Is regular prayer difficult for you? Do you want to improve your prayers to God? This blog post shares practical keys to help you pray better.
The pace of life today can be described as frenetic. Time is a limited resource and the demands on it and on our attention are constant and overwhelming. But, regardless of the limits on our time, Christians are expected to pray. Prayer is an essential part of having a relationship with God. But for some, prayer can be difficult, awkward and stilted. They want to have effective prayers—but they are not sure how.
Let me share four lessons I’ve learned about prayer that may help you have better, more heartfelt communication with God.
1. Pray better by setting aside time every day for prayer.
I find that if I don’t deliberately make time for the most important things, they will not happen. How many times did I intend to take the kids fishing “when we can,” or take them to the swimming pool “a little later”? It isn’t for lack of desire or good intentions, but if time isn’t set aside for those things, they often just never happen. And it can be the same with prayer.
King David said he prayed to God three times a day: morning, noon and night (Psalm 55:16-17). It was his habit to set aside these times of the day for talking with God.
The prophet Daniel, another faithful servant of God, had a similar prayer life: “He knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days” (Daniel 6:10, emphasis added). He had set aside those times to pray and made it a priority, even in times of trial and stress.
Evaluate what time of day works best for you and then block out that time every day. And when that time comes, don’t let anything—not Facebook, a text, television or any other distraction—get in the way. This is an appointment you have with God, and you must keep it!
2. Pray better by focusing on thanksgiving first.
Many people feel they just don’t know what to say to God. This barrier can be overcome by first focusing on all we have to be grateful for. Every parent appreciates a genuine thank you from a child. With all God has done for us, doesn’t He deserve the same?
In Daniel 6:10, we saw that Daniel spent time thanking God for the blessings he had. At that time, Daniel’s enemies were setting him up for a death sentence because of his worship of the true God. Yet, in the face of death, we are told his focus was on thankfulness.
If we would take a few moments to consider our lives, we could all compile quite a list of things we are thankful for. Since we know every good and precious gift comes from God (James 1:17), we should show our gratitude to our Father for them.
Paul wrote that we should be “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). Thankfulness alone will probably provide each of us with enough to talk with God about for quite some time every day.
3. Pray better by expressing your concerns, needs and desires in detail.
There is an old story about a man who wrote down his needs and others’ needs on scraps of paper and put them in a bag. When he prayed he simply asked God to take care of “what is in the bag.”
If we know someone who is sick, instead of just generally asking God to heal that person, there are probably many details we can add in our prayers to God. But that doesn’t describe effective prayer! Imagine putting your opinions on scraps of paper in a bag and referring your friends to the bag in lieu of conversation. That would be no way to build relationships!
In the temple, priests burned incense before God. The incense was to be “beaten fine” (Leviticus 16:12) so it could release its full aroma.
Revelation 8:3-4 connects our prayers to the incense of the temple. But rather than ascending to the ceiling, as does smoke, our prayers ascend directly to God Himself. As the incense was “beaten fine,” so we should take the time to pray to God in fine detail.
For example, if we know someone who is sick, instead of just generally asking God to heal that person, there are probably many details we can add in our prayers to God. We could pray for relief from the stress and hardship on the person’s family, from the pain or from the loss of wages. This shows much deeper thought and care, and God sees and honors that depth of concern.
To learn more about praying for others, read “Intercessory Prayer: How Does God Want Us to Pray for Others?”
4. Pray better by not rushing your prayers.
Imagine if you only spoke with a friend for one or two minutes a day, how close would you ever become? Likewise, how close will we be to God if we only pray to Him one or two minutes a day?
I’ve heard it suggested that we shoot for at least a half hour of prayer every day. There is no scripture that states a length of time we should pray, but there are indications that faithful men and women would sometimes pray for lengthy periods, in extreme cases, all night (Luke 6:12).
Don’t shortchange your prayer life! You can talk with the God of all creation, so plan your schedule so that you have adequate time and don’t feel rushed.
Prayer is an essential part of our relationship with God. Use these points to make your time in prayer more meaningful and fulfilling. Getting into this habit will make a day without praying feel empty and incomplete. And your growing relationship with God will be one more thing for which you can be thankful!
For more insight into this important topic, read “Do You Pray the Way Jesus Taught?”