As followers of Christ, prayer is something we know is critical and something we want to excel in, but if we're honest, many of us are weak in this area of our lives. We have so many things vying for our attention that distract us away from prayer. We need some rules to guide us in this area, to help us make prayer a priority. So here are five simple rules for improving your prayer life:
1. Have a set time (or times) to pray every day - Zig Ziglar famously said, "If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time." Without a set time to pray, chances are you won't get around to it. A healthy prayer life requires discipline. It won't just happen. You need to choose a time that you plan on getting alone and talking to God. Then, invite an accountability partner to help you be disciplined to actually stick to praying during this time.
2. Keep a list - When you sit down to pray, do you have a way of guiding yourself along, or do you just shoot from the hip? It's okay to pray extemporaneously; in fact, I would expect that the Holy Spirit will, from time to time, prompt you to pray for certain people and things that you didn't enter into prayer thinking about. That said, it's a good idea to go into your time of prayer with a list of petitions and needs to bring before the Lord. Within that list, you might want to create categories (worship and adoration, thanksgiving, kingdom come prayers, bereavement and suffering, sickness, etc). Throughout the week, you can update and add to your list (smartphones are great for this) and that way anytime you pull away to pray, you have fuel for the fire.
3. Use Scripture - George Mueller is one of the greatest men of prayer the world has ever known. If you don't believe me, check out his biography. His prayer life, however, was not always so great. In fact, he once wrote in his journal that he would often waste a half hour just trying to get himself into a spirit of prayer (a lot of us would've given up a lot sooner, I'm afraid). But then Mueller discovered a something that transformed his praying. He began to use God's Word as a prompt for prayer. This has helped my own prayer life tremendously. When you use a passage of scripture to guide your prayer, you no longer have to struggle for words, the words are right there in front of you, divinely inspired! You simply take them, pray them back to God, and apply them to your life. Check out this brief video by Dr. Whitney where he models this method for prayer!
4. Pray With Others - There are times when, for some reason, it's really hard for me to pray by myself or for myself. I know I need to pray, but I'm weak in faith and my spirit feels dry and weary. In those times I’ve found that I need to pull some people in to pray with me. They can pray for me what I might struggle to pray for myself, and vice versa. Make it a habit to pray with brothers and sisters in Christ. Be vulnerable with them about your current struggles and needs. To the extent that they know what you're facing, they can pray with you and for you.
5. Remind Yourself Often That Prayer Is The Weapon - The way that the Kingdom of God will advance in and through our lives is by prayer. Psalm 20:7 says, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright." How is it that we exhibit trust in God? We demonstrate faith in God through dependent prayer. If we try to live our lives without prayer, we are trusting in modern day chariots that will fail us. Prayer is the weapon of our warfare. It is the way we will make progress and push back the gates of hell. Remind yourself every day that your battle is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of darkness in the heavenly realm. Pray accordingly.