The Prayer Life

One barrier many Christians face when it comes to prayer is found at the most basic, or fundamental, level. It is they don’t know how to pray. While this may seem like an overstatement, many believers never cultivate a deep prayer life because they lack the training on how to deepen their prayer lives. Richard Foster says, “Real prayer is something we learn.”[1] Even the disciples had to ask Jesus to teach them to pray even though they had followed Jesus for some time.[2] So, we shouldn’t be shy about the fact that we are not well versed in prayer if we’ve never taken time to learn to pray.

On the other hand, we should not think that prayer is only something for “spiritual giants” to participate in. After all, Paul tells fairly new converts in 1 Thessalonians they should “pray continually.”[3] Prayer is not something for “deep” Christians. Prayer is something for all Christians and is actually how we launch out into the deeper waters of faith. Some people think prayer is a spiritual gift given to some believers, but this is not what the New Testament says. The New Testament implies that prayer is a spiritual discipline that every believer is called to practice. You are called to pray continually no matter where you find yourself on the path of discipleship or what’s going on in your life. Oswald Chambers says it this way: “However God may engineer your circumstances, your duty is to pray.”[4] We are to pray in every circumstance. We are to pray continually.

So, what does it mean to pray without ceasing? It obviously means to continue your communication and communion with God at all times in your life. But what many Christians wonder is, “What does it practically look like to pray all of the time?” “To ‘pray without ceasing’ does not mean that every other activity must be dropped for the sake of prayer but that every activity must be carried on in a spirit of prayer.”[5] So, you don’t have to worry: prayer won’t take up too much of your time. Actually, prayer will encompass all of your time. Here are a few practical ways you can have a deeper prayer life and begin to take a conversational approach to prayer:

  • Focus on prayer being a free-flowing conversation rather than a formal exercise
    • Avoid using “religious” words you don’t normally use and talk to God how you would talk to others
    • It’s important to remember that while prayer is more of a conversation with God and He wants us to be honest with Him, you are still talking to the Creator of the universe (In other words, avoid thinking in terms of Jesus being your “homeboy”)
  • Set aside specific time to pray
    • Even though we are to pray without ceasing, we still need to carve out time to be alone with God in our thoughts
    • This is like taking time out of your day to intentionally communicate about “heart matters” with someone you love on a consistent basis
  • Practice a variety of forms of prayer such as a contemplative prayer, breath prayer, centering prayer, intercessory prayer, or even praying Scripture
    • There are many different formal and informal ways to pray, and it is good to learn a variety of ways to communicate and commune with God
    • Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun (see the “resources” section below) is a great place to start exploring different types of prayer and how to incorporate them into your daily walk
  • Try to focus on more than your own requests from God
    • Take time to ask God what He would have of you
    • Use the ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) as a way to keep yourself from only asking for things from God
  • Try to pray with others on the spot when the situation lends itself
    • If someone is asking you for prayer, ask them if they would mind you praying for them right now
    • While prayer can be a private discipline, learning to pray with others is essential (While this is difficult for some, it should be approached like talking to your spouse or family member in front of other people)
  • Learn the art of silent prayer
    • Prayer is communicating with God, not only communicating to God
    • To have a vibrant prayer life we must listen for His still small voice in our lives
    • When you don’t have the words to say, trust that the Holy Spirit is interpreting your heart to God through your silence
  • Don’t forget while learning more about prayer to actually pray
    • Nothing replaces actually conversing with God
    • It’s important to not wait until you feel like talking to God

Some questions to think about while you are discerning how to take a conversational approach to prayer are:

  1. As you think of prayer as a conversation, how would your relationship with others go if you communicated to them the way you communicate to God? For example, do you only ask for things from God? Are you constantly distracted while you are communicating with God? Do you take time to listen to what He has to say to you? Do you talk frequently enough to maintain a deep relationship? Are you too formal or too informal at times?
  2. Even though we are praying all of the time, why is it important to set aside specific time to pray to God?
  3. What are some ways you need to grow in your own prayer life?

Finally, here are a few resources the practical advice was drawn from and are helpful places to start for anyone looking to take a conversational approach to prayer or looking to practice different forms of prayer:

[1] Foster, Richard. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. (HarperCollins Publishers: New York, NY, 1998). Pg. 36.
See Luke 11:1-13
1 Thessalonians 5:17
Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost for His Highest. (Barbour Publishing, Inc.: Grand Rapids, MI, 1992). October 17.
Bruce, F. F. 1 & 2 Thessalonians (WBC 45; Accordance/Thomas Nelson electronic ed., Word Books: Waco, TX, 1982). Pg. 127.

1 thought on “The Prayer Life”

  1. What can be said about prayer? It is not just something we do, it is who we are. We are a people of prayer; a kingdom of priests to worship our G-d. All life is sacred, there are no moments in which G-d is not sovereign. There are no times when G-d is not there. Whether we eat or sleep, work or rest, rejoice or mourn, it is G-d who is walking with us. We should give thanks before our meal, and give more thanks after because not only has G-d provided the food, he has also let us enjoy it. There is no time that calls for us to be silent; no time when we should not sing out to G-d. Our hearts should groan, calling out to Him who is our very sustenance. Rejoice and be glad, for G-d is good, and his love endures forever.
    There are many words attached to prayer in the hebrew language, to encompass all the ways in which it should be done. in English we say pray, but in Hebrew they say praise, sing, dance, cry out, to bless, set the direction of ones heart toward G-d, and live. The problem we face is that we seek to define prayer rather than to experience the fullness of living a life of communion with G-d. We seek to know what to do, more than we endeavor to become a part of it. To know about G-d is not the same as knowing him, and to understand prayer is not the same as praying without ceasing.
    We should pray when it rains and when the sun shines. We should pray when G-d gives, and when he takes away. We should cry out to him when we see the destructive pain of sin in the world around us; we should sing songs of praise when forgiveness is granted for those same iniquities. Prayer is not something we do, it is our very lives, given to G-d as a thankful psalm to His grace and love. Abraham Joshua Heschel said in an interview on NBC, “A Conversation with Doctor Abraham Joshua Heschel,” in 1973, “Let us not misinterpret the nature of prayer, particularly in Jewish tradition. The primary purpose of prayer is not to make requests. The primary purpose is to praise, to sing, to chant. Because the essence of prayer is a song, and man cannot live without a song.”
    Can we live this way? Can we devote fully our lives to G-d? Can we wrestle with chutzpah? Are we willing to fill our lives with our relationship with G-d? Or will we fail?
    We fail when we are silent. When we lose focus or become distracted by the things of this world we are drawn out of our song; out of our moment with G-d. A moment that can last a lifetime and should, but often is a lost encounter we chase in vain because we misunderstand how we obtained it in the first place. Like the father in the story we call the prodigal son, who not only awaits his sons return, but as soon as he sees him races to meet him; G-d is waiting for us and as soon as he sees us turn he is there, enveloping us in his presence.
    Pray, sing, laugh, cry, dance, fall to your knees, whisper, yell, be silent… Whatever you do, do it for the L-rd. In other words pray.

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