God’s been talking to me about prayer recently. Everywhere I turn, there’s another reminder that I need to set aside time in my day to talk to Him.
Pray Without Ceasing
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 is one of my favorite Bible passages:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
I like it because it tells us what God’s will is: rejoice, pray, give thanks–no matter what’s going on.
And yet, the prayer piece of that has always eluded me. I just haven’t figured out how to pray without my mind wandering all over the place and becoming half-thoughts. And it felt like I was constantly telling God the same things: help me with this, help me with that.
But recently He’s been helping me see deeper, more productive ways to talk to Him.
Making Prayer My One-on-One
At work I do one-on-one meetings with each person on my team that I supervise. We check in about projects we’re working on, challenges I can help them navigate, skills I can help them develop, what sort of support they need, etc.
Once I shifted my prayer time perspective and thought of it as a one-on-one with God, it gave me a clear understanding of how to focus my time talking to Him. Instead of just listing out requests, I’m trying to talk about:
- Things I’m excited about: at home, work, church, etc.
- Ways I see Him using me for His purposes.
- Habits and disciplines I see Him growing in me.
- Skills I want to learn and develop.
- Ways I can support my husband.
- Thoughts or concerns I have about my kids.
- Anyone I know that’s on my mind.
- Questions I have about anything.
I love how Brant Hansen talked about this on his podcast (10:55-11:49):
Prayer is talking with God about what God and I are doing together. When I think of it that way, there are so many more things that pop into my mind that I can talk with Him about, and He really is looking to partner with us, so bring Him in on that. He wants that interaction, and then it changes me, just having that. Sometimes I just have to remind myself that that’s what it is.
Using Prayer to Realign
I find it so easy to get distracted. I start watching a new TV show or scrolling Facebook, and suddenly my mind starts dwelling on fictional characters’ problems and whatever news headline caught my attention. But prayer is a great way to refocus and realign to what God wants.
In her book, Letters for Pastors’ Wives, Meredith Sheppard wrote about this importance of prayer as a way to align you with God’s will (pages 12-13):
Prayer is cooperation with God. In prayer you align your desires, your will, and your life to God. You and God become agreed on life desires, life purposes, life plans, and you work them out together. Prayer, then, is not trying to get God to do our will. It is the getting of our will into line with God’s will. So prayer aligns the whole self to the whole self of God.
This is such a wonderful reminder that God uses prayer to grow me! And if I want help, I can ask Him. One of my regular requests is that He shows me what He wants me to learn, and that He helps me focus my mind on Him.
I don’t know about you, but my mind can go a mile a minute, jumping from one topic to the next. But I’ve found that when I start talking to God and ask Him to help, he calms my mind and helps me slow down.
Getting Out of the Prayer Rut
We’re creatures of habit, aren’t we? It makes sense if you think about it: we receive and process so much information in a single instant, so if we can form a routine it’s one less thing for us to think about.
But a big part of prayer is active involvement.
I know I’ve been guilty of habitually repeating the same prayer at the same time each day, like a kid repeating the dinner prayer their parents taught them: “Thank you God for food to share and friends that care. Amen.”
How do you make sure you don’t fall into a prayer rut, repeating the same words each time?
I like to take the time to write my prayers down for a few reasons:
- The way I’m wired, I process by writing better than by speaking out loud or thinking in my head. If I want to figure out how I feel about something or how I want to approach a challenging situation, it helps me to write it down.
- Because my brain goes faster than my hand, it forces me to slow down and intentionally talk to God instead of jumping around with half-thoughts in my head.
- I can look back and see prayers He’s answered in ways I didn’t expect or think about.
- It’s easier to notice if I’m starting to write the exact same prayers out every time.
Make Prayer Personal
I recently received a prayer journal from Living on the Edge, and this quote from Chip Ingram was exactly what I needed to hear:
One of the most noticeable characteristics of great prayers is that they are deeply personal. They flow from a passion to know God. When a believer is intensely in love with the Lord, prayers begin with Him and end with Him. Instead of being formulaic, routine, perfunctory, or performance-based, great prayers are intimate and heartfelt.
I want to make my prayers more personal and engaging. I think a big part of that is putting those vulnerable thoughts and feelings into words for God. He knows them anyway. But I believe that investing the emotional energy and time into sharing them with God will produce benefits I can’t even imagine.
Let Us Pray
Of course Steven Curtis Chapman’s song just popped into my head as I typed that. But those lyrics are so rich with wonderful reminders:
Let us pray, let us pray, everywhere in every way
Every moment of the day, it is the right time
For the Father above, He is listening with love
And He wants to answer us, so let us pray
So when we feel the Spirit moving
Prompting, prodding and behooving
There is no time to be losing, let us pray
Let the Father hear us saying
What we need to be conveying
Even while this song is playing, let us pray
And just because we say the word, “Amen”
It doesn’t mean this conversation needs to end
Let us pray everywhere in every way
Every moment of the day, it is the right time
Let us pray without end and when we finish start again
Like breathing out and breathing in, let us pray
Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence
As our prayers draw us near
To the One who knows our needs
Before we even call His name
I know this is an area I still have a LOT of room to grow in. I pray that God makes it so intimate and vital in my life that it becomes like breathing out and breathing in.