“Prayer can never be in excess.” – C.H. Spurgeon
I am willing to bet that 100% of Christians do not believe they pray enough. Prayer just seems to be a discipline in which believers do not actively engage as we should. I’m sure that you, just as I, have read articles or heard stories from ministers who sat bedside with people whom were nearing the end of their life. Of these many stories, the common theme running through them is the confession of the dying who wished they had “prayed more.”
I can’t imagine what it’s like to sit with someone as they near their final time on this side of eternity. Further, I can’t imagine how it feels to hear such a raw confession from a person who realizes too late how much their life lacked intimacy with God. As a minister, my heart is heavy for those with such a revelation, as well as those who have yet to realize such a lack in their own lives.
Among the vast amount of things scripture has to say about prayer, it gives instruction to, “devote yourselves to prayer” (Col 4:2), to “pray continuously” (1 Thess 5:16), and to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another” (Jam 5:16). Prayer is important to the life of the believer. Unfortunately, it seems as though the primary time we pray is when we actually need God. In times of trouble, our prayer life explodes! Once the trouble is passed, so has our time with the Father.
But to be fair, we also “seek” God in good times as well. Yes, we throw out a quick “Thank you, Lord” or “Praise God” when something good happens, but can we really call that prayer?The last thing I want to do is distance myself from the above mentioned categories. I, too, struggle to have a strong prayer life. I also struggle to know what to say when I come before my God and King. I know there are tips and strategies out there focused on how to inject more prayer into our lives. I’m sure sure that some work better than others, but below are the ways that I personally try to have more prayer in my life.
- Devotions: Prayer is an intricate part of my devotions, as it should be in everyone’s devotions. Whether morning or evening, at a minimum, a time of prayer must happen for me. Sometimes I don’t have an entire morning to spend in devotions (i.e. scripture reading, verse memorization, etc), but I will do my best to spend some good time in prayer.
- Praying audibly: Praying out loud helps me with what I say and how I say it. When I can hear how I sound, I can critique what I say. Please don’t misunderstand – our prayers are prayed to an audience of One. However, I think we all know or have heard someone “Father God” a prayer to death. Not only can repetition be distracting, but this is (at least for me) a whole other level of distraction. Praying out loud helps me to avoid repetition.
- The Alphabet: I pray through the alphabet. It may sound corny or silly, but it has been beneficial to my prayer life and it can be done at any time. I usually do it when driving, and I use each letter to describe God in some way. This is also one of the many times I will pray out loud.
- Contact List: Praying through my contact list is another practice that has benefitted me. I learned this technique from a magazine I read a few years ago and I have done it periodically every since. I’ve done it while standing in line at the grocery or waiting in the drive-thru. This works well because, ideally, we should know at least one thing about our contacts that could be prayed for.
- Restaurant Server: Praying for our server when my family and I eat at a restaurant has just been a blessing. The look of surprise on a servers face when you ask them what you can pray for on their behalf is awesome. And the opportunity to actually pray with them is an even greater blessing.
Here’s a quick story…
- My wife and I were having breakfast at Bob Evans on Saturday morning. We try to make Saturday morning breakfast together a regular time in our marriage. So, when our server arrived, I explained to her that my wife and I were about the pray for our food and I asked if there was anything that we could pray for on her behalf. She didn’t understand what I was saying, so she called her husband (who also worked there) over to hear what I was asking. Come to find out, their son was in jail in Texas awaiting paperwork a green card. Well, when our food was brought to the table, my wife and I were blessed to join hands with this mother and father and intercede on behalf of their son. Such a blessing for my bride and I.
I fully understand that praying might not be easy for you. I can definitely relate to your discouragement of what to pray for not coming to mind as easy as you’d like. But, we have to do it. It’s a command from God and, as in all things, we must be obedient. In our obedience, we should be praying, not only with requests and petitions, but with thanks and appreciation.
But, be encouraged. We are also told in scripture that when we don’t know what to pray for, “…the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom 8:26). We are strongest on our knees, especially when the Spirit leads. Grace and Peace.