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.