Prayer should not be hard, but I’ve spent much of my life wrestling with it, as I shared in my previous post, “Get Down on It”.
And the struggle must be real, because my friend Jamie just wrote about very same thing. I was challenged this week to spend an extended amount of time in prayer, longer than I’ve ever spent. If I’m not anything else, I’m dependable. As long as I don’t forget what I’m supposed to be faithful to (ha!), if someone’s counting on me, I will be there. There was an ongoing prayer chain, and when one of us was done, another would be taking over. As I write this, one sister is taking up her link in the chain, and another will start this evening. I knew the night of my “assignment” was coming, and yet, I struggled with knowing if I could make the whole time matter. Jesus’ disciples felt the same way; on the most important night of their friend’s life, they fell asleep repeatedly when he asked them just to pray with him for one hour.
What if all of us stopped looking at prayer as a chore and started looking at it as a date?
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When I am out with my husband or with our best couple friends, Chris and Toshia, hours pass and I don’t even look at the clock. I enjoy being with them. And the whole time, I’m talking and listening. None of that bores me. What are we doing when we pray? We are talking and we are listening, the same as on a night out. Better than that, we are spending time with someone who can actually solve our problems, not just hear us discuss them. That’s amazing and should be spur us to pray to the one who wants the greatest intimacy with us!
The thing about me and prayer is that once I get into it and fight through my flesh, I love it! However, would I be able to fight the flesh for that long? That question led me to think of ways I could sustain my energy, focus, and enthusiasm throughout this time I was asked to join the prayer chain. I thought I might share some ideas birthed out of this concern with those of you who struggle to pray as well. Ready for the list? Here it is!
Twenty Ways to Pray
- Follow one of the Biblical prayer models. If it worked for Jabez, Solomon, or Jesus, it will work for you. We don’t want to get stuck in a rut, but having a model to get you started wouldn’t be a bad thing. Make sure the model you choose applies to your prayer need, since these are powerful prayers, not just words.
- Have you ever heard of a Strong’s Concordance? It references every word in the Bible. Find a situation you’re facing, and pray over every applicable scripture. I brought the book home from Dusty’s office to pray through several situations in our lives, and “the Word of God is quick and powerful”!
- If you have a slight “shiny paper clip” syndrome like me, write down distractions while praying. Getting them out of your mind and onto paper will allow you to focus back on what you were praying about. If you have a lot of your mind, like I do, a notepad is an invaluable tool at any prayer session.
- Pray with an outline or list. On a few occasions, our church has hosted a twenty-four hour prayer chain. Each of us and a partner chose a one- or two-hour block of time to pray. Before I went to pray, I made a list…and of course I made copies and shared it. I help people whether they want it or not, ha! Just like an outline for a major research paper, a list allows you to elaborate as you go but stay focused at the same time.
- Pray in the closet. Jesus said to find a prayer closet. In this case, I’m recommending the actual closet! Put one of those little push-button lights in there and go to town. If your children usually follow you to the bathroom, maybe they won’t follow you into the dark, scary closet:)
- Pray and fast. Jesus says here that some things are only possible when we pray and fast. It’s time to read that “Season for Seeking” post, isn’t it?
- I save all kinds of jars, and they would be helpful for this one. Get two jars, one for current prayers and one for answered prayers. Put marbles in them as you pray, or better yet, use rocks where you can list your prayers with Sharpie and move them to the “answered” jar as needed.
- Walk and pray. Many monasteries use prayer labyrinths to create a place for focused prayer. I am not Catholic, but I don’t see one thing wrong with walking and praying. Follow a path, such as walking the hallways of your church, or walk outside, which brings me to the next tip…
- Pray in nature. I don’t know about you, but there is nothing more awe-inspiring or God-focused than a mountain vista or a beautiful waterfall. (Dusty is in Gatlinburg right now, and I am very jealous of his nature pics, which is not the point of this post.)
- Pray the lyrics of a song. I have three singer-songwriters whose words deeply move me, Chris Rice, Sara Groves, and Rich Mullins. It’s like they reached into my soul and wrote the words my heart was longing to speak. (Follow this playlist to get my favorites.) Praying their words as mine is a powerful tool in spiritual warfare, especially when my heart is in anguish and it’s hard to pray.
- I love this one. My former pastor used to lead an encounter retreat where we did an incredible forgiveness activity. If we had a person we wanted to forgive, but that person were dead or could not be contacted, we would have a stand-in that we would forgive and who, in return, offered forgiveness or apology to us. It sounds weird, but it was freeing to so many people. Watch the scene in the Ragamuffin movie where Brennan takes Rich on a retreat to see what I mean. In the case of prayer, set in front of you an empty chair. Talk to that chair just like Jesus is sitting there. It may feel silly at first, but having “someone” to talk to is sometimes easier than trying to pray to the invisible heavens.
- Sit and meditate. Not all praying has to be us talking. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Listening is just as important, so take some time just to listen to Jesus’ “still, small voice”. I want to caution you that people will try to use yoga mediation or other religious meditation as part of Christianity. The only kind of meditation that is Christian is the kind that’s Jesus-and-His-Word-focused.
- Draw or do a scripture journal. As I mentioned in another post, I love the idea of marking up our Bibles with art as we study and meditate on the Word. I am coming up with another technique that doesn’t require a wide-margin Bible soon and will share that in a new post.
- Pray over a map. Dusty and I know that at some point we will relocate to minister (no plans yet, in case you were worried). We’re not sure where, but we have a map hanging in our office that we can pray over, both to help us make a decision where to relocate and to pray over that place itself. Maybe it’s time you got a world map, or a map of your town, and started praying God’s power and the release of strongholds there.
- Repeat one scripture over and over. My scripture for a very difficult season of my job was Psalm 27. I prayed and reread that scripture a lot. Who knows? If you pray it a lot, you might memorize it!
- Insert your name into scripture. While you’re praying, maybe even that one scripture, find ways to insert your name and believe it for yourself.
- Lay hands on pictures of people and pray for them. The people who made the Jesus Camp movie made the campers who were praying for a poster of the President look crazy. (I didn’t watch the movie; I just heard.) However, I’ve got pictures on a bulletin board in my craft room that I pray over from time-to-time. Seeing that person’s face makes me even more compassionate and helps me believe my prayers. Maybe I have a picture of you:)
- Go to a sacred space, like a church, when you pray. There’s something about being in my church’s sanctuary alone that makes me want to pray harder. If that’s what it takes for you, go there.
- Cover your head with a prayer shawl. This is both a Jewish and Catholic tradition, though I am neither. I’ve tried it with a scarf. It just helps you create your own private place to commune with Jesus.
- Pray out loud or with a friend at a certain time/together. Praying out loud may seem strange for some of you, but it’s mostly what I’m used to. We may have someone start the prayer at my church, but most of the rest of us join in the prayer out loud. It’s like a concert of prayer. Try it sometime! Another adaptation is to commit to a certain time where you will be praying. The added accountability, as I discussed in my introduction, ensures that you are more committed to the prayer.
- BONUS TIP! Follow up on previous prayers. This action shows that you care but also ensures that you don’t keep petitioning God for something He’s already answered.
This list is great, but may I say something else? Prayer is not a gimmick. As I said in my “Season of Seeking” post, God only cares about our prayers if we care about them. There is no substitute for blood, sweat, and tears in our sustained time with the Lord. God knows when I have five minutes to sincerely pray, and He will move in that, but He also wants to see me pray until something happens, and that may take years, not just hours. Want proof? Just check out these stories of how both Daniel in the Old Testament and the disciples in the New tarried on the answer from God, and in both cases, the answers were worth it! write down distractions while praying.
So will you join me on this prayer journey? Comment below with your thoughts AND the numbers from the list that might reinvigorate your prayer life.
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