Out of all the spiritual disciplines, I find that I struggle with prayer the most. My prayer life isn't as consistent as I want it to be, and even when I do pray, I'm easily distracted or rushed. Often, I battle against the impulse to give up on prayer altogether because of how hard it is for me.
Even though prayer is a struggle, one of my goals for this year is to grow in the practice of prayer. Maybe this is one of your goals as well, or maybe you have been desiring to make changes in your prayer life but don't know where to start. While I am definitely not an expert on prayer, here are three ways to grow in the practice of prayer.
Ask God for Help
If you're like me, it can be easy to feel as if God is frustrated with you because of your struggle with prayer. But God understands our difficulties and shortcomings. He knows how our sinful nature makes it difficult to fight against our flesh and be disciplined in our walk with Him. Out of His abundant grace and mercy, God gave us Jesus, through whom our sins are forgiven. Because of Christ's grace, we can approach God boldly, even in our shortcomings. In our struggle with prayer, we are to not move away from God in shame but toward Him in confidence.
The same God who made it possible for us to have access to Him is the same God who helps us commune with Him. God gives us His grace when we find it hard to pray, and He empowers us, through the Spirit, to pray. In Luke 11:1, the disciples asked Jesus, "Lord, teach us to pray." This can be our prayer as well. When we come before God in prayer, we can ask Him to teach us to pray. We can ask Him to give us His patience when we find ourselves feeling rushed or His strength to be focused when we are distracted. We are not on our own when we pray. We commune with a God who empowers us in the practice of prayer.
Pray Throughout the Day
The first time I read 1 Thessalonians 5:17, which says, "pray without ceasing," I was both confused and fearful. How is it possible to pray without ceasing? The obligations of our everyday lives, as well as our sinful nature, makes it near impossible to pray without ceasing, but that doesn't mean we can't try. One of my favorite analogies about prayer comes from Donald Whitney's book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. He likens prayer to having a conversation with God on the telephone. There will be normal events of your day that put God "on hold," such as talking with a co-worker, but then you can go right back to communicating with Him once again.
One of the ways to do this practically is by reorienting your focus to God throughout your day. For example, when something in your day encourages you, take a moment to say a prayer of thanks to God. Or if something occurs that makes you anxious or frustrated, go to God and ask Him for His strength and peace. Another way to do this practically is to take advantage of everyday moments as an opportunity to pray. For example, if you're waiting in the carpool lane to pick up your kids from school, use that time to pray. If you're standing in line for the grocery store, pray for the people around you. Instead of getting frustrated with ourselves that our prays aren't consistent, we can focus on reorienting ourselves back to communion with God throughout the day.
Write Out Your Prayers
Writing out our prayers is a great way to be focused in prayer. There is something about putting pen to paper that centers our minds and enables our thoughts to flow. Writing out our prayers reflects the psalmists who expressed their praise, fears, and struggles to God through written prayers. And just like the prayers of the psalmists, we have the opportunity to look back at our prayers and witness how God has been faithful to us. We can see the ways that He has answered our prayers and worked through different situations of our lives.
The Daily Grace Co. has multiple resources to help you write out your prayers. This Prayer Journal helps to guide you through categories of prayer. The In Everything Prayer Request Journal provides spaces to record your requests, as well as a place to record how God answered your requests. You can also use the Thirty-One Days of Prayer or Thirty-One Days of Prayer for Others booklets that guide you through different prayer prompts for thirty one days.
While prayer can be a struggle, we have a God who welcomes us and gives us His grace and strength for our weaknesses. Therefore, let us not give up on the practice of prayer, but rely on the power of God to keep growing.