I drive by a church every day on my way to work. It has a sign out front that has a little saying every month. Last month it said, “Prayer is as easy as talking to a friend.” At first read, I agreed. But, as I drove by that sign a few more times, I began to disagree.
Regular, consistent prayer has never been easy for me. I always assumed it was because of my personality. After all, I am not the most disciplined person. But, if other have the same difficulty, then there must be something more to it.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thank; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
So I took a hard look at what made consistent prayer uneasy. What did I discover? I think the biggest issue is who we are praying to. God is not a visible person. He also doesn’t communicate the same way your human friends do. It’s hard to communicate when you can’t see or hear the person you are talking with.
Prayer is hard because we have to initiate the conversation. One of God’s great gifts to mankind was our free will. The flip side of that is we are in control of our actions or, sometimes, inaction. God wants us to seek Him out. But, we have to choose to do that. The effort is ours to make.
We are also bad about putting other priorities before God. I do it all the time. I want that extra half-hour to sleep in so I’ll justify myself by promising to pray before bedtime instead. But I’m tired when I get home from work so I flip on the TV to relax and before long I’ve been sucked into hours of television and now I’m too tired to pray.
If, like me, you find yourself having difficulty in establishing a regular time of prayer, don’t get discouraged. It takes time to develop a habit.
Here are our tips on strengthening your prayer life:
- As soon as you wake up, pray. If I wait until after I get showered and dressed, I only have about a one in five chance of praying, because once I leave my bedroom the distractions kick in. There is always something that needs done – the laundry needs started, the dishwasher needs unloaded, the dog needs to be fed. Put God first, and see how it changes your day!
- Read the Bible. Recently, I have noticed that when I am reading my Bible consistently I do better in my prayer life. Why is that? I think it is because through the Bible we learn about Jesus. The more we get to know Him, the easier it is to pray. Praying and Scriptures go hand in hand like that.
- Pray out loud. I recently read this tip and I plan on starting it myself. The idea is that our minds often wander when we are praying silently. Praying out loud keeps us focused. I don’t live alone so I plan to play some quiet music while I try speaking my prayers (or, better yet, maybe ask your roommates to join you!). God may not be speaking to you out loud, but His presence is there in the room with you!
- Make God your go-to advisor. Through out your day, turn to God for guidance on anything and everything. He cares about the little things in our lives and will give you the wisdom to succeed, we must only ask! Nothing to ask about? Then schedule hourly check points to just say thank you – for the lunch you just had, your friends or for the opportunity to live another day in peace.
- Train your mind to focus. It’s so easy to let your thoughts wander, even when you’re praying. The best way to train your mind to stay focused on your prayers is to pick a focal point. For example, imagine the throne of God and keep your internal gaze on that as you pray. If your mind begins to wander to your to-do list, bring it back to the throne. If you need something more tangible, take a pointer from Eat, Pray, Love. While Liz (the main character in the book/movie) is in India, part of her routine is to do an hour of meditation each morning. To stay focused, she would think of her niece and for an hour she would send positive thoughts towards her niece – prayers for her health, comfort, dreams. The hour would fly by with no distraction! So, pray for the people in your life – one at a time, direct all your thoughts on that one person. It will transform your prayers!
- Make a list. Another way to stay focused is to have a list. It can just be a simple thing like the acronym ACTS (adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication) or a list of people to pray for. I put together a mini binder with lists of things and people to pray for. Each day I am praying for something different. For now, that works for me.
- Let the Holy Spirit do His work. With the day of the Pentecost coming up on us, the importance of what happened in second chapter of Acts is humbling. As children of God, we have the Holy Spirit in us, who intercedes on our behalf for the things we don’t even know to pray for.
“Likewise, the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” -Romans 8:26
Once you’ve established your personal prayer life, seek out spiritual support from your friends, family and church. Time spent alone in prayer with God is extraordinary, but to be in a room of believers all filled by the Spirit at the same time? It lifts you up in ways unexplainable by human standards. Plus, knowing someone is praying for you when you’re struggling with an issue is incredibly encouraging!
How do you develop regular, consistent prayer times?