I grew up in church and prayer was a daily part of life throughout my early education at a Christian school. That being said, I had a strange epiphany in my early college years at the realization that I didn’t really understand why I was praying.

Have you had similar thoughts? As soon as you utter, “Amen,” you start to doubt the words that proceeded it. If God is good, why is He waiting on me to pray to bless me, heal that friend, or right that injustice? And if He already has those things in mind, then why am I praying at all?

Why Pray?

Theologians have debated and dissected those questions for centuries. I can’t provide a concise answer in a simple blog post. What I can do, however, is remind us all that we live in a God-centric (not “us” centric) universe. Thus, when we don’t understand something about God, that doesn’t mean He is not real or that He isn’t good; it means we are finite humans that can’t understand an infinite, holy, just Creator. And when I look at the goofs and sins I’ve committed even this past week, that seems about right to me.

And while I can’t fully explain the theology of prayer, I can explain a little bit about relationships. If you love someone, you talk to them. You relax and talk and (read this part carefully) listen.

Does this feel foreign to you? I get it. I’ve been there too. Here are a few practical ways to grow in your prayer life.

How to Start Praying

1. Take regular prayer walks

During this COVID season, talking leisurely prayer walks in the morning has become one of my favorite things to do. It helps set my agenda for the day and, as I greet the sunrise, I am humbled yet again by His mercies that are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-23). While reading through Prayer by Tim Keller, I was encouraged to pray through the Lord’s Prayer during these morning prayer walks (or, on the days I don’t have time to walk, on my commute to work). I also have been doing so in the evenings before going to bed. As you engage in this practice, let yourself expand upon certain points and linger on others–follow where the Spirit might lead you and/or where your heart might be wrestling.

For example, your prayer might go something like this, “Oh Lord, you are my Father. I am so thankful that when I feel alone or confused, I can look to You as the perfect Father. You never leave or forsake me.”

For a more baked-out explanation of this spiritual discipline, I encourage you to listen to Tim Keller’s sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer. It is one of the best (no joke) series I’ve ever heard.

2. Don’t say you’ll pray. do it.

We’re all guilty of uttering the Christianese sentiment, “I’ll pray for you.” Often, what we really mean is, “Oh I’m sorry.” Rarely do we actually remember to pray for all the things we say that we’ll pray for. After being convicted of this a few years ago, I began praying right then and there. I can’t recall which book or sermon I heard this suggestion in. I wish I could, as it’s been a great help to me. Basically, if someone texts about a serious trial, I will stop, pray, and then text: “I just stopped to pray for you.” Sometimes, I’ll even text back a prayer or call the person to pray.

Try this. It’ll be a great encouragement to you and those you interact with.

3. Don’t Let Feelings Dictate Your Prayer Life

Picture this with me: your dad walks into the room at the end of a day. He’s sitting right next to you, quietly waiting as you text a friend, scroll through Netflix, and grab a bite to eat. As you munch on popcorn, you don’t even shift your gaze from the screen to your dad. He’ll be there later, you tell yourself. I’ll just finish these things first.

If we were observing that situation, any one of us would be stunned at the obvious rudeness it conveys. Sure, you might not feel like talking to your dad all the time, but he’s your father. You love him and owe him that respect. Do you get where I’m going with this?

The example isn’t meant to guilt-trip you (or me!) into prayer. Rather, it’s to remind us all that we can’t rely on our emotions. The Creator of the universe is right next to us, longing to have an intimate relationship. Our feeling are fickle; our “priorities” are unimportant. Anything we have to do should come second to time with our heavenly Father.

4. Journal your prayers

As a writer, I can’t recommend this highly enough. Even if you typically turn up your nose to the word “journaling,” I encourage you to develop a habit of writing out your thoughts and feelings to the Lord. You’d be surprised how much insight you can gain when forced to slow your thinking to the pace of a pen. Additionally, the act of writing is a proven “solidifier.” In other words: the act of journaling about your struggles and the corresponding truths of God helps override your fickle emotions. Writing down Scriptural promises helps you remember: the gospel is true!

5. Listen

Born in 1614, Brother Lawrence lived during an era of simplicity in comparison to our modern world. So why is has his insight on practicing God’s presence stood the test of time? Because his experience with monotony and insignificance is all-too similar to our reality today. In Practicing His Presence, Brother Lawrence describes his daily duties in the monastery which, for most of his life, consisted of scrubbing and drying dishes. And you thought your day was boring!

In this humbling task, Brother Lawrence learned the spiritual discipline of listening for God, using the dull days to electrify his fervor for God. And according to him, developing the practice (though challenging) is quite simple. Start by selecting one hour each day to practice God’s presence. Be as aware of God as you can during that hour (I’ve personally found that morning is the best time for this). Thank Him, talk to Him, and just enjoy Him. Then, as Brother Lawrence advises, grow that hour to two hours and then three. Before long, you will be thinking of God and speaking with God more often than ever before.

I try to revisit this discipline once or twice a year–having found that my devotion to God is easily swayed and diminished by the so-called “urgent” tasks around me.

Other Helpful Resources

There you have it–five practical ways to grow in your prayer life. Whether prayer is a foreign concept or is a dear old friend, I pray these tips will encourage you as they encourage me. Below are afew other resources I’ve found helpful. Are there books, sermons, or habits that have helped you? Share them! I’d love to hear how God is speaking to you!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s