Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Christ expected us to have daily time alone with Him in prayer (Matthew 6:6-11). Most Christians seem to struggle with the consistency of this practice and the depth of their experience of God in prayer.
I really started walking with the Lord in high school. I heard Christians should have a personal prayer time to meet with God, yet I was very inconsistent. I tried different devotional books with measures of success but they never seemed to work for long. A greater problem was that I did not feel I was really meeting with God and worshipping Him. It mostly seemed like I added new information. My mind grew but my heart was rarely stirred or warmed. There was not enough direct interaction with the Lord through His Word.
My parents were very consistent in their time alone with the Lord. Dad would read five Psalms and a Proverb a day. Both journaled out their prayers and seemed to really grow in loving God with their mind, as well as their heart and soul. I asked Dad how this had become a reality in his life.
He told me he heard Charles Stanley say, “If you’ll give God thirty minutes a day in prayer every day He will radically change your life.” Dad said, “I started that ten years ago. God really has changed my whole life.” I was probably 16 years old, zealous and overconfident so naturally I said, “I’m going to do that!”
The first few months I probably attempted this every other day. It was closer to twenty minutes. I often slept half the time and day dreamed the other half. But I do have distinct memories of coming home after school, going to my room, reading my Bible and praying, “Jesus, when you walked on earth your disciples asked you ‘Teach us to pray’ and you did. Teach me.”
After months of perseverance, my time in prayer became more consistent, though not daily. Sometimes thirty minutes would fly by and I naturally wanted to spend more time alone with the Lord. This practice has continued in my life for many years now by God’s grace.
Someone said, “If you aim at nothing you’ll hit it every time.” Having a realistic plan for personal time alone with the Lord can be a game changer. Otherwise you are likely to flounder.
WHAT TO PRAY
I try to consistently read through the Bible taking 2 chapters a day just to read. It’s best for me to have a smaller portion to go deeper. Short Bible reading and study leads to meditation, which leads to prayer, which leads to worship, which leads to life change.
I primarily focus on a Psalm or a portion of a Psalm a day, six to twelve verses if the Psalm is longer. I’ll usually read a very short portion of a commentary or devotional on that Psalm so that I have a good understanding of what is going on. Context in God’s Word is crucial to understand the passage.
Then I’ll read the Psalm verse by verse while journaling along with the Psalm. If I’m reading Psalm 1:1 I’ll take the truth of that verse and turn it into a personal prayer for myself. I might write down “Lord I want to be blessed by You. Give me wisdom about things and people I allow to influence me. If there’s anything I’m watching on TV or listening to on the radio that is influencing me to sin please convict me.”
The Psalms are prayers, meditations and worship songs. If you want to pray, meditate and worship the Lord, Psalms may be the best way to naturally do that. Any portion of God’s Word can be a diving board into prayer but the Psalms seem best.
WHEN TO PRAY
For many the morning is best, with more silence and potential to influence your whole day. But the Bible never says mornings are always better for private prayer. Choose the time that works best for you.
I try to meet with God personally first thing in the day. Sometimes a busy schedule or a tired body prevents this. Then I’ll try and take the first free time I have later in the day, whether that is a lunch break or ten pm after all kids are in bed, to pull away and meet with God.
HOW TO PRAY
If you struggle with consistency, there is probably some lack of delight in your prayer life. That is common and yet sinful. We must repent and ask for the grace of Christ to forgive us and change us.
Make a plan and commit to it. Ask for accountability. Maybe even start by praying with others more disciplined and delighted in this area. Persevere in prayer even when you don’t feel like it. Beg God to change your desires.
I often start to pray with minimal desire and more discipline. By God’s grace as I persevere in faithfulness God draws near. James 4:8 is a promise I claim in prayer often. Do all you can to meet with the Lord in His Word and prayer and see if He does not draw near to you and change you.
Desire plus discipline will eventually lead to delight (Psalm 37:4). One of the main things that we should pray for is to be conformed to the image of Christ. Jesus loved to be alone with His Father (Luke 5:16). So should we. Beg the Lord to change your heart until you love to pray, long to meditate, and anticipate times of private worship. If Christ on earth needed a regular pattern of prayer, certainly we do.
God loves to give good gifts to His children. Discipline and delight in prayer are two to ask for. “You will seek Me and you will find Me. When you seek Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13