Prayer is an essential part of the Christian life. Unfortunately, many Christians go through life feeling guilty for not praying as much as they think they should. Do you long for a more robust and meaningful prayer life? Do you yearn for the closer fellowship with God that prayer provides? Here are four suggestions that will help you to improve your prayer life.
1. Spend a solid ten minutes doing nothing but praising God.
Prayer isn’t all about you. When you focus your prayer exclusively upon God, you are better able to take the focus off of yourself. Too often, our spiritual life becomes a self-involved personal effort, making it hard to appreciate our amazing God in all his grace, glory, grandeur, majesty, holiness, and love.
Set aside ten minutes to simply focus upon God, and praise him for who he is and for what he’s done. Pray through a passage of Scripture like Psalm 135 or the prayer of Daniel (9:3-19). When the subject, the object, and the passion of your prayer is all God, you are better able to sustain your prayer life.
2. Use mealtime as your prayer time.
One of the reasons we get discouraged about praying is because we fail to live up to our expectations of having a special, sacred time and place to pray. Praying at a special time and in a special place is, of course, a wonderful thing. But rather than being discouraged about not having such a time, use daily occasions that you already have to pray. Mealtime is an excellent opportunity. Even parents with small children eat meals. Take a minute or two to pray, whether silently or aloud. You may wish to keep a small prayer notebook at the table, or a daily prayer guide such as Operation World.
3. Focus less on the time, and more on the act of prayer.
Many Christians have heard of the testimonies of men like John Hyde or George Muller, who would spend hours each day in prayer. Martin Luther famously said,
“If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.”
If that’s true, than what about the rest of us? Should we feel ashamed for not spending hours each day in prayer? What about 1 Thessalonians 5:17 — the command to “pray without ceasing?” If judged by that measure, even the famous prayer warriors fall short.
Our problem comes when we gauge the success of our prayer life by the time that we spend doing it. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 does not tell us that a really good prayer life consists of no less than 45 minutes each day, or that we somehow have to be praying every single moment of time. Instead, the verse tells us to do two things: 1) Pray frequently (compare with Romans 1:9), and 2) never give up upon praying (Luke 18:1-8).
When we make time our effort in prayer, we put up a barrier to our actually praying at all. What about breathing a prayer to God as you step outside and see the sun? What about thanking God for his grace, as you encounter a moment of temptation? What about a prayer for patience as you change a dirty diaper, or cope with a crying child? What about a prayer for kindness as you work under a frustrating superior? What about an unspoken prayer for wisdom as you enter a counseling situation?
Let us pray often, but not wallow in guilt for not praying hours each day. Even George Muller said, “[I pray for] hours every day, but I live in the spirit of prayer. I pray as I walk, and when I lie down, and when I arise. And the answers are always coming.”
4. Pray on the spot.
In keeping with number three, try praying when the Spirit prompts you to do so. Have you ever had a sudden inspiration to pray? Then just pray, right there, wherever you are. Have you ever told a friend, “I’ll pray for you,” then totally forget to do so? Next time, just pray. If someone shares a prayer request with you, simply stop and pray for them at that moment.
Too often, we relegate prayer to something that is to be done at a certain time. The sad thing is, some of us aren’t successful in making time in our schedule. Rather than depend upon a separate time, just pray on the spot — whenever the Spirit leads.
The point of this article was not to make you feel guilty about not praying as much as you should. Instead, it is intended to encourage you in your prayer life. Rather than slog through your Christian journey in discouragement about your lack of prayer, look up in joy and celebrate the communication that you can have with your heavenly father.