We have to talk to God, or our friends or our spouses if we are going to get closer to them.Of course we know that.
Yet, even having been a Christian for 25+ years I still have to admit it's a struggle for me to have a consistent, effective prayer life. I mean, I do the prayer that is ongoing, sort of "small talk" with God pretty well. I breathe prayers constantly, asking for him to bless me, my family and those around me but I fall very short when it comes to the deep conversations where I feel very connected to God.
I think the biggest part of that is that I have a very hard time focusing my mind on this task. I do good praying in passing, but the mentally focused prayers are harder in coming. The kind of prayers that are 100% focused on the tasks of surrender, intercession or praise are less frequent. Making these part of our day in and day out relationship with God takes purpose, and practice.
Oddly, we have to learn to talk to the One who knows us better than anyone. ever. AND, he knows those that we are prayer for better than anyone. ever. We have to learn how to pray in a way that is uninhibited and open, while purposeful and effective. It takes practice.
The cool thing about prayer is that it can be done any time, any place. It can be inspired by a whispered breeze or a clap of thunder. It can be motivated by seeing someone in pain, or feeling a sense of absolute joy. Prayer is the way we share our lives, our feelings, our hurts, our dreams and our wishes for others with God.
Imagine trying to build a strong marriage on small talk. It ain't happenin'. Depth and meaningful conversation is a must. So, we gotta learn it. Part of that is learning to develop the habit of focused prayer, even if they are short conversations these conversations can be meaningful ones.
Here are some ideas how we can incorporate life into our prayers, and prayers into our life:
- Time Cues - using specific times of day to remind us to pray. Whether it is immediately on waking, during lunch, before bed or in the car before you go into work, we can use specific set times in our day to call our minds to prayer. You can set your alarm on your phone, and assign as specific topic to pray for in those moments on a daily basis.
- Activity Cues - how about using specific actions as cues to pray. You could pray for those who have nothing to eat when you are fixing dinner, or for those who ill when you are getting reading the morning. Perhaps when you see a red light you can pray for your children, instead of get frustrated at wasted time (guilty as charged). What if every time you took a shower you praised God for all he has given you, or offered up your hands in service whenever you enter your place of employment. Our daily activities can remind us to include God in those things, each and every one.
- Flash Prayers - in Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster introduces the idea of praying for others that we may not even know with Flash Prayers. These prayers are ones that are directed to people around us, prayers for protection, peace and for blessings on their lives. These are short, but possibly powerful ways to intercede on someone's behalf.
- Using our Imagination - we talked about this a bit here, but to really emphasize how much of an impact our imagination can have on prayer should bring it to mind again. I know for me engaging my imagination in my prayer life has had a powerful impact. Praying for someone to get well, is so much different and more powerful when I picture them in their unwell state, and pray specifically for them as they look in my imagination as restored and healthy. When I use my imagination I pray things I may not have before. Picturing a struggling marriage, and engaging my mind to consider what that looks like can lead me to consider what emotions needs to be quelled, what struggles are possible and specifically what I want to request of God on their behalf. It's powerful!
- Praying Scripture - praying God's words back to him is a great way to soothe both our own spirit and give him praise at the same time! Especially when moving from meditation to prayer we can continue our heart's conversation through the words God has already spoken - what a perfect way to know you are praying God's will!
If you have been practicing the Discipline of Meditation with us, then consider how that time will prepare your mind for this kind of purposeful prayer time, even while we continue with our day!
"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according
to his will, he hears us" 1 John 5:14