‘Let us pray’. How do you feel when you hear that? Overjoyed? Guilty?
Prayer is one of those things we feel we should definitely do more, but probably don’t. If you’ve cracked the key to having a perfect prayer life, we’d love to hear from you! For the rest of us, we’re all too aware that our prayer life isn’t all it should be. At times, we can feel like we’re doing quite well, and prayer comes easily to us – but at other times, our prayer life feels dry, and we may not even want to pray.
1. Make a plan
“Much praying is not done because we do not plan to pray. ” – D A Carson
We all want to pray more. Prayer takes time, and the problem is, there are lots of other things fighting for our time. If we don’t schedule in a time to pray, it won’t happen. Put regular, dedicated times in your calendar just to pray.
Practical tip – Use the Calendar app on your phone.
2. Don’t ‘pigeon-hole’
Prayer isn’t just for the time you set aside on your calendar, though. The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). As well as having times set aside for prayer, we should aim to keep up a conversation with our Father in Heaven throughout the day.
Matt Chandler explains that this works in the same way that he spends time with his wife. In the busyness of everyday life, while looking after children and working, his conversations with her will be short. But he also deliberately sets time aside to focus solely on her and have fuller conversations.
Practical tip – Use visual cues throughout your day to remind you to pray, such as a wallpaper on your phone.
3. Learn from older people
Whether you’ve been a Christian for as long as you can remember, or you are a more recent convert, there will always be someone who has been running the race for longer than you with wisdom to share – especially on the topic of prayer. Spend time with older Christians, build friendships with them, ask them questions and learn from them.
Someone who inspires us is a 95 year old lady who has been faithfully praying for OMF for 75 years. When asked how she keeps on praying, she replied: “It’s simple, the joy of the Lord is my strength. Also, prayer works. It’s simple, but it works. I can do it, so I do.”
Practical tip – Make an effort to talk to someone in your church who is older than you.
4. Accountability/prayer relationships
God saves us individually, but he calls us to a life of community. We are made in the image of God, himself a community, eternally existing as Father, Son and Spirit. We need other Christians to encourage and challenge us.
Find someone who you can build a prayer relationship with. Meet up with them to pray for a specific topic, and keep in touch to find out how your prayer partner is doing.
5. Do a Bible Study on prayer
Prayer isn’t Christianity’s version of a wishing well, where our prayers are nothing more than an impersonal coin flicked into the divine ear. Prayer does involve bringing our requests to God of course (Philippians 4:6)- but it is much more than that. When we read through Scripture, we see that prayer is one of God’s appointed means for his people to meet with him. Study prayer and marvel at how a sovereign, perfect God has appointed the prayers of weak, imperfect people to be the means through which he works in the world.
Practical tip – Take a look at this Got Questions article for a helpful overview of what the Bible says about prayer.
6. Go for a Walk
Sitting down to pray in a warm, quiet room it can be easy to get distracted or feel sleepy! If you find this a struggle, consider using ‘prayer walks’ as a means of to staying focussed and alert- and while you’re there, pray for the area you’re walking around.
Practical tip – Stick to a route that you know – you’re less likely to get distracted.
7. Use an app
When we have so many things we want to pray for, how can we make sure we pray for them all regularly? An app on your smartphone may help. One app we highly recommend is ‘PrayerMate’. It helps you create lists of things you want to pray for and schedules them for you so you pray through everything on your lists over time. Go and check out the video PrayerMate app: helping you pray
8. Journal answers to prayer
We aren’t always good at remembering God’s faithfulness to us in the past. Keeping a record of how God has blessed us, answered our prayers and been faithful to us, can help. Doing this gives us ammunition to fight the good fight of faith, stirring our hearts in remembering how God has dealt with us, giving us confidence that prayer works, even when times are hard.
9. Pray immediately – don’t just say that you will
How often have you told someone that you’ll pray for them, but never actually got round to doing it? Maybe you’ve always stuck to your word, but for the rest of us, we need help. When someone shares something that they need prayer for, offer to pray with them there and then. This will also help make praying a more natural part of your life.
Practical tip – If you can’t pray immediately why not put it into PrayerMate straight away.
10. Write out your prayers
Sometimes, you may find it hard to express what you want to say to God, so writing out your prayer might be helpful. Writing, instead of speaking, helps us to slow down and think more carefully about what we’re trying to say. Writing down your prayers also means that you’ll be able to look back and see how God has worked in that situation.
11. Get involved in your church
The local church is God’s way of growing believers, so throw yourself into your church as much as you can. It will give you a greater desire to walk closely with the Lord, to worship him and to pray to him. Church prayer meetings may seem difficult or boring, but they can be a great way to set aside time to pray, learn more about prayer and to pray for different situations.
Practical tip – Read Acts 4:23-31 and see the power of meeting together to pray.
12. Pray, even when you don’t feel like it
Often, we don’t pray because we ‘don’t feel like it’. But have you ever got up early to go to the gym or for a run and not felt like doing it, yet you push yourself to go because you know it’s good for you? Perhaps Paul had this in mind when he wrote to Timothy: ‘train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.’ (1 Timothy 4:8, NIV). An important part of this training is prayer. In order to grow in our prayer life we need to be disciplined in praying, even when we don’t feel like it, because we know it is good for us. Fight against ‘not feeling like it’ and pray, knowing it is important and pleases God.
13. Use the ACTS model
Sometimes we don’t know where to start in prayer, which is where the ACTS model helps. It is a simple formula that brings a well-rounded structure to your prayers. It’s easy to do – just work through each letter.
A – Adoration – Praise God for who he is.
C – Confession – Lay your sin before God. Be specific, ask for forgiveness and believe that he forgives freely.
T – Thanksgiving – Give thanks to God for what he has done – for ourselves, for others or throughout history.
S – Supplication – Bring your needs and those of others before God.
14. Pray specifically
It’s hard to pray when you don’t know what you’re praying for. Learning about situations and unreached people groups enables you to pray specifically. Here are some resources to help you:
15. Use scripture
“We only pray well if we are immersed in Scripture. We learn our prayer vocabulary the way children learn their vocabulary — that is, by getting immersed in language and then speaking it back” – Tim Keller, paraphrasing Eugene Peterson
Practical tip: Read a Psalm (like Psalm 86) and turn its words into your own prayers. Or use one of the prayers that open Paul’s letters to pray for yourself and your church.
We pray you find these tips helpful – if you have any to add, please let us know on Facebook