Years ago I took a spiritual gifts survey. I scored high on administration and teaching–no surprise for me there. My lowest “gift”? Prayer. Ouch! That discouraged me. Isn’t prayer one of the primary practices of a Christian? I wondered if God heard the prayers I have prayed through the years.
Learning that prayer was my “un-gift” also caused me to let up on the discipline. If I am not gifted in prayer, why try? I would often give a disclaimer when others shared prayer requests: “It’s not my spiritual gift!” I carried guilt because I didn’t pray as much as I thought I should. I would hear others talk about their prayer life and feel inferior. Even today, I struggled to write this, knowing that I am not an expert.
About 5 years ago, I began to find a greater fulfillment in my prayer life. I cannot really pinpoint one thing that brought about the change. I became very hungry for deeper intimacy with God. I felt challenged to live out the truths in His Word with greater courage and tenacity. (Reading Crazy Love and Radical back-to-back will do that to you!) In order to live out the Gospel, I had to walk with Christ. This included conversation with Him–prayer.
In 2011, a mission trip to Ghana solidified the power of prayer in my heart. I prayed fervently in the months leading up to the trip. I prayed about everything from safety and effective ministry to staying “regular” so I didn’t have to use the outdoor toilets (a hole in the ground) while working at the church. For 10 days, I prayed more than I had ever prayed before. If a worry surfaced, I prayed. When I had cause to rejoice, I prayed. God demonstrated His amazing, limitless power during those 10 days!
I am not an expert in prayer. However, I have found 5 strategies to help me incorporate prayer into my life.
Pray as soon as a need is perceived. How often do you hear of a prayer need throughout the day? Thanks to social media and 24 hour news channels, we are bombarded with needs all day. We hear news of sickness, death, crisis all around us. Have you ever commented “praying” under a friend’s plea for prayer, only to forget that need as you scroll through your news feed? I am guilty of that. What I strive to do instead is stop and pray right that very minute. It doesn’t have to be a long prayer. With sincerity, ask God to intervene in whatever need is in front of you.
The same goes for needs in your own life. When those little worries creep up, pray about it. As you see the black fading to red while paying bills, pray about it. While you wait on the exam table for the doctor to come see you, pray. There is no end to our needs and no end to our Father’s desire to hear us whisper those needs in His ear.
Pray continually. 1 Thessalonians 5:7. That verse intimidates me! I stay busy from the time I open my eyes until they shut at night. Thinking about trying to pack more in my day makes me tired. However, as I embraced the concept of praying as the needs surfaced, I prayed continually. I did not block out prayer times; they occurred organically as I prayed for those little needs throughout the day. When something good happened, it became more natural to return praise to God–also a part of pray continually. Like those late night phone calls with your young love, “you hang up first,” “no, you hang up first.” Prayer becomes an ongoing conversation with God with no good-bye.
Pray with others. Scripture tells of the power of collective prayers (Matthew 18:19-20, Acts 2:42). We share our needs with others in hopes that the joining of our voices will result in powerful answers. I have discovered that praying with others deepens my own prayer life. I am challenged to deeper faith by my friends whose prayer score is off the spiritual gifts chart. I pray more as we join together over shared requests. There is a sense of community and belonging when I join others with the same prayer focus.
My small group found a redeeming use for social media: community prayer. Needs are communicated through Messenger. We have a confidence that our sisters are praying when we put those needs out there. Sometimes, we schedule a time to stop and pray together, wherever we are, over great needs. I get chills (the good kind) when I join them, knowing that we have entered the Father’s presence together.
Pray on paper. I have practiced this since I was young. It started as a way to keep my mind focused. When I wrote a letter to God, I found I didn’t get as distracted by the other thoughts swimming around in my head. Even on the days when quiet comes easily, I still like to write out my prayers. Besides focusing my mind and heart, it serves as a record of my requests. I can go back, years and decades later and recall the Lord’s faithfulness. Some of my sweetest and hardest moments with God are in three-ring binders in the basement. I can look back at the prayers that I would one day marry my best friend. I recall the way God held me close as I waited so impatiently to become a mother. I rejoice over the healing in the hard times.
Prayers of praise. It is so easy to move through my day without pausing to notice the hand of God working all around me. I want to have a thankful heart, one that whispers praises to God throughout the day.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations
When I am intentional about returning praise and thanks to God, my prayer life is enhanced and encouraged. Recognizing His faithfulness and goodness causes me to seek after Him more.
Prayer is like the deepest ocean. It seems there is no end to the things I can discover as I explore its depths. I will never ever know it all, nor be made perfect in my prayer life. There is beauty to be found every time I enter that mysterious ocean, the beauty of the Almighty bending low to hear me and fill me with new faith.
“Hannah,” from the Women in the Word series, provides a heart-changing look at a God-oriented prayer life.
Hannah’s habit of prayer was less about her goodness and more about God’s greatness. (Amanda Bible Williams, She Reads Truth)