How To Pray
"Pray continually" —1 Thessalonians 5:17
Is it possible to pray continually? I believe it is. No only that, it should be the ultimate goal of every Christian interested in pursuing a relationship with God. But how do we achieve this ultimate goal? How do we persist in this prayer journey? Three steps would put you on the road: understand prayer, make prayer a daily habit, and grow in prayer.
Paul's urging that we pray continually does not mean that we should spend the entire day on our knees. What the apostle is advocating is a lifestyle that is so much in tune with God that prayer becomes as natural and as essential as breathing. It is indeed God's will for us: "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians5:16-18).
To understand prayer, study carefully from the Scripture what prayer is and what it involves. Take one step at a time. Learning to understand another person takes time. And how much more to get acquainted with God! Persevere, for "perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:4). Ask God to help you learn how to pray and to have faith. He will answer you. "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5). Ask a fellow Christian who has experienced the power of prayer. Above all, begin and keep praying, for prayer is just talking to God as to a friend.
Make prayer a daily habit
Prayer is to the soul as food is to the body. Your spiritual life cannot survive without prayer. Make it a habit to approach God as often as possible. Practice the power of prayer everyday. Growth in prayer is not a result of theoretical study, but of getting on your knees. Here are some suggestions to help you develop a regular prayer habit:
Find a good place. Just as you may have a special place for studying school subjects, select a place free from distractions in which to study God's Word and to talk to Him.
Have a regular time. Find the most convenient time when you can be alone with God. It can be anytime, as long as it is a regular appointment that you long to keep with your Maker. Decide the length of time you want to spend in prayer and stick to it.
This is where most people have trouble. When they aren't able to fulfill the time obligation that they intended, they get discouraged and experience guilt. You must realize that a regular prayer time with God is a habit that must be created, a pattern of activity that must be set up, just as you discipline yourself to form other good habits. It takes time, and it is subject to the "emergencies" of life that steal time away from all of us. Try not to beat yourself emotionally when you don't accomplish your goal, but don't give up. You will find that it gets easier with time.
Structure your prayer. There are many different methods to structure your prayer. Choose one that works best for you, or try different approaches, depending on your mood. Here are some that have worked for others:
- Keep a journal. Jot down your thoughts, feelings, and needs.Make an entry for others who may have requested you to pray for them. Record your joys and concerns, as well as your answered prayers. Such a journal will not only help you structure your prayers, but will also serve as a kind of diary of your spiritual journey.
- Sing, play or hum praise music to express your prayers to God.
- Use Christian meditational ideas to help you focus on God. With the help of a concordance, see what the Bible says about meditation.
- Adopt a prayer format using the acronym ACTS: A=Adoration; C=Confession; T=Thanksgiving; S=Supplication (asking for God's help for you and others).
- Find inspiration in nature. Look out the window, take a walk and as you enjoy nature, connect your thoughts with the God of nature.
Grow in prayer
Once you have established a close and vibrant relationship with God through prayer, you might want to try some of the "graduate" level methods of prayer that will help you "pray continually":
- Have a conversation with God. Consecrate your "inner voice" to God, and turn your inner commentary into a conversation with Him. Talk to Him about the activities of the day as they occur and immediately turn over all worries to Him.
- Set up formal times of prayer. Daniel prayed morning, noon, and night. Besides your regular prayer time with God, it is good to get in the habit of praying at certain other times to help turn your thoughts back to Him.
- Consecrate daily acts. Every-thing you do can be done to the glory of God, if you dedicate each activity to Him.
- Use "breath prayers." These are short prayers like "Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me" that can be mentally said in rhythm to your breathing pattern. This method can eventually make prayer a part of your very soul as the prayer expands to fill your subconscious.
Be assured that God will continue to lead you on if you persevere in understanding the mysteries of communication with Him.
Finally, I offer my prayer: Lord, give me the wisdom to learn, the courage to try, and the perseverance to continue.
A free-lance writer, Kris Coffin Stevenson lives in Beltsville, Maryland, U.S.A.. She will soon publish through Pacific Press a practical book on prayer.
*All Bible passages are quoted from the New International Version.