Some years ago, I was asked to drive a visiting preacher to his speaking engagement. I was quite excited as we would be alone in the car for an hour or so, giving me an amazing opportunity to chat with him, pick his brain and get to know him. Little did I know that a one-hour trip could feel like an eternity!
This man who was an amazing teacher, incredibly articulate in the pulpit, was poor at conversation. Much of the ride was taken in silence as I tried various conversation starters to little avail: questions were often met by one-word answers, then long periods of silence.
Sometimes prayer can seem like that car ride. It can feel like a monologue rather than a dialogue. It can even, dare I say, feel like a waste of time. Even our theology can become an obstacle; ‘If God knows everything, He knows what I’m going to pray and has already decided what to do!’ Doubts can creep in, as can a multitude of thoughts and concerns that had lain dormant just waiting for that time of prayer to start…
Some helpful suggestions:
- Be intentional. Habit and routine can be incredibly beneficial. Don’t try and find time, make time. Set aside a time that works for you each day and stick to it, regardless of how you feel. Don’t be led by emotions but resolve to be disciplined in this area of your life.
- Find the right place – a quiet room in the house, or on the beach: somewhere you will be undisturbed for the time you’ve set aside.
- Build up. You may hear of believers who spend hours in prayer each day. If prayer hasn’t been part of your life don’t aim to start with two hours, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
- A bible and a notebook are handy to have available. A notebook to jot down things you wish to pray for and about, things God is saying, but also to write down those things that come to mind – like an important bill that needs paying – so that you can forget about it until later. I suggest an actual bible and notebook rather than one on your phone, unless you have way more self-control than most people. It is a good idea to keep the phone well away during this time. As John Piper said, “One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.” This notebook can also become a prayer journal, where you can record what you have prayed about – reading through it later can be incredibly faith building as you see that God has responded and answered prayer.
- Find different ways to pray. The acronym ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) is a helpful reminder of different types of prayer. Reading scripture and turning it into prayer is also helpful. Daily devotionals and prayer lists can help kickstart our prayers and there are many resources available to help us.
- Praying in tongues is really helpful when I have no idea what to pray. When I come to the end of my intellect, my spirit can continue to pray.
- Pray together with someone else at times, particularly somebody who is strong in this area. They will be able to encourage you and develop you in an area where you may feel weak. Just as a personal trainer can help you become physically fit, a prayer partner can help you become spiritually fit.
- Pray with perseverance, like the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8), remembering that even if I don’t get an immediate answer, God will respond.
Remember that prayer is not a duty or obligation that must be fulfilled to earn God’s approval. It is a privilege!
We have access to the creator of the world, God Himself, to have a conversation with Him; to share our hopes and dreams, our fears and desires, to ask for help, to express our love and adoration and also to hear from Him.
So let us, like the early church, devote ourselves to prayer (Acts 2:42) as an expression of our devotion to Jesus. Let us push through the difficult times, the dry times, the silent times – for if we do we are promised a great reward (Hebrews 11:6)