How can we win the battle with weak, wandering prayers? I have not yet graduated from the school of prayer, but here are 10 suggestions I have found helpful in my own conversations with God.
1. Be honest. Don’t try to hide anything from God or sugarcoat your true thoughts and feelings. No issues you are dealing with, including your struggles in prayer, come as a surprise to the Lord.
2. Be quiet. In prayer, listening is as important as talking. God invites you to be at peace in his presence. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
3. Write. You may find it helpful to keep a prayer journal on paper or on your computer. David wrote many prayers in the Psalms. It keeps your mind from wandering when you write down your thoughts.
4. “Pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer is more than a ritual; it’s an ongoing conversation. Talk with the Lord throughout the day while you drive, work, rest, and play.
5. Partner with others. Meet weekly or bi-weekly with a small group of believers and pray with them.
6. Make a list. A simple list of prayer requests—with different topics assigned to each day—can organize your thoughts and keep you from feeling overwhelmed. Though I pray for her every day, on Monday I offer extra prayer for my wife Candy, and I’ve assigned a different day of the week to pray for each of my children and grandchildren. My prayer list, which I keep tucked inside the front cover of my Bible, also includes a few “mountain-moving” issues that are too complicated for me to resolve. Over time, I’ve seen God answer several of these impossible-looking prayers.
7. Trust. Prayer should be experienced even though it cannot always be explained. God is our Father, not a vending machine—a person, not a robot. He answers prayer according to his perfect will. Sometimes he says “yes,” sometimes “no,” sometimes “wait,” and sometimes simply, “I’m here.”
8. Start your day with prayer. The British preacher Charles Spurgeon suggested, “When you are at home, let no one see your face till God has seen it.” You may want to read a few verses from the Psalms and the book of Proverbs as part of your morning routine.
9. Quit beating yourself up, and keep lifting your prayers up. Don’t evaluate your prayers merely by your emotional responses, and don’t be discouraged when prayer feels like hard work. Time with the Lord is well-spent even on ordinary days when you don’t feel particularly inspired.
10. Don’t view prayer as a religious performance. The goal isn’t to impress anyone (including God), but to share a relationship with your heavenly Father. If God passed out merit points based on outward performance, the Pharisees would have earned the highest scores of all, but Jesus warned his disciples not to follow the example of those who “for a show make lengthy prayers” (Luke 20:47).
So as a fellow student in the school of prayer, let me encourage you. When life knocks you down—when your faith wavers, your voice stammers, and your words lack eloquence—keep lifting up your prayers. Open your heart to the heavenly Father. Max Lucado put it well: “It is hard to stumble when you are on your knees.”
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
This article is adapted from a new book by David Faust, Lifted by Love: Stepping Up When Life Knocks You Down (Climb Resources, 2018). To order copies of the book, contact Sandy McCarthy at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, SandyM@east91st.org.
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Lesson based on The Lookout’s Scope and Sequence ©2018. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.