Summary: Prayer is more than reading God a list of things He already knows. We may want to try some new ways to be more engaged in prayer.
“Ways to Pray” Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
Are you satisfied with your prayer life? Or are you struggling? It’s not always easy to pray. Much of our problem with prayer is finding a method that works for us. We may grow discouraged or feel like we’re wasting our time or talking to ourselves. We believe in prayer, but are we comfortable with it? How do we make prayer part of our real world?
Prayer has been defined as “keeping company with God”. It’s more than reading God a list of things He already knows. Nor is prayer trying to convince God to change His mind or do things differently. Here are a number of techniques, in the hope that you’ll try a few to improve your prayer life. Experiment and discover what works for you…
Prime the pump: Don’t simply jump right in. Begin with a familiar prayer, like the Lord’s Prayer, to get you into a prayer mode, use a prayer from the church bulletin, or read a passage of Scripture to set your mind on things Above before entering into prayer. If you use a daily devotional like “Our Daily Bread”, read the day’s thought first, then start praying.
Come with an outline: When I would brief my Brigade Commander, I came to his office with an outline of issues I needed to discuss. It might be useful to prepare for prayer by jotting down some specific matters you wish to bring up. If you’re following the pattern of the model prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, you’ll be following the procedure of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and petitions.
Break down your list: If your prayer list is getting too long and tedious, divide it up:
• Sunday: Pray for your church--the people, programs and pastor.
• Monday: Your family members.
• Tuesday: Christian organizations and missionaries.
• Wednesday: World issues like poverty, crime, hunger, war, disease.
• Thursday: Your job, to include those you work with and for.
• Friday: Friends & neighbors.
• Saturday: Your needs—spiritual, physical, emotional, financial, and that God would prepare you for Sunday worship.
Pray the Psalms: Take a psalm (in a modern translation), then personalize it; make it your own prayer.
For example, Psalm 138:
“God, thank you! Everything in me says Thank You! Angels listen as I sing my thanks. I kneel in worship…and thank You for Your love and faithfulness; most holy is Your Name, most holy is Your word. The moment I called out, You stepped in. You made my life large with strength…Finish what You started in me, God. Your love is eternal—don’t quit on me now.” (from The Message, a modern paraphrase)
Use written prayers: Sometimes we have no words of our own, so why not use someone else’s? I believe God will accept them in place of our own. A favorite prayer book of mine is The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers. Some use the Book of Common Prayer. Here’s an example from William Barkley’s Prayer Book:
O God, I come to You. Grant me grace…
Always to keep Your commandments;
Always to accept Your guidance;
Always to obey Your word;
Never to leave Your path,
But always to walk in the way everlasting.
Write your own: There’s precedent for this—the book of Psalms. If you’re comfortable with writing, get a journal/wordless book and write your prayers. I started that way, then moved to my laptop computer. I keep my collection of prayers, and occasionally go back to them.
Sing a prayer: Again the precedent is the Psalms. Sing a psalm or a prayer song, a hymn, or praise chorus. For example: ♫“I love you, Lord, and I lift my voice…to worship You, O my soul, rejoice. Take joy, my King, in what You hear; may it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear.” You don’t have to be a musician to do this.
Find a place: When we attempt to pray, we often get distracted. I can’t pray in my office. There are too many things to do there. To pray, we may need to “get away.” A friend of mine has his own prayer room in his basement, a small space where he can focus. There’s a cross on the wall, and he lights a candle, entering into prayer. On the wall are photos of missionaries his church supports. Since prayer engages God against the forces of evil, one church called their place the “war room”. But it doesn’t have to be a “room”. I pray well when I’m kayaking, away from my cell phone and alone with God. I pray while walking Breakheart Reservation. I refresh body and spirit.
Keep a notepad handy so you can jot down different insights that come to mind when you’re before the Lord. Sometimes you’ll get thoughts unrelated to what you’re praying about. If you jot them down you can quickly return to the topic at hand without getting too distracted.