Prayer Suggestions

Sunday was an important reminder about the power of prayer from the life of Hannah in 1 Samuel.

Some people have asked me how they could get started on improving their prayer life. Here are some steps that I would recommend:

1.  Ask God to teach you to pray!  This may seem strange, but the one thing the disciples asked Jesus to teach them was how to pray.  And Jesus took it upon himself to answer that prayer and to teach them.  We are able to do the same thing today. If you ask God to teach you to pray, he will.

2. Type out your prayers.  This may not work for everyone, but I have found that writing out my prayers takes too long, but simply trying to think my prayers goes too fast (and my brain is all over the place).  Typing out my prayers is a happy medium.  It slows my brain down and allows me to engage more fully in prayer.

3.  Pray in paragraphs.  One of the most influential things on prayer I read was a sermon by Charles Spurgeon called “Order and Argument in Prayer.”  In his sermon, Spurgeon made the point that if you are going into the throne room to ask God for something – come prepared.  Lay out a good argument and present it in an orderly manner, just like you would if you were asking your boss for raise.  This has helped bring structure to my prayer life.  When it is time to pray for my children, I think through what I want to ask God for each child as well as why I am asking for that request.  After all, Hannah has thought long and hard about the vow she made to God – give me a son and I will give him back to you. She is giving God her best argument as to why God should answer her prayer.

4.  Pray a psalm.  Open your Bible to the Psalms and start reading until you find one that seems to be addressed to you and your situation. Or, pray through one each day.  Type the lines from the psalm as headers in your prayers and then react to each line.  Tell the Lord how you feel.  Ask him questions about things you don’t understand.  Thank him for the things in the psalm that reveal something to you about God and his grace to us.

There are other things that I could suggest, but these seem like a good first few steps to getting started. What questions might you have about being more serious about prayer that I could answer here?



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5 thoughts on “Prayer Suggestions

  1. There is ebb and flow with my prayer life. During some seasons of my life, I have been engaged in serious “quality time” prayers, filling notebooks with written conversations with God. But, other times, I have felt “all prayed out,” and my prayer life has been reduced to brief, sporadic bullet prayers. How do we level the ebb and flow?

    Right now, the list of people I need to be praying for is so long it is overwhelming. If I spent the time I should, in order to cover all of the needs put before me, I would never get anything else done. And, my prayers would be reduced to a “’God, please do this for them” time, which is out of balance. As a pastor, you must have people asking you to pray for them all the time. Some ask for ongoing prayers, and others just want prayer for a specific short-term need. How do we say, “No, I already have too many people to pray for, so I won’t be praying for you?” Also, I am convinced that many people who say they will pray for someone, never do. I don’t want to do that either. Sometimes, I will just stop and say a prayer on the spot, but often that’s not enough. How do you keep on top of it all? Can you offer any organizational tips? I have tried lists, 3×5 cards, designated days, and other methods. Still, I am overwhelmed.

    • Great question, Kay. You are absolutely right that keeping track of all the different people to pray for can be overwhelming. Sounds like you have already tried what I do, but I’ll share it anyway. There is a set of things that I pray for every day. These include family members, people I want to see come to Christ and often members from our small group. In addition, if there is a specific person who has something going on that week for which they need concerted prayer, I will pray for them daily that week. In addition to this, I break who I pray for into days of the week. Mondays is usually church staff, etc. Tuesdays are board members, church committee members, etc. Wednesdays are reserved for pastoral residents, church plants, people training for ministry or in ministry outside of Calvary. Thursdays are for lay people at Calvary who have requested prayer. Fridays are left open. Saturdays is for people who specifically need to hear Sunday’s sermon as well as those prayer teams that pray for me. Even with this organizational list, it can still be overwhelming – especially the Thursday list – so I often pick either a smaller subset to pray more urgently and longer about and mention the others in a less wordy way, or pray through more general categories and list people out loud that I am thinking about.

      It also helps that there are times of corporate prayer in which I am able to participate in prayer for others including: Sunday morning prayer, praying with people after the services, Tuesday staff prayer, Tuesday night elder prayer, etc. There is a lot of time spent in prayer, but even writing this out I can think of other groups that I wish I prayed for more regularly. But, I also realize that interceding specifically for people is only a portion of what my prayer time is for, so I have to limit how much time is given to it.

      Hope this helps.

      • Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed response, Jim. By your example, you have been both helpful and encouraging.

        Having a structured prayer life is important. However, when we pray compassionately for those who are struggling or suffering, we are drawn into their pain. The resulting challenge is to keep at it, and to keep it fresh. Otherwise, our prayer time may become a heavy burden and a duty, instead of a joy.

        The most important part of your response may be this: “But, I also realize that interceding specifically for people is only a portion of what my prayer time is for…” If praying for other people dominates our time with God, then we become the quarter going into the vending machine. I yearn for more than that. I wonder what prayer might become if I stopped praying for everyone’s needs and wants for a period of time, and just crawled on God’s lap for a while. I wonder if I could even go a week without asking for something from Him. Hmmm…

        Again, thanks for listening, Jim, and thanks for your thoughtful response. We are blessed to have a pastor who takes prayer seriously.

  2. May I add another suggestion that may improve one’s prayer life? Pray more spontaneously! A.W. Tozer said, “…his prayers lose their freedom and become less spontaneous, less effective. He finds himself concerned over matters that should give him no concern whatsoever-how much time he spent in prayer yesterday, whether he did or did not cover his prayer list for the day, whether he gets up as early as he used to do or stays up in prayer as late at night. Inevitably, the calendar crowds out the spirit and the face of the clock hides the face of God. Prayer ceases to be the free breath of a ransomed soul and becomes a duty to be fulfilled. And even if under such circumstances he succeeds in making his prayer amount to something, still he is suffering tragic losses and binding upon his soul a yoke from which Christ died to set him free.” – Of God and Men ( Harrisburg,PA Christian Publications 1960)

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