image courtesy of heavenawaits
I’ve been to a lot of conferences for ministers and missionaries. And my biggest frustration is that 55 minutes of a one-hour class on “Developing Leaders in the Ministry” will be about why it’s important to develop leadership in my ministry. Generally speaking, every individual in that class knows the importance of developing leadership; that’s why they chose to attend the class. What we want is something practical.
Sadly, I leave these conferences happy if I walk away with only four or five very practical ideas. This shouldn’t be the case.
Yesterday I wrote about devotion to prayer. But really… how many of us didn’t already believe our prayer lives could use a little boost? And so — without going into the details of why prayer is important or how it works or even what it is — I want to attempt to offer some practical suggestions for improving our prayer lives.
Now, these ideas are just that: Ideas. You may already be doing some or many of these. You may have tried several of these and found them to be stupid, foolish, or theologically incorrect (I hope not). But hopefully you will find at least one practice in here that will improve your praying. I’ve tried to offer both general principles and very specific ideas, so there’s a lot of overlap. Think of this list as a starting point. Be creative.
9 Ideas for Better Prayer
1. Lessen Interruptions
- Choose a specific place to pray — one in which you’re less likely to be interrupted.
- The closet can serve as a special prayer place.
- Your kids are less likely to interrupt you while you’re in the shower. [Maybe.]
- During your morning run.
- At the office.
- In your car.
- At the park.
- Choose a specific time to pray — one in which you’re less likely to be interrupted.
- 5:00 AM
- During your drive to work.
- Late at night or just before bed.
2. Fix Routines and Make Reminders
- Pray every time you…
- enter the kitchen.
- hear your watch beep on the hour.
- start your car.
- put on your shoes.
- access the internet.
- see a Bible.
- have a cup of coffee.
- Create reminders.
- Wear a bracelet you wouldn’t normally wear.
- Set the alarm on your watch.
- Place Bible verses or prayer cards…
- on your mirrors.
- in your cabinet doors.
- on the dash of your car.
- over the lintels of your doors.
- as screensavers or backgrounds on your computer.
3. Structure Your Prayer Time
- Make and keep a list.
- Pray the entire list at one time.
- Or pray one section at a time, completing the list each day (or even each week, etc).
- Pray through an acronym.
- ACTS: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication
- PRAISE: praise, repentance, adoration, intercession, supplication, eternal results
- PRAY: praise, repent, access, yield
- PRAYER: pray, respond, admit, yield, expect, rejoice
- AVAILABLE: you can google this one yourself [Does someone get paid to make these up?]
4. Pray Shorter
- Make your prayers brief and you can…
- improve your concentration.
- increase the number of times you pray each day.
- greatly increase the likelihood that you’ll actually take the time to pray.
- please God. (Mt 6:7-8) [Oh, and don’t use big words.]
- Pray sentence-long prayers for people and places as you encounter them.
- Pray for each coworker as you pass them in the hall.
- Pray for the sender of each email you receive.
- Pray for every school or church you see on the way to work.
- Combine these short prayers with the fixed reminders above.
- Tell God one thing you’re thankful for every time you access the internet.
- Pray for one of your friends or family members every time you look at your watch.
- Pray short prayers that God will help you develop one fruit of the Spirit in your life. Assign a different fruit to each kitchen cabinet, and pray for that fruit each time you open that cabinet.
5. Set Achievable Goals
- I doubt it’s wise to begin by saying, “I’ll pray for two hours every day.” How about:
- I’ll pray five times today.
- I’ll pray in my car — from my driveway until I exit the neighborhood.
- I’ll pray for however long this light remains red.
- (For runners, a prayer fartlek of sorts…) I’ll pray from this tree to that mailbox.
- I’ll thank God for more things today than I ask him for.
- Build on what already exists in your schedule. Add prayer to those habits you’ve already formed.
- Don’t say you’ll wake up to pray every morning at 5:00 when you usually wake at 6:00.
- Instead, attach prayer to an already existing running schedule, lunch time, or particular event in your day.
6. Change It Up a Little
- Write your prayers.
- Pray out loud instead of quietly.
- Memorize a prayer from scripture.
- Reword a prayer someone else has written.
- Draw or paint your prayer.
- Write a song.
- Just listen.
- Go on a prayer walk, in which you walk in the specific place over which you’re praying.
- Be creative.
7. Pray With Your Family
- At breakfast, lunch, or supper — whichever you eat together (or all of them).
- With your spouse before bed.
- With each child as you’re getting them dressed.
- In your car before you begin each trip.
8. Remove Structure From Your Prayer Time (yes, exactly the opposite of #3)
- Pray in incomplete sentences.
- Pray vague ideas and thoughts instead of specifics.
- Attempt to carry on a conversation with God.
- Place an empty chair in the room, and tell God about your day.
- Your turn. What practical advice do you have for the rest of us? What’s worked (or not worked) for you?