Unblocking the Dam of Your Prayer Life
Prayer. It’s an all important element in the life of a Christian. We know of its importance and we know of its power and yet it is one of the most neglected areas of both private and corporate church life. It is not uncommon to see less than a dozen devoted souls at a mid-week prayer service of any given church (If the church still has a mid-week prayer service). Yet the picture is made much worse if those dozen or so congregants come from a congregation of hundreds or even thousands. What this tells us is that prayer is a struggle for even committed Christians.
We all know the feeling. You want to pray. You know that as a Christian you are to pray. You have heard countless sermons on prayer and maybe even read some books on the topic but none of that is helping you at the moment. Let face it sometimes prayer is difficult and sometimes you just can’t do it.
So I want to try and think through some of the major impediments to our prayers and suggest helpful practices that you may want to explore in the hopes that God would revitalize the all important practice of praying.
As a parent, this one is a killer. I have found that once the kids are awake and the cereal is being poured, the day will not slow down or stop until they are put to bed. By that time, however, I am usually so tired that prayer is nearly impossible without falling quickly asleep. I can remember when I was a single young man, newly saved, praying for literally hours at a time. So it’s hard to close my eyes for thirty seconds after a long day to pray, fall fast asleep, and wake up not feeling like a failure. To remedy this let me suggest a few things:
- If you keep an organized schedule then schedule a time to pray each day. I don’t mean mentally put it on an invisible “to-do” list, rather physically write it on your calendar, planner, or organizational program you use on your device. Then set yourself to keeping that appointment consistently.
- Wake-up earlier. This one will be easy if you’re a morning person like I am. But even if you covet your sleep consider waking up just 30 minutes earlier than usual to spend time in communion with God. I know that He can do more with that 30 minutes than sleep could hands down. You won’t regret it.
- Be succinct. Don’t think you need hours to pray. Some people have the flexibility to give more hours to prayer. If you (like me) do not, don’t fret. God prefers quality time over quantity any day. He is eternal, time is nothing to Him. Don’t feel like if you haven’t prayed long prayers that you haven’t prayed. Just go to God, tell Him what is on your heart and say AMEN. He will be pleased with that.
This is also a big impediment to many people when it comes to prayer. If you ask a fellow Christian, “How is your prayer life coming along?” a common reply goes something like, “It’s coming along good but I find I’m running out of things to pray for” or they may say “I don’t know what to pray for.” To counteract this consider trying:
- Praying through major portions of Scripture. Martin Luther’s approach to finding content was to use the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the creeds as material to pray through. You can read more about it here. In addition, the Beatitudes found in Mt 5: 1-12 also provide great material to pray through.
- Pray the promises of God. This I think we do instinctively when we get into trouble. The problem with this method is that it means our prayers are limited to times of trouble. So find some of your favorite promises from Scripture and perhaps write them down in a notebook or on a notecard and then pray them throughout the day. Pray them for yourself and those you love and then pray them for the lost as you believe God for their souls. The great thing about this is that as you continue to read your Bible, your list of promises will begin to grow and over time you will have a rich collection of promises from which to pray that you could even share with others.
- Use Acronyms. A simple google search of “prayer acronym list” will draw up many different useful links that provide little acronyms (ACTS, PRAY, etc…) to help with the content part of prayer.
The form of prayer is the area that has the most latitude in it. A lot of how you pray depends upon your religious tradition and experience and how you may have been taught as a child. So whether you kneel, sit, lay prostrate, or stand is for you to decide. The only insight I would share on this point is that you should not be too rigid when it comes to the form your prayers take on. Remember prayer is simply talking to God and this can be done in a lot of ways. Let me give a personal example. Early on in my Christian life, I prayed primarily as I paced back and forth. There was nothing sacred about this method at all, I just found that the cyclical movement, helped my mind and heart engage in the exercise of prayer. A little later on in my walk, I used an acoustic guitar to play simple choruses that I would sing which would lead me into times of prayer. From there I found that the Lord began to really use the corporate prayer gatherings with my fellow believers to help me to pray. Currently, I find myself being the most clear-headed in prayer when I have a pen in my hand and I am writing my prayers out to God on a page of a notebook. I share this only to show how at different times the forms of prayer I have used have changed but the fact that I prayed did not.
While these forms differ wildly, what is important is to be able to discern how the Lord is leading you in prayer. Some people are frustrated and quit because what used to work for them no longer does. Surely this is not the Lord communicating that He doesn’t want you to pray, rather He may just be wanting to teach you and expand your practices in prayer (not into unbiblical territories or course), be open for this. The forms your prayers take may change several times but what must remain constant is your desire to pray and your heart for prayer.
A Last Thought
As a further help in this area, The Trough has put together a resource called “For the Praying Church” which is filled with verses that you can pray and suggested points upon which to pray related to each verse. To access the resource click here, scroll to the bottom of the page where you will see a banner that says “join the Trough free resource library” enter your info and you’ll be all set to open or download the resource for free!
It is my prayer that you would use these humble suggestions to re-engage in prayer or use them to break the dam that has been holding you hostage in prayer. Don’t let time, content, and form terrorize your prayer life any longer. It’s time to break that dam and let our prayers rush forth like a mighty river.