God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.
Prayer is nothing else than a sense of God’s presence.
Prayer is not an exercise. It is the life of the saint.
Prayer is so much larger than just the bowing of a head and whispering to God. It is a life-giving, life-changing conversation with God. Most conversations have two sides â€“ the listening and the speaking side. No one likes to find themselves on the wrong end of a one-way conversation and I think God is the same way.
So when we speak of prayer â€“ our definition must include listening. If your current prayer life does not have extended periods of listening â€“ how effective can it really be? How life-giving and life-changing can a â€˜prayer lifeâ€™ be without ever listening to Him?
Paul writes to pray without ceasing, just like we breathe. That might be the best way to think of prayer â€“ spiritual breathing. Instead of spending any more time defining what prayer is, letâ€™s explore some practical ways to do it.
How To Pray, by Jesus
Jesusâ€™ teaching on how to pray is nothing short of heretical. In Matthew 6:7-13, He lays down five principles that we still struggle with.
1. When you prayâ€¦
Itâ€™s not an â€œifâ€ statement. It is expected of anybody who wants to know God.
2. Get aloneâ€¦
Itâ€™s not for show. He desires an intimate conversation with us.
3. To your daddyâ€¦
Heâ€™s not distant or unapproachable. Climb up in His lap, enjoy the audience.
4. Donâ€™t use big wordsâ€¦
You be you, let God be God. Speak plain and simple. You canâ€™t impress Him.
5. Let Him reorient your worldâ€¦
Check out the basic layout of his model prayer.
You are holy, Iâ€™m not.
You are the king, Iâ€™m not.
You take care of my needs, nobody else â€“ including me.
You forgive and restore me in the same manner I do others.
You keep leading, not me.
It Canâ€™t Be That Simpleâ€¦can it?
It is that simple, but that doesnâ€™t necessarily translate into easy. Iâ€™m probably the least qualified to write on this subject. My name is Captain Distraction when it comes to prayer. So just for the sake of vulnerability, I want to share some ideas and tools that have helped me.
Write â€˜em down
Writing prayers down slows me down â€“ which is a good thing. My mind can get going 500 mph and that is when the distractions and rabbit trails start coming in. So journaling helps with this. It also allows the privilege of seeing God working. Sometimes it is in the form of Him directly intervening, more times it is in the form of Him patiently listening to me rant madly, then changing my heart so that eventually my prayer changed.
Read other peopleâ€™s prayers
There are going to be dry times. We donâ€™t have to waddle through them alone. Take comfort and insight from others who have been down that road. The Book of Common Prayer is one of many possible resources. Personal journals and devotion books are other great resources.
Pray through Scripture
Take a psalm or passage you are wrestling with and just pray through it with the Father.
Have a distraction pad
Ever notice how crystal clear a â€œget done listâ€ gets inside your mind once you get quiet enough to hear God? I now have a distraction column in my journal. Just write the distraction, Iâ€™ll get to it when I get done.
Have a sanctuary and an appointment
My sanctuary is a coffee shop in downtown Little Rock and we (the Father and I) meet there every Monday morning for an hour or two. Most weeks I get another day in as well, but I always get Monday. Your schedule might not have that kind of flexibility, but I challenge you to find it. For me, itâ€™s better to find one extended time with Him to do nothing but listen and converse with Him.
Mix it up
Read, draw, write, talk out loud, get in a park, get quiet in a library, or put on some headphones and sing as loud as you can to Him. Spend some creative energy with your time of listening and engaging Him.
I turn off my radio a lot now. I just shut it off and drive in the quiet, listening to Him. If I drive to an appointment and forget to shut it off, I shut it off on the way back. My goal is to spend as much time in quiet as I do in noise.
These are just starting points from a fellow sojourner. What are yours?