Prayer. What emotion does this word evoke? For some, the spiritual discipline of prayer brings peace, comfort, and joy. For others, prayer causes uncertainty and confusion as we do not fully understand how to practice this spiritual discipline. Wherever we may fall on that spectrum, through Scripture, we know that prayer is a vital part of a Christian’s spiritual life. But how do we go about cultivating a life of prayer? Are there right and wrong words? Right and wrong places to pray? Thankfully, the Bible gives us great insight into the practice of prayer. And like any good student, we start with the basics and grow from there.
One of the greatest examples of unhindered and joyful prayer is to listen to a child pray. Whether it is your own child, a niece or nephew, or a child in the church preschool on Sunday mornings, children have a beautiful way of cutting through all the pomp and circumstance surrounding prayer. They simply talk to God on behalf of the people they love and ask Him for what they need or want. Now, we know that sometimes the things kids ask for in their prayers are not particularly scriptural, like asking for a pet or the newest toy on the market. But, the heart behind their prayer is what we should emulate. Their faith in God is limitless to provide for their needs and the needs of the people they love. They trust God wholeheartedly and are not scared to ask Him for the big things in their life. Childlike faith in prayer is an important place to start.
When we talk to the Father, we should tell Him all our thoughts, doubts, fears, concerns, and needs. We often forget that He knows them all anyway. By sharing our cares with Him, we remind ourselves that His shoulders are big enough to carry all our burdens. We remind ourselves that He is sovereign, faithful, and trustworthy. The prophet Isaiah reminds us of this truth in Isaiah 46:4 when he spoke on the Lord’s behalf, “I will be the same until your old age, and I will bear you up when you turn gray. I have made you, and I will carry you; I will bear and rescue you.” When we come to the Lord in the unhindered faith of a child, we strip away the pious posture of our hearts and humble ourselves before the Lord of heaven and earth. We can trust that He hears us, He carries us, and He rescues us through salvation in Jesus.
Once our heart's posture is correct, we can then take steps to cultivate a life of prayer. The psalmist reminds us in Psalm 25:9, “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” When we yearn to grow in our prayer life, God will help and direct us. Below are steps you can take to grow in your prayer life. Don’t try to do them all at once. Instead, try one or two and seek to be faithful in your practice of prayer. Over time, the Lord will grow your heart in this spiritual discipline and lead you to try other steps and tools. Above all, humble yourself before the Lord in prayer. It is there the Father will give you comfort and peace, and guide your steps to do His will. It is through prayer that we can do just as the Apostle Paul said in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”
- Pray/write Scripture - A great place to start in your prayer walk is to pray Scripture back to the Lord. The easiest place to begin is Psalms. Pray the psalms out loud or write them down as you pray them. This will teach you how to humble your heart, praise God for who He is, and ask for your needs in light of His will for your life.
- Write your prayers - Prayer journals help keep us focused. By writing your prayers, you can see how God has answered past prayers and keep other more pressing prayers front and center. You can also keep a log of the people you are praying for whether it be a request they gave you or those who need salvation.
- Utilize prayer books/collections - Guided prayers can help you practice prayer as you thank God for who He is, pray for others, and pray for yourself.
- Set an alarm - Set an alarm throughout the day to stop and pray. This will point your heart toward Christ and remind you how much you depend on the strength of the Lord to get through each day. They don’t have to be long, just intentional.
- Find a prayer partner - Accountability is one of the most effective ways to stay on track in your prayer life. Pray together and ask each other how you are doing individually.
Whichever method you choose, just pray! God wants to hear from you. He wants to speak to you. Come to Him with the joy and trust of a child. Scripture calls us to this spiritual practice and we joyfully accept the charge. Below are several exhortations to pray found in Scripture.
“Be persistent in prayer.” - Romans 12:12
“Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.” - Ephesians 6:18
“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” - Philippians 4:6
“Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.” - Colossians 4:2
“Pray constantly.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:17
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” - James 5:16
- Pray: Cultivating a Passionate Practice of Prayer - The Daily Grace Co.
- Cultivate the Word Journal: Cultivate Prayer - Cultivate What Matters
- The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions
- Prayers for Your Day - The Daily Grace Co.