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What is the five-finger prayer?

The five-finger prayer is a mnemonic device used to teach a way to structure prayers. Often, though not always, it is used with children. It is taught in relation to the five fingers of the hand. By working around the fingers in succession, we can learn to not only pray for ourselves but for others in our lives and in the world.

Thumb: The thumb is the finger closest to the heart and is often associated with praying for the people closest to you, such as your family and friends.

Pointer Finger: The pointer finger is what we point with when we give directions. This is to remind us to pray for people who give instruction, such as teachers, doctors, coaches and pastors.

Middle Finger: The tallest finger on the hand is usually the middle finger, which helps us think of those in authority or leadership, like our government or business owners.

Ring Finger: The weakest finger on the hand is usually the ring finger. This finger is used to pray for those who are sick, lonely, homeless, or poor.

Pinky: The smallest finger is for yourself. This helps you put the needs of others before yourself in loving humility. Typically it is prayed last.

There are many variations on this, and many sources cite Pope Francis as the one who either originated the mnemonic or made it popular. However, it is not considered a Roman Catholic prayer and can be used to teach prayer or structure a prayer time for anyone of the Christian faith. It is not demonstrated anywhere in the Bible, but is simply a helpful tool when learning how to pray not only for ourselves but for others.

God wants us to pray for ourselves, as Jesus modeled in Matthew 6:8–13. However, the New Testament is full of encouragement to pray about everything (Ephesians 6:18–19; Philippians 4:6). Surely the five-finger prayer is not all-inclusive. For example, it's obviously also good for our prayers to include worship of God, remembering who God is, praising Him, and thanking Him for the work He has done. At some point, there will be a need or circumstance that doesn't seem to fit nicely in one of the five categories. That's okay. God wants our hearts first (Isaiah 66:2). Let Scripture be your guide in how your pray.

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