Prayer is both easy and hard at the same time. It’s easy, because anyone can do it. There are no secrets other than to communicate openly with God. It’s hard, because prayer doesn’t come naturally to any of us. We all feel like beginners when it comes to prayer.
Prayer is one of the key practices that can help us grow. Here are some simple instructions on how to build a prayer habit.
One of the best things we can do to develop a prayer habit is to cultivate a mindset of dependence. In his excellent book A Praying Life, Paul Miller reminds us that Jesus told us to come to God like children. “The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness. Come overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind. Come messy.”
When we realize that we’re dependent on God, it will be much easier to pray because we know we need him. I try to remind myself often that I don’t have what it takes to live life on my own. It makes it much easier to ask God for his help in every part of my life.
Drop the Act
I don’t know where I got the idea, but I often think that I need to pull myself together before I can pray. The truth is the opposite: we need to stop pretending and to come to God just as we are. Our prayer lives improve when we drop the act and come to God in complete honesty.
Tell God what’s on your mind. Tell him the good, but also tell him about the bad and the ugly. Share your struggles with God. You won’t surprise him. As one author writes, spill your guts to God.
Try Both Scheduled and Unscheduled Prayer
I would never pray without structure. Every morning, as part of my morning routine, I spend some time praying. If I didn’t schedule prayer, then my prayer life would be irregular. Pick a time that works for you, and schedule some time to pray, even if it’s short.
But we also need unscheduled prayer. It’s what Paul talks about in 1 Thessalonians 5:17: “Pray without ceasing.” Never stop praying. Talk to God throughout the day about whatever is going on. Live your entire life as one ongoing conversation with God.
Try Both Structured and Unstructured Prayer
In the same way, try both structured and unstructured prayer.
Sometimes I pray from a list. I love PrayerMate, which allows me to enter prayer requests in categories (family, church, friends, etc.) and prompts me to pray through topics every day. It helps me to remember to pray for things I’d otherwise forget. I also love to journal prayer. I just open an app or journal and begin to tell God what’s on my mind. I need both kinds of prayer.
The most important thing is to just start. If any of the suggestions above make it harder to pray, ignore them. Just start praying. Tell God what’s on your mind.
Building a prayer habit is important for our lives. There’s no better time to start than now.