I’m a distracted, side-tracked prayer warrior. When I sit down to pray, my mind takes off. The grocery store run I planned for later in the day takes on emergency “must do now” proportions. An upcoming project I needed to start yesterday pops up in my thoughts, and I wonder what’s happening on Instagram.
I may be side-tracked and distracted, but I still count myself a prayer warrior. Because I keep coming back to prayer, even if only for a few minutes (or seconds) at a time.
However, I often forget the amazing privilege of relating to God. Sometimes I turn prayer into a to-do list for Him. I don’t mean to sound irreverent. It’s almost blasphemous to think of me handing God a to-do list, but often that’s my attitude when it comes to prayer. Of course God wants to hear our requests, but He also wants to hear our thanks, praise, and laments. He takes joy in hearing our voices.
Pray is a doorway to relationship with God. He promises not only to listen when we call, but also to show Himself when we seek Him: “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:12,13).
I don’t fully understand prayer, but I keep doing it. Promises like this one encourage me: “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). I don’t always feel powerful, but I’m discovering keys to growing in my prayer life.
Here are 7 Keys to Help You Grow in Your Prayer Life:
1. Keep it Simple
One of the biggest roadblocks to prayer is that we complicate it. We think we have to compose eloquent and fervent petitions for it to count. We assume we have to pray long for God to hear, and we berate ourselves when our minds go off on a tangent.
Maybe the most effective prayer is the simple one sentence plea lifted up when we feel hard-pressed by stress or trouble. The most powerful prayer I know is just one word: “Jesus!” He comes when we call. A short, simple cry to the God of heaven can result in big answers:
Peace in your anxious moment.
Wisdom just you need it.
A sense of God’s love when you’re scared.
“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:7-8
2. Get Real
We don’t have to put on happy, holy faces to pray. Sometimes we’re hurting so bad we just don’t feel like worshipping or giving thanks. Our minds can’t even find words we think God wants to hear. At times like that, I focus on getting real with God.
When I talk to God as I would to a best friend, pouring out all my sadness, frustration, and fear, I feel relief. When I bare my heart to Jesus, I feel closer to Him. I remember He’s my dearest, most faithful friend.
“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” – 1 Peter 5:7
3. Build Faith with God-Centered Prayer
So often my prayers are all about me: my requests, hopes, dreams, and wants. I pour them all out to God. Then I wonder if He hears and will answer me.
But when I start to praise and exalt God for His majesty, wisdom, and power, my trust in Him grows. My perspective on my problems changes when I remember how big He is and how much He loves me. Pouring on the praise when we approach God helps shift our mindset to one of belief. Faith rises, and we can ask Him for what we need.
“Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” – Jeremiah 32:17
4. Remember Repentance
The word “repentance” makes me squirm because I don’t like to be reminded of my sins and short-comings, yet confessing our sins paves the way to renewal.
We all sin, and repentance sets us free from guilt. It enables us to taste more of God’s grace. Unconfessed sin sets up a roadblock in our relationship with God, but repentance removes obstacles to our spiritual growth. Our repentance and God’s forgiveness quiet the voice of Satan, the accuser who wants to heap guilt and condemnation on us.
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” – Acts 3:19
5. Use Scripture
Something powerful happens when we pray God’s words back to Him: we know we’re aligned with His Spirit and His will. You can use scripture as a springboard for prayer as you read it. Praise God for an attribute you see mentioned. Turn verses into prayer requests for yourself or people you love. Ask for forgiveness when a passage points to something you need to change in your life.
The Bible also includes prayers we can make our own by reading silently or speaking aloud the words as they are written. Here are a few to try:
1 Chronicles 29:10-13; Colossians 1:9-14; Ephesians 1:15-21; Ephesians 3:14-21
6. Lean in to Listen
The greatest mystery of prayer is that God speaks. But I can’t hear Him if I make it into a monologue by doing all the talking. Once in a while I experiment by practicing silence after my daily Bible reading. I’ll ask God, “What do you want to say to me?” Then I remain silent for a few minutes and see what impressions come to mind.
Obviously, listening for God’s voice is a subjective experience, but we can learn to recognize it in our daily living. When you need guidance or wisdom, try asking God a specific question. Write it down, and be open to different ways He may speak to you. The answer may come instantly, or it may come a week later. It may come as a thought, a turn of events, something a friend says, or a Bible verse that pops out at you.
“For God does speak–now one way, now another– though no one perceives it.” -Job 33:14
7. Don’t Give Up
I once prayed almost daily for eight years that God would bless a younger friend with a believing husband. We lived in a Middle Eastern country where Christian men were in short supply. My friend was smart and beautiful. Non-Christian guys chased her all the time, but I encouraged her to wait on God for a husband.
However, after the seventh year, I began asking God, “Are you sure about this? Will she blame me later if she ends up single?” Yet I continued telling her to trust God’s faithfulness. And I kept praying.
The day she finally married a wonderful Christian man, my family and I rejoiced. Today I remember this story when I’m praying for something I don’t see an answer to. Obviously we don’t always receive the answers we pray for. Yet power is found in persistence. What stories do you have of God’s faithfulness in the past? Remind yourself of them often as you persevere in prayer.
“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up…” (Luke 18:1)
We may not all feel like powerful prayer warriors, but we can all be side-tracked, distracted ones, right? Even our muddled requests and lightening cries for help bring the God of heaven to our side. God invites us to Himself. As we draw near to hear His voice and talk to Him, we discover the power of prayer.
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