Ever since I was young, prayer has been a daily rhythm in my life. From praying before hopping on the bus before school to praying before dinner with my family, it’s been a habit I don’t think twice about. But in retrospect, not thinking twice about prayer was the issue. For so long, I was not investing in prayer as a spiritual discipline in order to grow in my relationship with God.
Just like our relationships with friends, family members, or a significant other, it is vital to communicate openly and often with God to grow the relationship, and we do this primarily through prayer. Spiritual disciplines, like prayer, are a means through which God works in us to grow us spiritually. As 1 Timothy 4:7-8 says, “train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Through practical and intentional steps, I have been able to invest in prayer so that I might walk in godliness and strengthen my relationship with God. Here are some of those steps.
Pray with an Open Bible
Often when I go to pray, I fall short of the words I want to say. While the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and knows the unspoken words within our hearts (Romans 8:26), we can use Scripture as a guideline and example for our own prayers. I love going to the Psalms or Isaiah to find prayers that reflect the hardships I may be facing or the thankfulness I have for God’s goodness and redemption. The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew reminds me how I should bring both praise and requests to God while praying.
On the other hand, I often receive God’s answer to my prayer within the same Scriptures that I read. God’s words graciously teach us about his character and grant us comfort and assurance based on who he is. The Bible is also woven with stories of how God fulfilled his promises and redeemed his people in the past. This assures me of God’s character in the present, regardless of my current circumstances.
Write Your Prayers
Possibly the most beneficial thing I have done to improve my prayer life is writing my prayers down in a journal. As someone who often loses focus, writing my prayers has enabled me to remain focused on talking to God, not allowing my mind to stray or get distracted.
Writing down your prayers also helps you to be more intentional in the words you are bringing to God. While Scripture encourages us to bring our needs and desires to God, how often do we spend time simply praising and thanking him? How often do we pray for others? Sometimes I look back at a prayer I wrote down and realize that my words were almost solely focused on myself rather than the One I was praying to.
Additionally, writing out your prayers allows you to look back at what you previously prayed and asked for, allowing you to witness the goodness of God in your life through promises fulfilled and needs met. These written prayers can serve as a great reminder of God’s character as hardships and trials threaten to cloud your view of God’s goodness and grace.
Pray when You Fast
Fasting often takes the form of abstaining from food or drink, which is an important discipline, but it can also mean abstaining from other distractions that cause our minds to stray from God. For me, this means fasting from my phone when I approach prayer. Sometimes, a phone or social media fast lasts the entire day so that I can engage in unceasing prayer and meditation on God’s Word.
Whether it’s food or phones or entertainment, fasting can be a useful discipline to help eliminate distractions and idols as you prioritize communication with God.
Find Accountability for Prayer
Romans 12:12 calls believers to be “faithful in prayer,” but many times I have allowed the busyness of life or my fatigue to take over my prayer time. As with many other aspects of your life, it is important to be held accountable by your fellow brothers or sisters in Christ in your prayer life.
A couple years ago, a few of the girls within my home group and I decided to hold one another accountable in our prayer lives. These girls prayed for me to take time every day to talk to God and they would check up on me weekly. Due to their prayers, their checking in with me, and their words of encouragement, I was able to carve out time every day to pray intentionally. Over time this became a habit.
Pray with Others
Praying should not be something that is always done alone. Pray with fellow church members and other believers. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16, NIV). Praying together seems to have been a regular practice of the early church (Acts 2:42). It should be for us as well.
Be intentional when you meet with your Bible study or home group about praying together. Ask a couple of friends to meet with you weekly to pray. Exchange prayer requests and pray for one another. There is power and encouragement when brothers and sisters in Christ come together to pray.