As Christians, we know prayer is essential to our faith. We know it’s the way we communicate with God, and a major way through which He communicates to us… but that doesn’t make it easy to do. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve started to pray before bed and drifted off to sleep after just a few words, or the times I’ve said the memorized words without meaning any of it.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” When I honestly look at my prayer life, I realized that not only am I not praying continually by any means, I’m really not even praying convincingly.
Half-hearted prayer is common, especially in our busy, distracted world, but there are ways we can fight against it.
Joel Beeke recently shared five methods for fighting half-hearted prayer based on practices of the Puritans that I find extremely helpful:
- Give priority to prayer. “Prayer is the first and most important thing you are called to do,” Beeke says. To me, that means it shouldn’t be the last thing I try to cram into my day as I fall quickly to sleep, but instead my first thought as I wake up. It shouldn’t be an afterthought, but instead my main thought throughout every day.
- Give yourself--not just your time-- to prayer. “Remember that prayer is not an appendix to your life and your work, it is your life-- your real, spiritual life-- and your work. Prayer is the thermometer of your soul,” says Beeke. It’s so easy to go about our lives neglecting prayer, but our lives will be so much healthier when we devote ourselves to praying through all circumstances.
- Give room to prayer. Where do you go to pray? When do you pray? Do you plan to pray? Beeke shares that the Puritans were quite intentional about their prayer-- they created prayer closets to have a devoted space for prayer, they carved out specific times in the morning and evening for prayer, and they committed to praying even when they didn’t feel like it so they could develop the habit. This might look different for us today, but even simple things like sitting in the same place for a few moments in the morning to pray and read your Bible or setting a silent alarm on your phone that reminds you to pray at specific times each day can help you meaningfully engage in prayer.
- Give the Word to prayer. “The way to pray, said the Puritans, is to bring God His own Word,” Beeke shares. “Take His promise and turn them inside out, and send them back up to God, by prayer, pleading with Him to do as He has said.” Whether you choose one specific verse or passage to pray over, or you use the words in Scripture as the words of your own prayers to God, incorporating the Bible to your prayers is powerful.
- Give theocentricity to prayer. The focus of our prayers should not be ourselves, but the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Instead of always complaining to God or demanding His help, shifting our perspective to what Christ has done for us and what the Spirit is doing through us gives us a right focus for prayer. Romans 8:26 tell us, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
We can transform our half-hearted, distracted, disconnected prayer life into a vibrant, meaningful, intentional way of communicating with our Father. With this ideas as our guide, we can better focus on God, center our lives on Him, and devote ourselves to giving Him glory through our lives and our work.
If you feel like God doesn’t hear you when you prayer, Crosswalk.com contributor Cindi McMenamin shares three helpful sources of hope that will encourage you to continue praying!
Publication date: March 31, 2016
Rachel Dawson is the editor of BibleStudyTools.com