What can we do to be more consistent and more abundant in our prayers? Here are five practical ways you can bolster your praying.
1. Look for reasons to pray
as God burdens you
as you remember truth, Scripture
as you hear of requests from others
when you face difficulties and decisions
when you receive blessing and prosper
We live in a fallen world; we don’t have to look far to find reason to cry out to God. Look for those reasons to pray. Are you facing difficulty? Are brothers and sister in Christ facing difficulty? Are you facing decisions? Has God blessed you and prospered you?
As Scripture testifies, all of live is an occasion that should drive us to prayer. Ask God to make you sensitive to occasions for prayer and more intentional in going to Him in prayer. Prayer doesn’t always have to be long or formal or even well-thought out, but prayer should be frequent, spontaneous, and from the heart.
2. Try to begin and end the day in prayer
Make it a practice of seeking God with your first thoughts as you awake and your last thoughts as you fall asleep. In your first waking moments, thank Him for giving you a new day, for keeping you through the night. As you drift off to sleep, turn your thoughts to God. You will not offend God by taking to Him when you are tired or even by falling asleep in the middle of your prayer. There is, in fact no better way to prepare yourself for rest than by crawling into the arms of God as you pillow your head at night. Make it a practice as you doze off at night to thank the Lord for bringing you through the day. Trust Him! Set your mind at ease acknowledging that He is good and in control of all things. Sleep is a wonderful gift of God that reminds us that we are not God and we are not in control. There are regular intervals when we are out and the world goes on without our involvement. Sleep is a wonderful reminder that God is God and we are not. Use those times of retiring and rising as prompts to prayer.
3. Take opportunity with other believers to pray
Use the times of fellowship you have with other Christians as occasions for prayer. We gather together as a church family at times specifically for prayer, but even when you visit during the week, or have occasion to see one another, or speak to one another on the phone, take time to stop and pray, especially as your hear of needs and blessings. Pause to intercede and to praise.
4. Set aside time during the day to be alone and pray
Make opportunities for yourself to be alone for prayer. Go for a walk; go to a place where you can be by yourself for a time. Unplug. Turn off your TV, your computer, your phone—and pray. You may need to take advantage of times you are already by yourself: driving to or home from work in you car, taking a bath or a shower. Seek times to be by yourself that you can give to God. Ask God to create time for you and prompt you to pray. When God in His providence removes you from the presence of other people (by sickness or by other means), use the opportunity to seek Him.
5. Use everyday tasks to prompt your prayers
As people we are often habitual and very predictable. We do the same things over and over. We have our routines and daily practices. These can work against us if they are sinful or harmful and hard to break. But many routines are actually quite useful in helping us navigate and manage our day. And these can be enlisted and established as prompts to prayer.
One to whom we can look as an example of this is General Stonewall Jackson. Jackson was a general in the Confederate army during the civil war, and he was a devout believer. He took the command to “pray without ceasing” as a rule of life. Here is an excerpt about his life written by his wife:
[A] friend once asked him what was his understanding of the Bible command to be “instant in prayer” and to “pray without ceasing.” “I can give you,” he said, “my idea of it by illustration, if you will allow it, and will not think that I am setting myself up as a model for others. I have so fixed the habit in my own mind that I never raise a glass of water to my lips without lifting my heart to God in thanks and prayer for the water of life. Then, when we take our meals, there is the grace. Whenever I drop a letter in the post-office, I send a petition along with it for God’s blessing upon its mission and the person to whom it is sent. When I break the seal of a letter just received, I stop to ask God to prepare me for its contents and make it a messenger of good. When I go to my classroom and await the arrangement of the cadets in their places, that is my time to intercede with God for them. And so in every act of the day, I have made the practice habitual.”
[from Life and Letters of “Stonewall” Jackson by Mary Anna Jackson (1892; reprint, Harrisburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1995), 72-73.]
Jackson took even the menial tasks of life and associated them with prayer: Getting out of bed in the morning, getting dressed in the morning, getting a drink of water, eating a meal, getting ready to teach a class—all of these became prompts to prayer.
I encourage you tonight, as we come to a time of prayer, to be thoughtful and creative in ways that you could begin prompting yourself to pray. Don’t wait for time of need. Don’t wait for circumstances or trials to bring you to your knees. Make your life a life of prayer. Look for signposts in your life that will continually and consistently direct your thoughts to God. We can learn to pray without ceasing!