Anyone who has followed Jesus for any length of time will tell you prayer is the secret sauce to the Christian life.
The scriptures are full of commands and exhortations to pray – regularly, with faith, and with expectation.
- “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24 ESV)
- “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6 ESV)
- “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26 ESV)
- “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16 ESV)
- “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6 ESV)
- “Pray without ceasing,” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV)
- ““And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (Matthew 6:7 ESV)
- “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7 ESV)
- “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” (Jeremiah 33:3 ESV)
- “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 4:2 ESV)
- “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”” (Matthew 26:41 ESV)
Most of us don’t need convincing that we need to spend more time in prayer.
But if we’re being honest, prayer can be tough. Or maybe to be more specific creating a fruitful prayer life – where we delight in talking to Him, where we long to get alone with Him for a long period of time, and we say “Amen” sensing His nearness – is tough.
5 Helpful Tips to Develop a Consistent Prayer Life
1. Choose a Place and a Regular Time for Prayer
Praying is something you can do anytime and anywhere. Once, Jesus met a woman who thought you had to be in a special place to talk to God. That’s how people did it in old times, according to a book in the Bible called John (John 4:20). But Jesus told her that wasn’t the case anymore. He said that people can connect with God from anywhere, not just in specific places (John 4:21-23). Another part of the Bible, Ephesians, says we can pray through our spirit (Ephesians 6:18).
Praying is super important. It’s one of the best things you can do for the people you care about most. Because you can pray anywhere, sometimes people forget to pray at all. It’s great to say a prayer when the feeling strikes you, like during a work break, before a big test, or while you’re waiting in line at the store. But praying is like the fuel that powers our lives, so we should make sure we do it regularly.
We wouldn’t only fill up our car with gas whenever we felt like it, right? We do it regularly to make sure we don’t run out. The same goes for praying. Choose a certain time and place where you can pray in peace. This could be in the morning before everyone else is up, during your ride to school or work, on your lunch break, or in the evening before bed. The best time and place to pray might be different for everyone. That’s one of the wonderful things about being able to pray anywhere.
But no matter what, it’s important to have a consistent time and place to pray. Jesus even said that it’s good to pray alone sometimes (Matthew 6:6), not all the time, but often. That way, you can focus on your conversation with God.
2. Aim for Discipline & Spontaneity
Choose a consistent space and time for prayer – but make spontaneous prayer just as much of a habit.
John Piper says, “The fruit of spontaneity grows in the garden of discipline.”
A consistent habit of prayer might begin as habitual discipline that might feel at times like you’re just checking off a box – but over time it will turn into a delight. Spontaneous outbursts of prayer will become just as much of a habit.
Prayer can happen anywhere, anytime. When you feel the impulse to pray, act on it.
3. Make Space to Listen for Him First
Spending time alone to talk to God might feel a bit scary for some. We’re talking to God, who already knows everything about us and what we need. So, what should we say?
Well, prayer is like having a chat. Just like you talk to a friend, God listens when you pray. Even if it feels like you’re just talking out loud to yourself, God is always listening. Jesus said, if you ask for something, you’ll receive it. If you look for something, you’ll find it. If you knock on a door, it’ll open for you (Matthew 7:7–8).
Every day, God may surprise you by showing you something or making you think about something in a new way. But the best way to hear God is through the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16). Before you pray, read a little bit from the Bible. It will help you understand more about God and inspire your prayers (Hebrews 4:12).
So when you sit to pray, let God speak first by reading the Bible. It’s like having God whisper in your ear. The words from the Bible can inspire what you want to say to Him. After you’ve read a bit and thought about it, then you can talk about what’s going on in your life. Start by understanding God through His word, and then talk to Him like you would talk to a friend.
4. Use a Framework for Prayer to Help Guide You
Sometimes prayer will simply erupt from your heart, but other times we aren’t sure exactly what to prayer. Paul tells us in Romans that the Spirit helps us here. But it can also be helpful to use a framework to guide your prayer time. Here are a few options:
- ACTS: Acknowledge-Confess-Thanks-Supplication. Acknowledge: Praise Him for His goodness, greatness, power… Confess: Speak to Him about your sin and shortcomings that need to be voiced. Thanks: Show Him gratitude for everything He’s done and given you. Supplication: Pray for friends, family, the church, your city, and other needs you’re aware of.
- TWI: Thanking – Worshipping – Interceding. Start with thanksgiving, then move into worship and praise, and finish by interceding on the behalf of others.
- Use the Lord’s Prayer. ACTS is very similar, but if you can’t remember the acronym, just pull up the Lord’s Prayer and pray through it following Jesus’ structure.
5. Ask Whatever You Wish in Prayer (and be expectant)
Sometimes we only pray about small, routine things. We forget to talk to God about the big problems in our life or the world. We think God doesn’t care about little things, and can’t help with the big ones. Because of this, we don’t ask for His help as much as we should.
We need to remember that God can do anything, even the things that seem impossible to us. For example, could we pray for a large group of people in Bangladesh, none of whom are Christians yet, to become Christians? That might seem too big to us, but nothing is too big for God (Genesis 18:14).
Can we ask God to end bad things like sex-trafficking in India and other places? We might think it’s too big a problem, but the Bible says God can do much more than we can even imagine (Ephesians 3:20). Jesus said if you have even a tiny bit of faith, you can tell a mountain to move and it will (Matthew 17:20). We need to believe that and pray for big things.
We also need to believe that God cares about our everyday life, even the little things. Going to work on a Monday morning, taking care of the kids, talking to a friend, getting a good night’s sleep, or sticking to a budget. We shouldn’t worry about these things. Instead, we should tell God about them in our prayers (Philippians 4:6). So don’t be scared to pray about big things or small things. God cares about them all.
Learn How to Pray Over a Lifetime
There’s are probably some “wrong” ways to pray: in pride, to impress others, with contempt, without faith… but there isn’t necessarily one “right” way to pray. God wants to hear from you like a father wants to hear from his children and like a best friend wants to hear from their friend.
This journey is less about learning how to pray, and more about learning a person. You’re building a relationship with the God of the universe. It’s a lifetime journey.