Learn the fundamentals of basketball before you practice passing behind your back or slam dunking. Same for prayer:
- Choose a time. What we schedule is important to us. What could beat an appointment with God?! Sadly, it gets overlooked by scheduled meetings. Picking a time doubles the chance of success. And while you are at it, pick a spot. Peter and John went to the temple (place) at the hour of prayer (the time), and God showed up. Daniel prayed three times a day in the same place–and position.
- Make up a prayer agenda. I struggled as a young man with prayer, wondering if I had covered the essentials. So I developed an agenda. I started with worship, because the psalmist invites us to “enter his courts with praise” (P). I thought of who God is and what He does. Then I follow with repentance (R). When we have seen God for who He is, we more clearly see ourselves for who we are. Confessing sin on a regular basis helps walk with a greater consciousness of our need for change and our confidence in the cross. Claiming God’s forgiveness, I turn to asking (A). I start with me, then family, relatives, friends, pastors, etc. I finish my prayer time by yielding (Y) my day, my time, my body, my meetings, my problems, my dreams to the Lord. For years this simple acronym (P-R-A-Y) has helped me grow in prayer.
Why a prayer list? We write up an agenda for important meetings; we want to keep the commitments we make; we want to stay on track; and we want to persist in prayer. The Lord’s Prayer also gives us a wonderful agenda for prayer, phrase by phrase.
- Pray out loud. God told disobedient Israel, needing to return to God, “Take words with you” (Hosea 14:2). Speaking out words allows us to express our heart, and it reinforces its content.
- Practice silence. God can talk. One way to learn to listen is to quit talking. After I have spoken, I give God a chance. Again, a quiet place helps. Come with paper, ready to write anything you think God is saying.
- Don’t be afraid of repetition. Sometimes gratitude is repetitive. People in love could say so ten times and mean it stronger every time.
6. Pray with others. We can learn much by hearing how others express their love for God or how they confess their sins. A friend joins me once a week. I borrowed his list of the attributes of God and it helped me to expand my time of praise. Praying together always upgrades my prayer time.