Seven Practical Prayer Tips
It is really ironic that praying is so hard. I mean, really, isn't that strange when you think about it? Prayer allows us to come up close, to settle in for an intimate conversation with our closest Companion and Friend, but it is something that most of us struggle with. I want to be a prayer warrior when I grow up. I'm not there, yet, but I'll share with you a few things I've found helpful through the years:
If I don't start my day early, then I'll have to rush through my time in the Word and focused prayer. That's never a good way for me to begin. You may be a night owl and like to do your devotional time at 11 p.m. While that may work for your particular wiring, I've found that I need to start my day by asking the Spirit to fill and direct me and asking the Father to show me the sin I'm blind to and open my heart to receive the truth of His Word. Prayer and God's Word go hand in hand: the Word directs our prayers, and at the same time, prayer is our communication line as we seek to receive instruction from God's Word.
One thing about starting early, though—the older I get, the foggier my brain is in the morning. So, I typically pray while waiting for my teapot to signal me that the water is ready. I pour the water over my tea bag and pray while the tea is steeping. I sip my first cup of tea and pray . . . and my brain fog finally begins to clear a bit so that my prayer time will be a little more coherent.
I have people that I pray for in the morning, daily (my family and close friends). As I'm studying the Word, often the Spirit brings someone else, or a specific situation to mind that I've missed praying for, and I'll stop to lift them up. I also keep a prayer journal that helps me stay on track with people and ministries that need prayer.
Pray Out Loud
When I'm starting my day, it really helps if I pray out loud or at least whisper my prayers. Often, I write them out so that I can stay on track and not wander off. I don't always pray out loud, though. You won't hear me praying while I'm in conversation, but typically, I'll be lifting up silent prayers—asking God for discernment and help—while I'm engaged in a serious conversation.
There is something about going to my knees in prayer that adjusts my attitude. I don't always pray on my knees—I pray when I'm driving, walking, in the shower, or putting on makeup. That is the beauty of having an open door of communication with God. He is Spirit, and He is always accessible. I don't have to physically transport myself to a specific location to pray. It doesn't have to be in church, and I don't have to kneel. But there is something that happens to my heart, when in the process of kneeling, I signify that God is worthy of my adoration; when I adjust and humbly move my body to an appropriate stance before the Ruler of the Universe.
Follow the ACTS Form
This acronym is probably familiar to you, but in case you've never heard of it, this can be a simple format for your prayers:
Spend some time worshiping and praising God for who He is. A great way to practice this literally is by singing a hymn. I keep a hymnal with my daily devotional books, and when I pull it out (which is not often enough), the majestic words about my Savior bring me into personal moments of adoration. I think He delights in our singing to Him.
God knows all that is in my heart, all I've done, every wrong thought and selfish action. Nothing is hidden from Him, but when we ignore or try to cover and hide our sin, God will not hear our prayers (Ps. 66:18, Ps. 32). Confession is agreeing with God about my sin, bringing it into the light, and turning from it.
Thanking God for His goodness and all the ways He's been gracious, listing them specifically, leads me to moments of true worship.
Supplication is what I'm asking God to do. It means "crying out" to Him for help. This is where we get real and honest with God about what is going on in our hearts—where we let Him know what we need, what our fears are, what we desire for Him to do in our lives and others' lives. Letting Scripture shape and inform my thinking on my requests helps me to ask according to God's will. And that kind of praying is effective praying!
Twice daily, the clock strikes 10:00, and that's when our church body prays for one another. Some of us have alarms set on our phones to help us remember to stop for a few moments and pray. Recently, when my husband and I were at Focus on the Family recording some programs, my 10 a.m. prayer alarm went off during our recording. It interrupted us, and we laughed about it, but it was really special to me because it reminded me that our church was lifting us up in prayer.
One thing I like about setting a timer to pray at a later point in the day is that it grabs my attention and brings me back to what matters—stepping into the eternal and resuming the battle through prayer. I also have a clearer head for targeted prayer by the time 10:00 a.m. rolls around!
I have a group of precious sister-friends, and we pray together over the phone monthly. We are scattered across the country (one even outside the U.S.), but when we have our monthly prayer times, we experience a supernatural unity and fellowship that is powerful and encouraging. These kinds of prayer times don't just happen—it takes planning. (I'm so thankful for my friend that keeps the group on task with that!)
When I have a friend who is struggling, I'll set up a prayer call. I encourage you to do more than "intend on" praying with a friend or developing a prayer partner. Put it on the calendar. Plan for it.
Scripture Provides Direction
Praying doesn't have to be rocket science. Thankfully, God has given us our own personal prayer book that He's written for us. Scripture is filled with prayers we can apply to the needs we are interceding for. Here are a few that I've used:
- Prayers for my husband: Eph.1:17–19; Ps. 15:1–2, 92:12–15
- Prayers for our children: Col. 1:9–12; 2 Cor. 13:7–8; 1 Tim. 4:12, 6:11–12; 2 Tim. 2:22; Prov. 2:20
What are some practical things that help your prayer life?
By Kimberly Wagner
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