Recently I went on a retreat where I spent most of the weekend focusing on one thing: prayer.
Before I went on this retreat, I asked God to use this weekend to strengthen my prayer life. Needless to say, God answered my prayer in many tangible ways. He taught me many things about prayer on this retreat and I want to share a few of them with you.
Here are 5 practices that are currently strengthening my prayer life.
- Pray While Reading Scripture.
You may prayer before and after reading Scripture, but do you pray to God while reading Scripture? This is something that I don’t do. God does so many things in the process of reading Scripture that when I wait until the end to pray, I may forget what God spoke to me about at the beginning.
As God convicts of sin, confess it right there. As God challenges you with something in His Word, pause and ask for wisdom on how to apply it to your life. As you read something encouraging, stop and pray about who you can encourage with that passage of Scripture. The point is to pray before, after and during the process of reading Scripture.
- Pray Short Prayers.
Short prayers are just as important as long ones. Following Paul’s command to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17) requires praying short prayers throughout the day. The reality is that there are certain activities where it’s impractical to pray. For example, we can’t pray the whole time someone is talking to us or we would never listen to what they are saying!
This habit has really helped me to be consistent in prayer. Start praying short prayers like this throughout your day:
“Lord, give me wisdom in this situation.”
“Father, forgive me for what I have done.”
“God, fill me with your Spirit.”
“Jesus, may this act be done for Your glory.”
“Father, bless this person’s life and family.”
Saying short prayers like these are a simple way of communing with God.
- Pray Expectantly With Confidence.
Obviously I can’t muster up confidence in your prayer life, but Jesus can. So I’m gonna let Him speak for Himself:
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24).
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you” (John 16:23).
Cling to Jesus’ promises about the power of prayer. As a word of caution, however, this doesn’t mean that we get whatever we want. Our prayers must align with God’s will. When they do, then we can be confident that God hears us (see 1 John 5:14-15).
- Pray for Others More Than Yourself.
This simple practice is revolutionizing my prayer life. On this retreat I learned that praying for others is much more of a blessing than praying for yourself all the time. Praying for others also changes your innermost being. God gives you more compassion for others when you consistently pray for them.
If you are like me and have trouble praying for others, use the Apostle Paul’s prayers as a guide. Many of his prayers can be read in the following passages: Romans 15:13; 2 Corinthians 1:3-5; 2:14-16; Ephesians 1:15-23; 3:14-21; 6:18-20; Colossians 1:9-14; 4:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 3:10-13; 5:23-25; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4; 2:13-17; Philemon 6.
- Pray in the Spirit.
In Ephesians 6:18, Paul commands us to be “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”
After my retreat, I now have a better understanding of what it means to pray in the Spirit. I think it consists of at least two things:
-Allowing the Spirit to give you the words to pray.
-Praying immediately when the Spirit prompts you.
When I was about to pray for a specific request on my retreat, I thought that my prayer would just be a couple of minutes long. Lo and behold, my prayers were often much longer.
As I thought about it more, I believe that I was praying in the Spirit. The requests were not mine so to speak. I allowing the Spirit to bring to mind what to pray for in each of the requests.
The second part of praying in the Spirit is to pray when the Spirit prompts you. So many times I know that the Spirit is leading me to pray for someone or for a situation and I bail instead. No more telling others I will pray for them and then forgetting five minutes later! I want to pray as soon as the Spirit prompts me.
Thankfully, God is already strengthening my prayer life with these 5 practices. My hope for you and for me is that prayer will eventually become as natural as breathing.
Feel free to share some of your prayer requests in the comments below and I would be honored to pray for you!
This retreat has also inspired me to write a series on Creative Prayer. In this series, I discuss creative practices that are helping my prayer life. There are also resources that you can use to strengthen your prayer life as well!