I want to be a good pray-er. However, I hope I never think I’m a good pray-er. When you think you’ve arrived at something, spiritually speaking, it’s a dangerous place to be. That goes for prayer as well as resisting temptation, Scripture memory, and much more. Always keep trying to get better at it, no matter how great you think you are.
I wanted to share a couple practical thoughts about prayer and some techniques I’m using to try to get better at it.
1. TURN STUFF OFF.
I am surrounded by technology. Between desktop computer to laptops to iPhones, technology is everywhere. Not to mention, I have e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and more that can distract me through any one of those devices. So, when I’m praying, I make sure my phone is not in the room with me. It also helps if my computer is shut (or even better, not in the room with me either). It helps me focus. If I feel or even hear the vibration of my phone, I wonder who texted or emailed me. Keeping them elsewhere rids me of a few distractions and can help make my prayer time far more meaningful.
2. FIND A QUIET PLACE.
This might seem like common sense, but I know some people who try to have their quiet times (ironic name) at Starbucks each morning. Not very quiet and very distracting. Unless you are extraordinarily undistractable, go somewhere where there won’t be tons of other people ordering drinks, spilling drinks, and having loud annoying conversations. Go somewhere that you can actually focus.
3. DO IT FREQUENTLY.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 simply says “Pray without ceasing.” That doesn’t mean you can’t converse with anyone else, but it simply means that when you have a free moment, say a quick prayer. It can be about anything, just stay in communication with God throughout the day. That way, when you sit down to pray, you can pick up right where you left off.
4. WRITE IT DOWN.
I haven’t always been a journal-er, but I’ve really gotten into it lately. When I tell someone, “I’ll pray for you,” I try to make sure I say a quick prayer for them right there, but also write it down so that I don’t forget. Right now, our church is small enough that I can pray for every person by name every day, so I keep a list of their names. It takes me about 30 minutes, but I love being about to do it! One thing that I’ve done too is to write the date that I began praying for someone on. That way when God answers that prayer, I can look back and see the effect of continued, steadfast prayer. Don’t let that date discourage you though. I know people who haven’t had prayers answered till after 10 (or more) years of daily prayer!
5. PRAY WITH AND FOR YOUR SPOUSE.
Jenn and I prayed together yesterday while the girls were down for a nap. It had been too long. We intend to do it weekly. Lately, it’s been more like monthly. It’s so great to get together and talk to the Lord about whatever: the kids, the church, finances, etc. Hearing her voice those things to the Lord helps me have an even better idea of how I can pray for her. Pray for your husband or wife daily. There’s no excuse not to do this. When you think of them or when they call you or text you, say a quick prayer. You never know how God may use those simple prayers.
6. KEEP A PEN & PAPER HANDY.
Inevitably, when you sit down to pray, no matter how hard you’ve tried to rid yourself of distractions, they come anyway. For me, they come in the form of productive thoughts. They try to deceive me into thinking that I need to do them immediately. How do I cure the urge to leave prayer to do whatever just came to my mind? Write it down. I know if I write it down, I can forget about it during my prayer time and just focus on what I’m there to do. After all, real productivity is a direct result of prayer. To be productive, you must be in prayer. Martin Luther used to say “When I have 8 hours of work to do and 5 hours to do it in, I spend the first 3 in prayer.” I know, I know, the math doesn’t compute, but Luther was pretty productive, I’d say. He must have known what he was talking about.
I hope these ideas help you as much as they have helped me. This list is surely not comprehensive, though – I’d love to hear some of your practical thoughts on prayer. Let me know!