I’ll be honest, two years ago my prayer life consisted of prayer over food and a nightly “thank you for my day” prayer that lasted all of five minutes. I would thank God and pray short little prayers throughout the day, but I didn’t have a dedicated time of prayer.
My prayer life has certainly changed. A few days ago, I was chatting with one of my friends. We were discussing prayer and he asked what my prayer time looked like. I explained that I set aside an hour each day for personal prayer. “How do you pray for an hour straight?!?” he exclaimed. This exact question was something I asked when I heard someone else say they prayed for an hour a day. So, here are some things I did that made prayer a central part of my day and helped me get the most out of the time.
For me, the biggest hurdle was finding the time to pray. This was not an easy step, in fact, it was the most difficult. We are all busy, “do I really need to set time aside for prayer?” The answer is yes!
For me, I had to take inventory of what was important in my day and then figure out what to move and shift in order to accomplish my goal. To make a long story short, I ended up moving my bedtime forward an hour, so I go to bed at 9:00pm. I used to drive for Uber in the mornings before work, but the money wasn’t that great. It was a hard decision, but I realized the time I spent driving was more important than the extra cash. I quit Uber and started waking up at 5:00am in order to get ready for the day and spend time in prayer.
It should be noted that this was still not an easy transition. Two years later and I still have trouble waking up for the day.
How to Pray
Part of a healthy prayer life is utilizing your time in the best possible way. Before we look at some tools to help us pray, let’s look at different kinds of prayer.
It may seem like an hour is a ton of time but once you get into a good routine you will realize it’s not enough time at all. When we talk about personal prayer, we need to understand that there are several different categories.
- Thanksgiving/praise prayers
- Petition Prayer
- Liturgical Prayer
- Praying the Bible
Within these four kinds of prayer, there are a ton of subcategories and/or choices that can be made. In other words, this is not an exhaustive list that describes every way we should pray. But this can be a starting point.
Thanking the Lord for things you are grateful for does several things. 1) It reminds us that every good thing comes from God. 2) It forces us to find things we are grateful for even in times of distress. 3) It helps us realize the blessings that we have and helps us understand there are always others in the world that have it worst.
If you have trouble knowing what to start with, begin by looking around. If you have a home you are living in, a bed you just got out of, or a meal you will have in the day, start there. Thank God for health, your family or friends, or the air in your lungs. If all else fails, remember that you have a relationship with the living God and that Jesus has died for you. For many in the world, this is not a reality. You have much to be thankful for.
This is the kind of prayer I believe we are all familiar with. Asking God to help your family members come to Christ, praying for wisdom in situations, guidance for a new job, the list goes on. There is nothing wrong with petition prayer, we simply need to remember that we should be seeking God’s will when we pray not giving God a checklist of things He needs to do for us.
I find it easiest to create lists for myself of people and situations that I am praying for. An example of some of my categories would be:
I have some more but you get the idea. I grew these lists over a period of time, and they continue to grow and be edited. Start by adding your immediate neighbors, some people in your immediate family including kids, spouse, moms, dads, etc. At one point I sat down with my Church’s phone directory and started adding a page a day till everyone was in there. I have a policy that once a person is in my prayer list, they can be moved but they are never removed.
Build your prayer lists for a week and you will have so much to pray for that you will only be able to get through the entire list once a week.
For some of us, we grew up with a prayer book at Church. Others have never even cracked one open. There is nothing wrong with that and finding a prayer book that works for you can be a difficult task. If you belong to a denomination you might find out if they have a prayer book.
Most prayer books have a section for morning and/or daily prayers. If you are unfamiliar with liturgical prayers you might consider cracking open a prayer book the next time you’re at a book store. Most of the prayers are taken from Scripture but arranged in such a way that they help focus on topics. The best part of liturgical prayer is that it gives you the words to pray when you don’t feel like praying or don’t have the words to do so.
Praying the Bible
Up until recently, I didn’t understand this one. I had prayer books and there was a lot of Scripture in these prayers that I liked, but I had never thought of opening my Bible and using it as my prayer guide.
If you have never done this, my suggestion is to start with the Psalms. Add a Psalm or two to your daily prayer. Pray the words and see how they apply to your life. You will be amazed.
Bottom Line: How To Grow Your Prayer Life
- Make time to pray. If you feel you are in a situation where there is absolutely no way to make time to pray, get out of that situation. Make prayer a priority in your life!
- Organize your prayers so that you can utilize your time to its fullest.
- Use liturgical prayer and/or the Bible to guide your prayer time and to give you the words to pray when you feel you don’t have them.
- Focus your prayer on God’s will and the expansion of His Kingdom.
In one of my previous posts I talked about the Echo prayer app (watch my review of Echo Here). Since that post, I have begun using a different prayer app for my daily prayers. I still use Echo for prayer groups, but for personal prayer, I use “Prayer Mate.” This app gives you the ability to create lists and decide how often you want that list to show up in your rotation. It also will show you every prayer before it repeats a prayer. What is more, you can add biblical prayers to it as well, and set reminders to pray for specific things throughout your day.
Audio Lecture on Prayer
John Piper has been one of my inspirations in growing my prayer life. One of the sermons he preached titled, Be Devoted to Prayer, was particularly inspiring. I would encourage you to listen to it when you have the time.
Books on Prayer
C.H. Spurgeon, The Power of Prayer in a Believer’s Life
Timothy Keller, Prayer
Cover Photo by Robert Stokoe