If there is one thing consistent among almost every Christian I have ever talked to, preached to, studied with, no matter what level of maturity, no matter how long we’ve been a Christian, most of us think we need to do better at prayer. Either by praying more, praying longer, praying deeper. I say “almost every Christian” because I did poll one congregation during a sermon and one brother raised his hand to say his prayer life was good enough. But I think my polling now ranks in the thousands. One in thousands is not too inspiring.* So, what can we do to improve our prayers lives? I’d like to share 5 things that have improved my prayer life. I hope they may help you as well.
#1: Schedule an appointment with God.
Don’t just intend to pray. Schedule it. Mark it in your day-planner. Put it on the calendar. If you wanted to meet with your boss, you’d schedule it. If you wanted to go on a date, you’d schedule it. When you want to meet with God, schedule it. When someone asks you to have coffee during that time, politely explain you already have an appointment with someone far more important.
#2: Have a place of prayer.
Obviously you can pray anywhere at anytime. I encourage you to pray everywhere. But I have also found that having a place dedicated to my specific and purposeful prayer time has been very powerful. Why? When I have a place dedicated to praying, every time I even pass by it, I start thinking about prayer. Sometimes it prompts prayer even when I wasn’t planning it.
(As an aside, don’t make your place of prayer your bed or easy chair. One complaint I’ve often heard among those who pray is, “I want to pray more, better, longer, but every time I start praying, I fall asleep.” I ask, “Where are you praying?” The response, “Oh, in bed.” I agree with many who say, “What better way to fall asleep.” However, I also agree with those who say, “If you feel asleep every time you talked to me, I’d start to get offended.” I have a place dedicated for sleep. I try not to confuse the issue by also making that my place dedicated to prayer.)
#3: Pray out loud.
This may sound odd, but it has helped me tremendously. Obviously, there are times praying out loud isn’t appropriate. When you are in that staff meeting and your boss is getting on your last nerve, you probably shouldn’t pray out loud, “Dear God, help me deal with this man.” But, pray out loud sometimes and see if it doesn’t help. It helps me because when I’m praying my mind can tend to wander. When I’m praying in my head, it is often hard to tell when I’m praying and when I’m just thinking. When I pray out loud, I can always tell. I’m praying when I’m making noise, I’m just thinking when I’m not. By the way, it is great to spend some time thinking while we pray. So even when you pray out loud, don’t be worried about times of silence. Take some time to think about what you are praying, but then pray it out loud.
#4: Make lists.
One of the most helpful tools I’ve developed is my “prayer Moleskine.” In it, I have lists of prayers from the Bible and other sources that I love to repeat. I have lists of praise prayers from the psalms that help me praise God. I have lists for thanksgiving, special requests, evangelists I know, churches I’ve been to, family, friends, granted requests. With these lists all in one place, I don’t have any trouble praying more and longer. In fact, the big trouble is now I have so much to pray for that I struggle finding the time.
#5: Plan your praying.
Now that I have so much to pray for, I’ve learned to plan my praying. This is different from scheduling. Scheduling was setting a time to pray. Planning means figuring out what to pray when. You don’t have to pray for everything on your lists every day. Rather, plan to pray for certain things on each day. For instance, Sunday is my praise and thanksgiving day. While I do some of that every day, Sunday is specifically for that purpose. Monday is my day to pray for evangelism and evangelists. Tuesday is my day to pray for my family and friends. And so on. Obviously, this is not hard and fast. I have some issues going on in my extended family that I pray for every day right now. These are just general guidelines that help me.
I’m always looking for other things to help me pray better, deeper, to connect more meaningfully with God. What practical tools or concepts have helped improve your prayer life? You can add your input by clicking here.
*By the way, I’m not too worried that almost all Christians think they need to improve in prayer. I’m far more concerned about the spiritual status of the one brother who said his prayer life was good enough than I am about the thousands who claim they wanted to do better. We all need to grow always.