Overnight prayer came naturally to me even as a new believer.
I loved to tuck myself into bed at night and talk to God – the prayer would only be concluded the next morning with an “amen!”
Jokes aside, the point I’m trying to illustrate is how little patience I had when it came to praying: It was always the last item on my list, and it would never last for more than five minutes.
It felt like talking to a wall. Though I knew prayer was important, I found it boring: I was easily distracted by other things and didn’t know how to be quiet – never patient enough to wait for a reply. I wanted instant gratification but God doesn’t typically work like that.
I’m thankful that my prayer life has improved over the years. And here’s my secret: Practice, practice, practice.
5 WAYS TO PRAY BETTER
1. Set aside a time and place to pray
Set aside time to meet God – you’d do the same for your friends. By doing so, it reinforces the idea that time alone with God must be protected. Choose times when you’re not completely worn out so you won’t zone out. Give God the best time of your day.
Find a quiet, conducive place to pray. You will be less distracted – and don’t bring your laptop or phone! You can start small: 15 minutes is a good place to begin, and you can increase the duration gradually.
2. Prepare your heart
It’s sad to pray without meeting God. Take the time to clear your mind from other thoughts and let your heart be still before Him – it’s difficult to connect to God when you’re all over the place.
Singing or listening to worship songs is a great help. Psalms 100:4 reminds us to enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Worship songs help me to meditate on God’s goodness before I present my requests to Him.
3. Pray from the Word – or pray for a word
One of the challenges I face when praying for an extended period of time is when I run out of things to say. I don’t typically have a list of things to pray for that take more than 10 minutes!
But as Suzette Hattingh puts it, we should pray from the Bible because while Satan can influence our thoughts and emotions – he can never influence God’s Word.
The Bible contains many prayers of blessing, especially in the book of Psalms. To help you, here is a daily prayer guide by Don Whitney.
Another thing I do is to pray and wait for a word from God for a specific situation or person. Not every prayer is matched with a vision or message from God, but that’s OK – I just wait for at least a few minutes.
It can be daunting at first: “What if God doesn’t reply or how do I know it’s not from myself?” But with practice, we become more familiar with God’s voice.
Give God the best time of your day.
4. Do it with friends
My cell group recently started a weekly Whatsapp prayer activity: We compile a list of prayer requests beforehand and meet online every Tuesday night. For at least an hour, we text in the chat if anyone receives a word or vision from God.
The purpose of such an exercise is to train one’s stamina for extended prayer. And there’s accountability when you pray with friends: They can help ensure you’re praying on a regular basis. Knowing others are praying spurs me on to pray as well!
5. Consistency is key
No doubt, the initial stages of learning how to pray will be challenging. It’s not easy to learn to be still when we are so accustomed to a frenetic life. The only antidote is practice – practise until you’ve learnt how to slow yourself down and to be still with God.
Besides the weekly prayer activity with my cell group, I try to set aside another 2 hours each week to pray for my friends and family. And when I get up in the morning, I say a quick prayer of thanksgiving as my way of greeting Him.
I try to incorporate praying into my daily life so that talking to God becomes second nature. Don’t give up when it’s hard – persevere because it’s worth it!
I once told a friend about how I used to doze off while praying. She just laughed and said, “I don’t think God was angry. How can a Father get angry at a child who falls asleep while talking to her dad? It’s so cute!”
There is grace. If you’ve just started on the journey of learning how to pray, don’t be too discouraged when you can’t seem to pay full attention. I believe God is pleased you are making a sincere effort.
That being said, we can’t remain a child forever. We need to continually mature in the way we connect with God. Keep building your endurance for prayer. They are an acknowledgement that God is God.
When we pray, we receive relief by the assurance we no longer have to depend on ourselves, but we have a mighty God to turn to. His voice is a soothing balm to the worried soul. Once our heart and attitude towards God are right, the rest is simply a matter of practice and discipline.
Wait for God – and let Him be the one who ends the conversation the next you pray. After all, a conversation is a two-way thing.
The Father longs to listen and talk to you.