Four Simple Ideas to Improve Your Prayer Life, Today
With my head on my pillow while the rest of my house sleeps, I often find my brain in overdrive. Knowing that God can provide peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7), I turn to him in prayer. Even during that quiet time, jumbled prayers rush through my head skipping from this need to that one. Eventually, weariness overpowers me, and I drift off to sleep.
Other nights, I lie down intending to devote some focused time to praying. I begin to pray but before I know it, things on my to-do list start popping into my brain. Suddenly, I remember I forgot to start the dishwasher, so I pause to take care of that. I return to the silence and attempt focused prayer time again. Before I cover everything on my prayer list, I drift off. When I wake the next morning, I remember my unfinished prayer and vow to commit to praying again tonight. And the cycle starts over.
I’ve heard of prayer warriors who can pray for hours on end, focusing their hearts and minds on the Lord. I’m just not that person. I envision the difference something like this:
But you know what? Even my jumbled, disconnected, sleep-interrupted prayers make their way to the throne of my Father in Heaven. If you’re like me and struggle to keep your prayers in a straight line, these are a few things I’ve found to help me.
Pray Without Ceasing
At first, this sounds very intimidating, like it requires an entire day devoted to prayer and nothing else. However, it’s more like an entire day devoted to living for the Lord and talking to Him in moments throughout the day. That I can do.
You see, all day long little things happen that remind me I need the Lord and have much to thank Him for. In those moments, I pray. It’s not a focused, lengthy time of prayer. Sometimes it's as simple as God, I need your help. It is constant communication with the God who commands us to pray always.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to someone share a prayer request or seen a post on social media or an event in the news and thought to myself, I need to pray for that situation. Then time passes, and I forget all about the need that had tugged on my heart only hours before.
I set reminders on my phone to call about an appointment, drop something off at school, or even to put supper in the oven some days. Why not remind myself to pray? Why not set reminders for specific prayer needs I don’t want to get lost in the busyness of the day?
If you’re going to do this, be sure to choose the right time to be reminded. If I set my reminder for 6:45 a.m. when I’m in the middle of getting four kids and a husband out the door, I’ll likely dismiss the reminder and move on with life, totally defeating the purpose.
Instead, I set the reminder for 7:15. I know that at that point, the chaos has walked out the door, my toddler is still in bed, and I have a few quiet moments. So I pray. I have another set for 11:50. It doesn’t take much focus for me to make lunch for my toddler and myself, so it’s the perfect time for me to pray. I also feel more focused in these little snippets of time as opposed to at night as I try to fall asleep.
Use a Fidget Tool
I was once given a prayer cross that fit perfectly in the palm of my hand. When I wanted to pray at night before falling asleep, holding that wooden cross gave me the physical stimulation I needed to avoid dozing off as I tried to pray. It didn’t distract me from my prayer, nor was it an object of idolatry. Its presence wasn’t necessary for my prayers to reach God. It simply helped my weary body stay awake so I could spend a few minutes in prayer.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a beautiful, hand-carved prayer cross. You can use anything that will keep you stimulated but not distracted: a paper clip, stress ball, one of your kids’ squishies. The item doesn’t matter to God, your attempt to focus on Him in prayer does.
Change Your Position
You might kneel in church or maybe only for ceremonial-type prayers, and it feels silly to literally get on your knees to pray. However, if you change your body position to something not normally associated with sleep (lying in bed) or work (sitting at a desk), your body might be more likely to stay focused and devoted to the task it’s prepared for. Kneeling also reminds us we are coming before a mighty and holy God. We bow to His power as we praise him in prayer and present our requests to Him.
If kneeling isn't your thing, try walking. My favorite prayer time is early in the morning, walking the streets of my itty-bitty town. In the winter, I often spend my treadmill time in prayer. Walking does not require mental focus; therefore, I can give my mind to the Lord as I walk and pray.
Whether you are a kneeler or walker, present your body and physical activity to the Lord during prayer time and your mind will follow.
Prayer is a personal, intimate connection with God our Father meant to draw us closer to Him. Prayer connects us to our God, it tunes our heart to hear His voice, and prompts us to give Him praise and worship. Whether it’s a few moments scattered throughout the day or a designated chunk of time set aside just for prayer, it is crucial to our relationship with the Lord. No matter how busy life gets, no matter how long the to-do list grows, no matter how much noise fills our lives, time in prayer is a necessity.
We see Jesus set that example for us. “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). Despite the exhaustion of a full day of healing and casting out demons, the next morning Jesus rose early to pray. Despite the fact that his disciples and the crowds were already searching for Him, Jesus snuck away to be alone and pray.
What a needed reminder that despite our own exhaustion and the to-do list searching us out, we, too, can make time for prayer.