Prayer. Talking with God. As followers of Jesus, we know it’s important, right?
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” The late evangelist Billy Graham called it the “sweetest work of the soul.”
Persistence in prayer is a consistent them in the Bible. Jesus teaches us to pray, and Paul says we should “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and “Devote yourselves to prayer” (Colossians 4:2).
But let’s be honest. It can be a struggle. Not always, but sometimes. Maybe even often?
This post is to offer some practical suggestions. It’s related to my sermon at Westminster Church on July 26, 2020 called Pray—as a first resort. To see the whole message, you can link to the YouTube video at the end of this post or click on the title.
Here are the suggestions I offered toward the end. And remember, I’m not saying that everyone has to do all of these things to have a more robust prayer life. I simply offer these ideas for those of you who are struggling and might benefit from one or more of these ideas.
Remember what Jesus says about prayer
In Luke 18:1 Jesus says this to his disciples: “always pray and don’t give up.” He says a lot of other things about prayer too, like using straightforward, non-pretentious language (read a more complete list I put together here), but this verse offers wisdom that is direct and to the point: Always pray and don’t give up.
Consider this. In John 14:15 Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commands.” Therefore, always praying and not giving up is a part of our love for Jesus. It’s a part of our devotion to him—regardless of whether or not we feel like it.
In any other important relationship, there are certain things we do out of love. If we love so-and-so, we’ll be a shoulder to cry on, or be honest, or sacrifice something for them. If we love Jesus, we will always pray and not give up.
Schedule time(s) to pray
For those who have a hard time with prayer, it can be helpful to schedule a time to do it. Take a look at what you’re going to be doing for the upcoming week, and schedule in some prayer time.
Pray at meals
A lot of people say grace before dinner. That’s great. So extend that practice to breakfast and lunch, and since you’re already praying, use those moments to lift up other prayer concerns.
For example: “Dear God, thank you for this food and for always providing for us. Please bless it. We also ask that you lay your healing hand on uncle Mike in his battle with cancer, and that you give he and Tanaya your powerful peace. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.”
Make a list
Maybe it seems formal to make a list, but there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a way to help you remember what to pray for, especially if you’re prone to WBS (Wandering Brain Syndrome). That’s when you start to pray, and then start to think about the laundry you still need to fold or how the dog needs a haircut.
In my own prayer life I have things that I pray for as they come into my head, but I also have a list. There are certain things I pray for on Monday, and on Tuesday, and on Wednesday…
Pray with a partner
A prayer partner can be a real encouragement. If you’re someone who likes getting together with other people, this can motivate you. And if you’re someone who needs some accountability, a prayer partner can help with that too. You can meet in person, or over a video chat or phone call. Maybe it’s once a month, or once a week.
Pray the Lord’s Prayer (slowly)
Jesus taught us what we commonly call The Lord’s Prayer. You can find it in Matthew 6:9-13. But since some of us have had it memorized since before we can remember, we can say the whole thing by rote and not even realize what we’re saying. So pray it, slowly. Reflect on the words, and let them give birth to other prayers that come into your mind as you pray.
Pray through the Psalms
The psalms aren’t just a hymn book, they’re a prayer book. If you need an anchor in your prayer life, read through a few verses of a psalm, and then pray based on what you read.
For example, Psalm 23 starts like this: “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.” So start your prayer thanking God for how he cares for you and provides for you, giving specific examples.
Then continue with verse four: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” Based on this verse, talk to God about your fears and worries. Thank him for his presence with you through your valleys, and ask him to increase your confidence that he is in fact beside you,” etc.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you
Sometimes you’re at the end of your rope. I get it. In those moments, ask the Holy Spirit to help you pray!
In Romans 8:26-27 Paul describes how “the [Holy] Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”
God is so good to us, he is so loving and favourably predisposed to us, that he even intercedes in our prayer life on our behalf! Hear this encouragement by Andrew Murray in a classic prayer book by Andrew Murray called With Christ in the School of Prayer:
“The Father listens in all the compassion with which a father listens to a weak or sickly child, in all the joy with which he hears a stammering child, in all the patience with which he tolerates a thoughtless child.”
Here’s a quick recap:
- Remember what Jesus says about prayer (Always pray and don’t give up)
- Schedule time(s) to pray
- Pray at meals
- Make a list
- Pray with a partner
- Pray the Lord’s Prayer (slowly)
- Pray through the Psalms
- Ask the Holy Spirit to help you
Here is the full message on YouTube called “Pray—as a first resort.”
CLICK HERE to learn about my new book: Turbulence: Devotionals to Steady You Through The Storms of Life published by Thicket Books.
CLICK HERE to sign up for my daily email devotional called “Up!” which is delivered to your inbox five mornings a week (Monday – Friday).