By Patricia Engler, Crosswalk.com
What if there was one little action which, if you practiced it regularly, could revolutionize the way you tackle life? What if it could heighten your effectiveness in every area of existence, including work, family, time management, and relationships? What if it helped you walk wisely, speak rightly, live well, love more, worry less, impact your world, and step more fully into the life you were designed to live?
What if it enabled you to know God more intimately?
And what if it were as simple as breathing a prayer?
Granted, the act of prayer itself can’t accomplish these feats. But the God to whom we’re praying can. By staying connected to God through prayer, we’re more attuned to “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-25) in a way that impacts our everyday lives.
Praying just means communicating with our Heavenly Father. And communication is the key to growing and maintaining any relationship. As an illustration, if I only communicated with my earthly dad during emergencies or to send an occasional “thank you” text, then we wouldn’t have the same depth of relationship which time spent together allows.
Like the communication which lets us develop earthly relationships, prayer involves ongoing contact with Someone who deeply loves us. The Apostle Paul repeatedly underscored this continuous nature of prayer, reminding believers to be constant in prayer (Romans 12:12), to pray at all times in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18), to continue steadfastly in prayer (Colossians 4:2), and to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
As essential as we know prayer to be, we may still struggle to pursue the vibrant prayer life which we recognize we need. Sometimes we can all use a little fresh inspiration to pray, whether we’re seasoned prayer warriors or new “spiritual cadets.” On that note, here are 10 ways to amp up your prayer life:
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1. Read Missionary Biographies for Inspiration
It’s one thing to pray because we believe we’re supposed to. It’s another to pray because we want to, understanding its power and significance. And a fantastic way to grasp the power of prayer is to read, watch or listen to stories of missionaries, persecuted Christians, and other believers who walked closely with God in days past.
Reading such stories inspired me to amp up my own prayer life as a teenager. And they continue encouraging my faith to this day. Biographies of missionaries like George Muller, Gladys Aylward, and Brother Andrew are a great place to start.
2. Make Friends with a Prayer Warrior
While stories are invaluable to inspire, impact, and instruct us, they clearly can’t interact with us the way a living human can. That’s why it’s so beneficial to make friends with modern prayer warriors.
Not only can these friends build our faith through sharing testimonies of answered prayers, but they can also mentor us personally, model a life of prayer in real time, and keep us accountable to grow in our own prayer lives. Best of all—they can pray with us.
3. Study What the Bible Reveals About Prayer
While learning about prayer from people has its place, nothing compares to learning from God himself. So, why not take some time to study what the Bible says about prayer?
For example, you could investigate the role which prayer played in the lives of biblical men and women, the ministry of Jesus, and the early church. You could research passages which teach Christians how to pray—like the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. Or you could look up verses that highlight the importance (and rewards!) of prayer.
If you like, you could even post these verses in places where you’ll see them, for inspiration on the go.
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4. Guard Your Relationship with God
One truth Scripture reveals about prayer is that for a truly powerful prayer life, we must guard our hearts against debris which could obstruct our relationship with God. After all, James 5:16 teaches that the prayer of a righteous person has great power. Proverbs 15:8 & 29, Psalm 34:15, and 1 Peter 3:12 likewise affirm that God hears the prayer of the righteous.
However, the Bible is equally clear that unrighteousness hinders prayer. Psalm 66:18 (NIV) states, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened,” and Proverbs 28:9 (NKJV) confirms, “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” First Peter 3:7 also reveals that husbands’ conduct toward their wives impacts their prayers’ effectiveness.
This doesn’t mean that we can manipulate God into answering prayers the way we want him to, simply by being on our ‘best behavior.’ God is sovereign, and we aren’t righteous in ourselves anyway—Jesus is (Isaiah 64:6, 2 Corinthians 5:21). Still, guarding our hearts against things our Saviour hates allows us to communicate with him in a way we otherwise cannot.
5. Practice Different Types of Prayer
While studying what Scripture teaches about prayer, you’ll probably find examples of different types of prayers. These include prayers of examination (Psalm 139:23-24), confession and repentance (Psalm 51), thanksgiving (Psalm 75:1), and petition (Ephesians 6:18).
Have you noticed how often these types of prayer go together in Scripture? For instance, prayers of confession often coincide with thanksgiving, as we praise God for his grace and forgiveness (Psalm 51:14).
Paul also linked thanksgiving with prayers of petition, urging believers in Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV), “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
By practicing different types of biblical prayers, we can step more fully into the prayer lives which Christians were meant to live.
6. Practice Both Scheduled and Spontaneous Prayer
Another biblical way to live our prayer lives to the fullest is to practice both “scheduled” and “spontaneous” prayer. Scheduled prayer time refers to that space of the day which we set aside for meeting with God. Jesus taught about the value of scheduled prayer in Matthew 6:5-6, modeling it himself by spending frequent time alone in prayer (Luke 5:16) and even praying all night (Luke 6:12).
Spontaneous prayer, on the other hand, reflects an ongoing attitude of directing our thoughts to God. For example, we can turn our emotions into prayers by thanking God in our joy, looking to him in our sadness, and trusting him in our fear. We can also practice spontaneous prayer for the people, circumstances, and situations we encounter throughout the day.
By turning whatever we’re thinking, feeling, or doing into prayer, we answer the Bible’s call to pray without ceasing. And we draw closer to God in the process.
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7. Practice Both Personal and Partnered Prayer
While the Bible affirms personal prayer times to be an indispensable part of walking with God, Scripture also highlights the value of praying with other believers. Look through the book of Acts, and you’ll notice how often major events, miracles, and growth in the early church occurred in the context of believers praying together.
Ways to amp up your prayer life with others include attending prayer meetings, praying with family, joining a small group or Bible study which prays, or simply finding a few friends who are willing to pray together. In university, for instance, I loved meeting a friend every week to walk around campus and pray for the students, faculty, and needs we saw along the way.
The particulars will look different for different individuals. But when you find the group prayer styles that work best for you, you may be amazed at how your relationships—and your faith—grow!
8. Combine Prayer with Worship and Scripture Study
Whether alone or with friends, another way to steep your life in prayer is to listen to God-centred worship music. If the lyrics are directed toward God, then the song itself becomes a type of prayer. Listening to ‘prayer-style’ worship songs—or letting them play in our heads—allows part of our minds to pray even while we’re engaged in other tasks.
Because the book of Psalms contains the ‘hymnal’ of Scripture, we can also incorporate worship into our prayer times by praying through the Psalms. Instead of simply reading psalms to ourselves, we direct the words toward God or compose our own related prayers based on the concepts we’re reading. We can do this with other portions of Scripture too, infusing opportunities for prayer into our regular Bible reading.
9. Combine Prayer with Fasting
Along with worship and Scripture study, another spiritual discipline to power up our prayer lives is fasting. Jesus spoke of the rewards of both prayer and fasting in Matthew 6:5-18. He also modeled these disciplines by retreating to the wilderness to fast before beginning his ministry (Luke 4:1-2).
Some manuscripts of Mark 9:29 and Matthew 17:21 also suggest that prayer and fasting unlock a door to certain spiritual victories. When Jesus’ disciples were unable to drive out a demon, Jesus answered, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29, NKJV).
Other passages throughout Scripture likewise reflect the importance of fasting and prayer before important events or decisions. Esther, for instance, entreated God’s people to fast before she approached King Ahasuerus to prevent the genocide he’d approved (Esther 4:16). Later in Acts 13:2-3 & 14:23, we also see the church fasting and praying before appointing ministry leaders.
10. Find What Works for You
Because God has wired us as unique individuals called to specific situations, the ways we can best exercise disciplines like fasting, scheduled prayer, and group prayer will look different for different people.
For instance, you might like to write your scheduled prayers in a journal, or simply journal about your day in a way that’s directed toward God. Or you may find it useful to structure your scheduled prayer times using a list of written prayers or prayer requests. You could post these requests in a place you like to pray or write them in a notebook to take with you anywhere.
Maybe you find early mornings work best for your scheduled prayer, so that you can pray for the day ahead, asking God to guide your words and actions. Maybe you pray best while walking outside, or kneeling in a ‘prayer closet,’ or curling up in your favourite chair. Or maybe you like to post verses and prayer points in places you’ll see them throughout the day, to help spark spontaneous prayers.
Whatever the specifics, find what works for you and enjoy the new level of intimacy with God that results.
He might just revolutionize your life.
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