Prayer is communication with God. Prayer is how you can remain connected to God and grow in your relationship with Him. Prayer is about being with God and choosing to talk with Him about everything. Prayer demonstrates you trust God. You trust God to hear your prayers and that God is interested and able to respond to your prayers. Prayer is also about the enjoyment and privilege of living in a connected, fully dependent relationship with God. God loves you and enjoys giving you what you ask for, but more importantly, God loves doing life with you! So, if prayer is all these things, why don’t you (and I) pray more often and more consistently?
Here are 5 COMMON REASONS why you may not pray as often or as consistently as you would like followed by 4 PRACTICAL HELPS to encourage you to spend time with God in prayer.
Reason #1: Prayer is not natural for us.
We don’t naturally know how to pray because prayer is about communicating with God and enjoying the presence of God. Communication takes relationship work, whether with God or others. Jesus naturally knew how to pray because He knew how to communicate with God and enjoy His presence. Jesus’ disciples observed Him praying and realized they needed to learn how to pray. So, the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. The result is The Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13 and a similar reference in Luke 11:2-4. Jesus was not offering the disciples (or you) a formula to pray but rather an example of how to communicate with God and enjoy being in God’s presence.
Reason #2: No plan, no pray!
If you never plan to pray, you most likely will not pray. You know this is true with other areas of your life. If you never put a plan together for your family, work, vacation, education, health, rest, exercise, retirement, etc. then you most likely take no action and make little to no progress in that area of your life. If you want to grow in your relationship with God, you must plan to pray and then do the relationship work of praying with God consistently.
Reason #3: Prayer requires faith in God.
If you were absolutely convinced that prayer was about remaining connected to God and that your connectivity to God empowers you to live the life God intended for you, you would probably pray more consistently. However, your trust or faith in God to hear and respond to your prayers may waver all the time. This lack of faith in God makes you hesitant to pray because you would rather not pray than be disappointed that you put your faith in God (prayed to Him) and didn’t receive any acknowledgment or response from God.
Also tied to your faith in God is the fact that prayer is a dependent action on your part. You must trust God, meaning fully believe in Him to act. You may dislike the work of prayer – having to trust, believe in God, and have faith in God to hear and respond to your communication with Him. Faith is the work necessary for prayer.
Reason #4: Praying makes you vulnerable before God.
God should be the safest person ever to be vulnerable because He loves and knows you completely. Just read The Love of God Revealed in Jesus devotional series if you have any doubt that God loves you. God wants you to be confident to enter His presence and talk with Him about anything. You never communicate something to God that He does not know. More often, during your prayer time, God will reveal to you what you do not know about yourself and Him.
Reason #5: Your evaluation of prayer could be flawed.
You could evaluate your prayers based on receiving favorable responses that are efficient and productive. But prayer is not about instantly getting your preferred requests granted by God as much as prayer is about you being with God and participating in the life God intended for you to live with Him. God is most interested in you! If you get frustrated and quit praying when you don’t get favorable responses from God or when you don’t think God is responding efficiently as you desire Him to do, you reveal your evaluation of prayer. Prayer is not evaluated by its productivity – is God’s response time efficient, and is your request granted favorably? If prayer is not about getting something from God but rather being with God, how would you evaluate your effort to be fully present with God in prayer? How much of your life do you live with God?
Conclusion: We need help to pray. Since praying is not natural to us and we often lack the planning, faith, vulnerability, and proper evaluation of prayer to engage with God consistently, what are some practical helps for planning to pray and spending time with God in prayer? Do not view these helps as a formula to plan and engage in prayer. Instead, use these helps as things to consider as you seek to communicate with God and enjoy being in His presence.
Help #1: Designate prayer times.
As a part of your prayer planning, select a time and a place to be with God.
- Jesus rose early in the morning to pray (Mark 1:35)
- Jesus prayed from afternoon to evening. (Mark 6:46-47; Luke 6:12)
- Jesus prayed in solitary, private places. (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:15-16)
- Jesus was constantly praying. (Luke 9:18)
- After Jesus death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, His followers in Jerusalem continually devoted themselves to prayer. (Acts 1:14)
Prayer is about being with God. When can God have your full attention – morning, afternoon, evening? Designate a time and a place. Notice that Jesus was not praying at the same time and place every day. So, don’t make selecting a time and place the extent of your prayer planning. Being with God in communication and being in His presence is your primary objective in praying, not the time of day or the location. You can pray any time and any place!
Help #2: Cultivate prayer routines.
As a part of your prayer planning, cultivate a routine for your time with God. What could be a regular routine for the time you spend with God in prayer? For example, here are a few questions to consider as you design your prayer routine.
- Do you talk first, or do you sit in silence first before God?
- Do you write your thoughts down to clear your mind first, or do you begin with asking God to calm your heart and mind from distractions?
- When and how do you pray for yourself in your prayer time?
- When and how do you pray for others in your prayer time? For example, I assign a specific day of the week for what I will focus my prayer time with God.
- Monday – My local church leaders and ministries
- Tuesday – Work colleagues and responsibilities
- Wednesday – Christian ministries or organizations I am affiliated.
- Thursday – Nation; evidence of God’s work and lives changed in USA.
- Friday – My family & friends
- Saturday – Global church; spread of Christianity, persecuted Christians.
- Sunday – My local community, neighbors, schools, government officials
Individuals from these broad categories receive prayer every week using this prayer routine (or something similar). God hears your prayers on their behalf, and you listen to God to know what your part God would have you play in their lives to honor Him and bring Him glory.
What prayer routines can you cultivate to help you communicate with God and enjoy being in His presence? Again, remember, a prayer routine can be helpful, but don’t get so fixated on establishing your prayer routine that you forget the point of prayer which is focused time being with God to grow your relationship with Him.
Help #3: Combat distractions.
You probably have internal distractions (thoughts, feelings, to-do lists, goals, responsibilities, etc.) and external distractions(devices, family members or friends, traffic if you commute, work responsibilities, neighbors, community activities, etc.) So, how can you combat both internal and external distractions that take you away from praying?
If you are distracted internally, try:
- asking God for help so you can give Him your full attention.
- reading the Bible to gain focus for your prayer time.
- praying aloud so you hear what you are saying to God.
- praying specific prayers that are already written by others in the Bible.
- writing down your prayers.
- writing out your feelings and thoughts, especially if you have become upset, angry, or bitter toward God about specific life circumstances or you feel ashamed or unworthy to enter God’s presence in prayer.
- confessing to God. You may act like God doesn’t know your issues or sinful habits or your polarizing attitudes, but who better to confess to than the only, true God who has promised to hear and respond to your confession with His love and His forgiveness. Fight your fears and get real with yourself and God – confess and receive God’s forgiveness and lovingkindness.
If you are distracted externally:
- separate yourself from the distractions such as devices, people, noises, etc.
- provide clear boundaries like doors closed, written signs, do not disturb messages on devices, and using words like “no” and “wait” can also create healthy boundaries with others as well as defining what is an emergency.
- show others you are committed to growing your relationship with God because you have a scheduled plan to be with God in prayer and you are committed keeping this appointment with God alone in prayer.
- honor God by giving Him your full attention during your prayer time.
Help #4: Prepare for your conversations.
Both planned and spontaneous conversations require relationship work, but your relationship with God is worth the effort to plan conversations and to have spontaneous conversations with God throughout your day. You don’t have to put on any show for God during your prayer time. God already knows you better than you do. God doesn’t need anything from you. You need everything from God. So, plan for your conversations with God.
- What do you want to say to God?
- What do you want to hear from God?
- How do you want your relationship to grow and be strengthened?
- What do you need God to do on your behalf?
- What commitments are you willing to make to God? (e.g., obedience, holiness, participation in His purposes, love others, serve God’s church, etc.)
- What are your needs – your physical needs, emotional needs, relational needs, spiritual needs (e.g., forgiveness, reconciliation, power over temptation or sin?
- What do you need for God to do on behalf of others for whom you are praying?
Planning your conversations with God is helpful because you can track what you say to God and what God communicates to you. Also, planning your prayer time could lead to more spontaneous praying throughout your day as you reflect on your conversations with God and want to continue to talk with God more.
If you do not pray as often or consistently as you would like, review these 5 COMMON REASONS that could hinder you from praying with God. Then consider applying these 4 PRACTICAL HELPS to encourage you to spend time with God in prayer.
Watch the LIVE REPLAY to hear more about these reasons and helps. Join us LIVE every Monday at 3 p.m. ET on @GodGivesCourage Instagram for our Spiritual Growth Series and check back here on Tuesdays for the companion blog post.