Prayer is one of the foundational activities followers of Jesus do. It’s right up there with Bible reading, worship and meeting together. We all know prayer is important. It’s how we connect with God. It’s how we invite him to be part of our daily life. I think it’s strange that so many followers of Jesus find prayer a struggle. You are not alone if you find prayer hard. I do too. There are times when praying is easy, and times when it is hard. Sometimes it feels like God isn’t listening, and others when his presence and embrace are so close. I asked a few Jesus followers, who have been ministering to others for a number of years, to share their experience of prayer and get their wisdom on developing a habit of prayer. Here’s what they said…
From your personal experience, what words would you give to fellow Jesus followers who are struggling to develop a habit of prayer?
Prayer is relationship. When we think of it as a technique, we lose the spirit of it. Praying is simply having continual dialog with God, letting Him into the inner recesses of your thoughts, worries, feelings, and conundrums (as well as joys and victories). The deeper your friendship with God, the more meaningful your communication will be. And just like in any relationship, there will be periods of silence. There will be times of excitement and rapid sharing. There will be times when you’re confused as to why God has acted the way He has, and you might even give Him the silent treatment. But through it all, as you grow in your relationship, your prayer life will become a moment by moment conversation. This is the secret that Brother Lawrence discovered—bringing God into even the mundane parts of his day. So I don’t have a system to put forth. Instead I view prayer as a holy invitation from a loving Father to his child to have connection throughout any given day.
Mary DeMuth is an international speaker and podcaster, and she’s the author of over thirty books, including the latest: Worth Living: How God’s Wild Love for You Makes You Worthy (Baker 2016). She loves to help people re-story their lives. She lives in Texas with her husband of 25 years and is the mom to three adult children. Find out more at marydemuth.com.
For me prayer is mainly about listening- but it’s also about talking, laughing, crying and falling asleep.
I think of it as a space to recenter and recharge and a space to die and be reborn. It is one of the most honest and intimate places we can be.
I find it helpful to simply be still and know God as savior, teacher, Lord and friend. In the end I suppose prayer is really about falling in love more than anything else.
Nathan Foster is Director of Community Life at Renovaré and hosts a weekly podcast. Previously, he served as the Andrews Chair in Spiritual Formation at Spring Arbor University and has authored 2 books – Wisdom Chaser and The Making of an Ordinary Saint.
Always return to the wonder that the Lord Jesus is your coheir, fellow-pilgrim and friend who sticks closer than a brother – he loves to hear your voice and so is more interested in hearing from you than any disciplines, liturgies or formality. But don’t be afraid of those disciplines if they help you keep in touch with him.
Mark Meynell, Europe Associate Director for Langham Preaching, author of 8 books including recently released What Angels Long to Read and host of audio documentary Why we Love Men in Capes. Mark’s blog is found at www.markmeynell.net.
Prayer is like marriage. At first, the union feels a little awkward. We trip over conversation, ask a lot of questions, and practice the sacrament of presence with eye contact and active listening. We can translate silence in the relationship as not measuring up somehow and fear being unlovable. But practice praying often and a comfortable rhythm of communication finally emerges. Love deepens through attentiveness to the details and silence mutates into an intimacy you long to return to often.
Over time, a wife may discern the mood of her husband by the cadence of his voice. As she stands with her back turned and hands in the sink, she will know joy or sadness by inflection, tone and volume. Prayer matures as we listen and trust that love is mutual. You don’t have to see your spouse speak to know his love is genuine. And like an old, married couple, the more you pray, the more you begin to look a lot like Jesus.
Shelly Miller, Author of Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World. Shelly’s blog can be found at www.shellymillerwriter.com.
I’ve found two things particularly helpful. First, pray Scripture. Prayer is less about changing God’s priorities and more about changing mine, and modelling our prayers around God’s word helps us to pray in line with his will. So read a passage of the Bible and think, “What is it that God wants to do for me? How does he want the world/his people to be? What has he already promised to do?” Then just ask him to do it! Second, pray out loud. This really helps me to keep my mind from wandering off. Some of my best prayer times are when I have the self-discipline to switch off the car radio and just start talking to my Father in heaven!
I have been a follower of Jesus for over 45 years and for most of that time I have been unsuccessful in developing a regular time with God or what some Christians call a “prayer life”. I was always taught that prayer is one of the most important “spiritual disciplines”, however, for many years I have found it difficult to develop this discipline in my life. As a result I have suffered from guilt over my slackness which has caused me to avoid prayer even more so that I wouldn’t have to be reminded about my guilt in this area of my life. Guaranteed to take me into a downward spiral of depression!
However, in recent months I have discovered a new dimension to my relationship with God that has reminded me that ALL of my sin and failure (past, present and future) was paid for by Jesus’ death and resurrection. I stand redeemed, righteous and holy before my Heavenly Father – he has removed all of my sin. So prayer is becoming, not a discipline, but my grateful response to the awesome love and grace of God.
Rob Day has followed this blog since it first began. I have valued his thoughts and friendship for many years and I’m grateful to have been able to include his thought on prayer.