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.” Even the disciples had to ask Jesus to teach them to pray even though they had followed Jesus for some time. 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.” 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.” 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.” 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:
- 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?
- Even though we are praying all of the time, why is it important to set aside specific time to pray to God?
- 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:
- Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton (Pages 62-77)
- The Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster (Pages 33-45)
- The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard (Pages 184-186)
- The Good and Beautiful Life by James Bryan Smith (Pages 182-184)
- Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun (Pages 203-255)
- Experiencing God’s Story of Life and Hope by J. Scott Duvall (Pages 156-160)
- The Prayer Life by Andrew Murray
- (Re)Understanding Prayer by Kyle Lake
 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.