying, you’re not alone. When starting out, prayer always feels awkward. Beginner Pagans may experience waves of doubt about whether they’re actually speaking to Gods or not.
Know that almost every Pagan, whether new or experienced, has felt this way. If others can overcome it, you can too. Here are some tips to relieve the awkward feeling.
First, use a method that feels most comfortable. If you feel nervous when talking out loud, don’t do it. There are plenty of other methods for prayer that I’ll dive into soon.
Second, create an anxiety-free setting. To do this, you’ll need to identify what you’re worried about. Do you doubt whether the Gods will hear you? If so, start with an offering; They’ll definitely pay attention then. Do you not want to look like an insane person by talking to nothing that’s visible? Ensure that you’re alone, and play music to cover up your talking.
My final tip is a reminder: prayer relies on faith. None of us began praying knowing that the Gods will respond, or even that They’ll listen. We had to believe that They would. In a sense, beginning to pray is a test of your faith. Trust that the Gods will deliver.
Talk, Write, or Think?
Before we consider what to say, I want to cover some methods of prayer. When many people think of praying, they may picture worshippers speaking, chanting, or singing out loud. You may certainly use these methods if you’re comfortable with them.
But you never have to chant loudly to be heard, You can mutter, whisper, or even mouth the words. The Gods are everywhere, and in a sense, They are within us. We don’t have to yell or sing as if They live on the floor above us.
Similarly, thinking prayers is quite common. By sending prayers through your thoughts and energy, you can contact the Gods in any situation, no matter who is nearby. This doesn’t mean that deities are constantly reading your mind; rather, you mentally ask that They listen by thinking “Hey, [deity]” or “My Gods, please listen to me.”
My personal favorite prayer method is writing. It’s more proactive than just thinking, and you don’t have to struggle with the awkwardness of speaking. Writing leavings a physical offering, almost like a divine letter. You can create a trail of letters to reference later by making a prayer journal.
How to Remain Respectful
When I receive questions about prayer, many people wonder what to say. Pagans don’t have a Bible to spell out worship for them, and this could spark some anxiety in those who don’t want to say something “wrong.” On that note, it’s very difficult to pray “wrong.” The Gods rarely get offended, and if They do, you can always assuage Their disappointment through an apology and offerings. Deities only ask for respect. If you worry about remaining respectful, then you’re already respectful enough to not offend your Gods.
Another common prayer topic is how to speak. Do you recite ye olde texts? Do you remain formal, as if conducting a job interview? Or can you remain casual and admit, “things suck right now”?
At the start of my worship, I only recited written prayers--ritual chants recorded by authors like Cunningham and Valiente, designed to formally evoke the Gods. While those provided some memorable rituals, I stopped repeating them quickly. Once I realized that I could talk to the Gods casually and without consequence, I never turned back.
There are some perks to speaking informally. One is that it encourages people to remain honest. When we talk formally, we may sugar-coat certain topics or avoid them altogether. Trust me; honesty gets you far with the Gods. In my experience, deities view honesty as a sign of faith and humility.
Another perk is that you can feel more “you” with the Gods. You don’t have to monitor or second-guess what you say all the time. In this sense, you may grow closer to your deity and feel less awkward.
However, informal speaking relies on improv. You may not have a structure or plan while praying, and some worshippers may not like this. If this is you, I recommend reciting written prayers. You can find Pagan prayers on any social media and through many historical texts. For instance, Hellenic polytheists may want to read Delphic Maxims, and Wiccans may reference Doreen Valiente’s poems through the Doreen Valiente Organization.
One more thing. Many people have asked if it’s appropriate to give the Gods nicknames or titles like “Mom” or “Dad.” Personally, I think it depends on the deity. Some are fine with it; others prefer a more formal tone. As long as you’re being respectful, it’s alright. You’ll know when you cross a deity’s line.
What Do You Say?
The short answer: anything. You can say whatever you want as long as you’re not insulting, bribing, or disrespecting the Gods. In my experience, when most people ask about what to say, they’re usually wondering how to begin the conversation.
The hardest part of prayer is starting it. No matter which tone you take, no matter which written chant you have on hand, starting off can be nerve-wracking. I’ll give you some recommendations for beginning your prayer. Of course, you don’t have to pick one of these; they’re simply examples to get you thinking about how you want to open your prayer.
Again, beginning a prayer is the hard part. Afterward, you can tell the Gods whatever you want. Thank Them for things; ask for help; or simply tell Them about your day. Never bribe or try to guilt-trip the Gods. They are greater than you, after all.
Tips to Pray Consistently
As with most religions, prayer is an essential aspect of Paganism. Establishing a regular prayer routine will build your relationships with the Gods and help you feel more grateful and supported throughout life. Here are some tips to make regular prayer easy.
You can pray through speaking, singing, whispering, writing, or even thinking. As long as you remain respectful, it doesn’t matter what you talk about or how you choose to do it.
Have faith that the Gods will hear you. Try to make prayer a regular routine. As long as you love your Gods, good things will come.
Of all the questions I receive from readers, this one is by far the most common: is it a sign?
By “sign,” I don’t mean stock market predictions or an indicator of disease. We’re talking about religious signs--messages that deities send when They’re reaching out to someone. Signs could be a dream, or a vision, or a suggestion brought up through divination.
Before we continue, I want to define what “sign” means in a religious sense.
What Is A Sign?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a sign is an object, quality, or event whose presence or occurrence indicates the probable presence or occurrence of something else. Or, it could be a miracle regarded as evidence of a supernatural power.
When I receive questions about signs, they don’t usually indicate a miracle in the biblical sense. Most of them are, at first glance, everyday occurrences. A person could be followed by a certain animal, encounter a myth about the deity, or hear a song that reminds them of the God/dess.
I’m not trying to suggest that these are “wrong” interpretations. In modern religions, many believe that deities don’t have to miraculously heal people or turn water into wine to prove that They exist. And I agree. When Gods send a sign, They usually aren’t trying to prove Their existence. They’re attempting to reach out to someone personally, which leads into my next point.
I can’t confirm or deny your signs for two reasons. First, signs are inherently personal to the individual. A dream could have profound significance to you, but when you relay it to someone else, they don’t understand the impact because they haven’t had your experiences. Second, “casual” signs--ones that aren’t miracles or otherwise unexplainable--are far too easy to debunk. Seeing a raven on your porch could be a message from The Morrigan, or it could be that a raven decided to land on your porch.
It's Okay to Doubt
In the Pagan sphere, many say that “If you doubt it, it’s not a sign.” I heavily disagree.
I would never, under any circumstances, discourage doubt. Especially in religion, doubt is healthy. It forces you to double-check your experience and ensure that this religion/deity is for you. New practitioners, in particular, don’t know what to look for when it comes to deities. Who could blame them for remaining a bit skeptical?
In my mind, a sign will remain a sign whether or not you doubt it. If you aren’t sure whether your experience is a sign, keep reading. We’ll figure it out together.
Strategically Doubting the Sign
Let’s return to the original question: is it a sign? While I can’t answer this question for you, I will give you techniques to decide for yourself.
Contrary to popular belief, if you want to confirm the sign, you need to doubt it. You’ll have to test it. When deities reach out, They tend to be obvious and persistent. They’ve been doing this for thousands of years, after all. They know how to grab someone’s attention.
My strategies can be broken down into two questions:
To illustrate what I mean, I’ll include examples of my signs from Ninhursag (Sumerian Goddess) back in November 2019.
Is It Specific?
“I’ve been running into dogs multiple times a day for the past week. Is this a sign from Hades?” This is an example of a generic occurrence, not a specific one. Why? For one, it’s common. A lot of people own dogs, and it’s likely that people encounter dogs every day without realizing it.
More importantly, this isn’t specific to Hades. Yes, dogs are one of Hades’ symbols. But they’re also a symbol of Ares, Bau, The Morrigan, Set, and Fenrir. If it is a sign, how do you know that it’s Hades? Why wouldn’t it be any of these other deities?
In my early years, I may have defended this by saying it’s the worshipper’s intuition. Yes, intuition plays a strong role in deity contact. But during my path, I’ve mistaken my strong emotions for intuition. I interpreted common animals and flowers as signs from a God because I wanted them to be signs. That’s not intuition; that’s confirmation bias. Our desire to work with deities and connect with Them could cloud our judgement.
As you begin to work with a deity, you’ll understand Their language. You may pick up on signs that you missed before after you know how They communicate. Usually, deities send multiple signs to a worshipper They really want to work with. That’s why it’s okay to wait--or even ask for--a specific sign.
Here’s an example of specificity. During a scrying session, I saw my spirit guide take the form of a fox. My spirit guide is not a fox, so this is unusual. The fox ran through a marshland of reeds, which is a vision I had seen before with this spirit guide. It represented the Sumerian underworld.
Afterward, I researched any connection between a fox and the Sumerian afterlife. In one myth, Ninhursag’s lover, Enki, lay dying. Their child asked a fox to fetch Ninhursag and bring Her to Enki. This story connected death, the fox, and Ninhursag in such a specific way that I thought it had to be Her delivering a message or my spirit guide leading me to Her.
Can It Be Repeated?
At this point, I wouldn’t blame some readers for thinking that I’m treating this more like a science experiment than faith. This step is where faith comes into play. To confirm a sign, you have to trust that a deity can repeat the sign--and will repeat it if you ask Them to.
Why do deities send signs in the first place? It’s to catch a person’s attention. If you wanted to talk to someone, would you shoot them a text, or would you place a specific plant along their route to work? Probably the former. Unless you knew someone really well and established the whole plant code beforehand, they probably wouldn’t pick up on the randomly-placed hydrangeas.
Although deities don’t text, They’re usually just as obvious while trying to gain someone’s attention. With some exceptions, most won’t drop one sign and say “take it or leave it.” They want you to notice. They want you to reach out to Them. That’s why signs can be duplicated.
Here are two methods to do so.
If you’ve ever wondered why divination is so prevalent in the Pagan community--this is why. Divination is designed to answer your questions. If you experienced what might be a sign, confirm it through divination. If you received a possible sign through one form of divination, use another method.
Once your sign is repeated through divination, it’s a fairly safe bet. This is especially true if you use more than one method to back up your experience.
After my scrying experience, I tested Ninhursag’s message with my rune set. I received the rune algiz (sometimes called elhaz) that looks like someone stretching their arms upward. Algiz portrays Yggdrasil, a tree that connects the divine to worshippers in Norse mythology, and it mirrors how priests called down the Gods. Those were both convincing symbols to reach out to Ninhursag.
If you have a divination tool, use it. Ask if X deity is reaching out to you. Ask if your sign was divine. Ask if you have any other responses from said deity. If nothing else, having another source confirm your experience will be reassuring.
Respectfully Asking for More
“Have you tried talking to the God/dess?” is something I’ve written a surprising number of times. If you have little experience in speaking to Pagan Gods, this probably isn’t your first instinct. Throughout the community, we hear so many stories about Gods “choosing” people or calling to them through dreams and symbols. But those stories aren’t’ rules. You don’t have to be “chosen” or receive a grand vision to have a fulfilling relationship with the Gods.
Think of it this way: If a God wants to talk, They’ll be pleased that you responded. If you texted a friend, would you ignore their answer once they responded? Probably not! Trust that the Gods want to communicate. This is what faith is all about.
So how do you politely ask for more? Begin by opening up about your struggle. Perhaps you want Them to choose you, but you want to be absolutely sure. Perhaps you never considered this deity before and want more clarity for why They sent signs. If you’re respectful, I doubt the Gods will be disappointed about your honesty.
Afterward, you may politely ask for another sign. Make it something reasonable and specific. For instance, you may ask for a similar dream to the one you had before. Maybe you’ll ask for a certain song to come on the radio or something to come up in your research. Just something that’ll say that the deity heard you.
Also, give the Gods a time limit. My recommendation is a couple of weeks. It’ll alleviate anxiety on your part.
Here’s an example with Ninhursag. After my scrying and rune reading, I asked Her for another sign. I requested that someone would bring a non-breakfast pastry into work by Thanksgiving. Since the holiday was coming up, few people would want to bring pastries into work because they’d be busy cooking for their families. It was possible, specific, and give Her a reasonable time frame.
I asked this on November 24th. On the 29th, my coworker brought in cookies. I had forgotten about it in the meantime, but when I saw those cookies come in two days before Thanksgiving, I knew it was Ninhursag.
What happens if the deity doesn’t follow through? It’s not the end of the world. Review your request; was it too specific? Did you have the right deity? Did you allow for a wide enough time frame? Was that deity disappointed? Remember: a deity’s disappointment is not the end of the world. You can always right a wrong by putting more care into your practice.
I hope this article has helped you. Have you ever received a sign from a deity? If so, what was it? Tell me your experience in the comments below! I’d love to read them!