Most of us find that praying can be difficult at times.
We know it’s important, but finding a way to make prayer a regular part of our lives can be challenging. Over the years I’ve tried all sorts of strategies to keep my prayer life on track, with varying levels of success. But no matter whether I’m in a season where prayer is easy, or a season where it’s difficult, I’ve found that these five keys help me to stay on track.
1. Pray Consistently
When you do something consistently, you become better at it, and more comfortable doing it. Making prayer a part of your daily routine will help to ensure that it’s a consistent part of your life. People who achieve great things in life know the power of routine. Ask any successful athlete, scientist, or businessman and they will be able to describe to you the things they do consistently. The great thing about a daily routine is that you are governed less by your feelings, and more by what you know is helpful.
“When I regularly pray, irregular things happen on a regular basis” Mark Batterson.
Now of course routines can become boring, so occasionally mix things up a bit. If your prayer life becomes dull, try a different routine. Just find something that works for you and stick with it for a while. Even Jesus had routines. Listen to these verses from Scripture:
Luke 4v16 “as was his custom he went to the synagogue on the sabbath”
Luke 22v39 “as was his custom he went to the mount of olives to pray”
Jesus had ‘customs’ – commitments that were a regular part of his life, including prayer.
2. Pray Continuously
One of the most amazing things about prayer, and something we can so easily forget, is that we are actually talking to God! What an immense privilege to see God answer our prayers. We can talk to the one who knows everything, and wants to answer.
As well as regular focussed times of prayer, we have the privilege to be able to pray anywhere at any time. Writing to the Church in Thessalonica, the apostle Paul writes “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5 v 17)
As your prayer life grows, you will probably find yourself offering quick prayers at all kinds of times; when driving, when walking, whenever you hear of a need, or have to make a decision. Learn to feel comfortable offering a quick prayer to God, and be sure to listen for his guidance. Of course prayer isn’t only about getting answers. One of the main purposes of prayer is that it draws us closer to God and we learn to lean on him. As we pray, we change. This is, perhaps, the greatest prayer benefit of them all. Our awareness of the reality of God grows, as we learn to pray continuously.
3. Pray Persistently
Last summer, I received two amazing answers to prayer, but both came in very different ways. The first answer came after a quick “it would be nice, Lord” type prayer, which was actually more of a thought than a prayer. The answer came, quite remarkably, the very next day. A couple of months later we received the provision of something that we needed for my music ministry. It was a wonderful answer to prayer, but it was something that I was praying about for a few years!
In other words, some prayers get answered quickly, and others take time. Ever been praying about something for a long time and started to lose heart? In Luke Chapter 18, Jesus tells a story specifically so that his followers would not lose heart when they pray. (Luke 18 v 1-8). In this story of a widow seeking justice from a judge, Jesus makes the point clearly: don’t give up when praying. Persist.
4. Pray Effectively
When you read the scriptures, one thing becomes clear – not all prayers are equal. Jesus says that we shouldn’t expect our prayers to be heard if we do them to be seen by others, if we pray to impress God, or if we pray with un-forgiveness in our hearts. However, Jesus does give us a number of examples of how we should pray.
For instance, in the gospel of Mark, chapter 11, Jesus curses the fig tree. His disciples are amazed at the power of his words and their effect on the fig tree, which withers and dies. Jesus uses the moment to teach his disciples something about prayer. If we want our prayers to be effective, we need to pray with faith. Jesus teaches that what we believe when we pray, really matters. Effective prayer is believing prayer, faith-filled prayer, spirit-led prayer. If you’re struggling to pray with genuine faith, ask God to help you.
5. Pray Fervently
Finally, there is something powerful about praying fervently. What is fervency? The dictionary defines it as warmth or intensity of feeling. When we pray, it should involve our heart as well as our mind. We should pray like we care.
James 5 v 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.
Praying fervently isn’t about the volume or intensity of our prayers, as much as it’s about the passion and caring of our prayers. When you pray, put your heart into it! God loves to hear from you!
This isn’t an exhaustive commentary on prayer, just a few keys that I have personally found helpful. There is so much more that can be said. For further reading, a few of my favourite books on prayer are:
Too Busy Not To Pray. Bill Hybels
Why Revival Tarries. Leonard Ravenhill
Walking With God. John Eldredge
What keys have you found helpful when it comes to prayer? What books would you recommend? I’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below. If this article has helped you, feel free to share it!