Practical Spiritual Disciplines: Prayer

May 12, 2018 · 661 words · 4 minute read Practical Spiritual Disciplines   Prayer   Spiritual Disciplines  

How can we make prayer a regular part of our lives?

This is part of a series called Practical Spiritual Disciplines in which I will be discussing how to practice the spiritual disciplines.

Since [prayer] is a duty of such absolute necessity for all and of such universal use, it is fitting we should all know how to perform it aright, that it may be accepted by the great God, and become a delightful and profitable exercise to our own souls and to those that join with us.

~ Isaac Watts - A Guide to Prayer

The Questions

We all know prayer is important. Prayer is one of the most common topics throughout the Bible and Jesus Himself consistently made time out of His busy and effective ministry to pray (see Luke 5:16, 6:12, 9:28, 11:1, and 22:41 as some examples). If you think you are too busy or don’t need prayer, take a look at Jesus' life and think again.

Assuming we understand our need for prayer, a critical question is: How do I incorporate prayer into my daily life in a way that is powerful and effective?. Once we have done this, the question becomes: When I take time to pray, how should I pray (e.g. what should I be praying for)? We’ll answer both of these questions below.

Making Prayer a Habit

Here are some tips for making prayer a habit:

  1. Make time. Try to find a consistent time everyday when you can pray. Maybe it is over a lunch break, perhaps on the drive to work, maybe in between classes. Having a specific time when you pray will help you build a new habit.
  2. Stay committed. There is nothing magical about the spiritual disciplines… just as it takes time to grow physically, it also takes time to grow spiritually. I often see people give up after one or two weeks, but you need to persevere in order to grow. Do whatever it takes to help you make your prayer life a priority and a commitment.
  3. Develop a plan. When it comes to prayer, here is a big challenge: how do you consistently pray for requests that you have while not getting bored in praying for the same thing over and over again? I have developed a system for praying that I find helpful as it allows you to consistently pray for people while not getting bored because you’re praying for the same things over and over. You can read more about this plan here. Feel free to adjust this system as you see fit.

What to Say When You Pray

So you’ve started praying regularly… but what do you say when you pray? Jesus’s disciples asked Him the same exact question in Luke 11:1-13. Jesus responds with what we know as “The Lord’s Prayer”. There is a parallel passage where Jesus teaches the same thing in Matthew 6:9-13. We’ll look at the passage in Matthew 6:9-13 because it is a great model for our prayers. I would break down Jesus’s prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 as follows:

Worshiping God (vs. 9-10)

For who He is (9)

For what He will do (10)

Prayer for our needs (vs. 11-13)

Physical needs (11)

Spiritual needs (12-13)

Think about how we normally pray. We spend the majority of our time praying for physical needs (and sometimes spiritual needs). Both physical and spiritual needs are part of Jesus' prayer, but we often forget the first half of the Lord’s prayer that begins in worship to God. When you pray, I encourage you to start out by worshiping and thanking God for who He is and what He has promised to do. This is Biblical and it will transform prayer from a dry recitation of requests into a rich time of worship and communion with God. There is a helpful list of prayers from the New Testament here. Praying using the Bible is another good way to guide your prayers. There is a plan to facilitate this here which I encourage you to try.