I believe in the power of prayer. I believe when we pray we really are talking to deity, and that this Supreme Power is also my Father who lives in Heaven. He loves me and wants to bless me abundantly if I but will humble myself and ask. And that, unfortunately, is often difficult for me. For whatever reasons, taking the time to really commune with heaven, telling Him of my gratitude, my wishes, my questions, and my pleas for forgiveness, is not something I do automatically, effectively, or regularly. It has been years now of less than amazing prayers coming from my mouth up to God, and I hate it, but habits die hard, don’t they? As I’ve been searching and praying and pondering on ways to improve personal prayers and turn them into powerful personal prayers, I have looked to others who have a better handle on such things. I asked others what they do, I have read books, and I have searched online for help and inspiration. Lucky for you, I have done all the leg work.
A few days ago I had Celeste from A Thing Called Love Blog share about her 4-step prayer plan that helps her align her prayers, thoughts, and intentions to God’s will, making her prayers less about negotiation and more about alignment. Read her post, and then come back and finish reading this post for even more ideas.Below you will find 13 tips and ways you can achieve more powerful personal prayer. I want us all to improve in personal prayers. Part of seeing the benefits of prayers, is remembering to say them. A big one is really preparing for what we’ll say and how we’ll say things, in the hopes that we can record the answers we receive to our humble and sincere prayers. So, let’s all try to give prayers a deeper meaning and purpose, so that the blessings that God has promised each and every one of us can rain more freely down upon us.
Remembering to Pray
Sometimes the hardest thing about praying, is remembering to do it, or simply wanting to do it. It has been said it is the evil spirit that teaches a man not to pray, and that “when we don’t feel like praying, we should pray until we do. You will find that those who wait till the Spirit bids them pray, will never pray much on this earth.” (source) This has certainly been true too often for me. Praying is not my first impulse. For some people it is. We are all given different spiritual gifts, and prayer is an amazing spiritual gift that I think comes more naturally to some. If it doesn’t come easy to you, and you do not have a prayer on your mind all day long, then some of the following ideas can help.
1. Set a time to Pray.
When you create a time to pray, making it part of your regular day, it will slowly develop into a habit. Maybe say a prayer first thing as you roll out of bed, or while you clean up in the bathroom, or before you eat your breakfast. Or maybe you carve out time after the kids (if you have them) are in bed, or before you go to bed. Or perhaps you’ll say a prayer as you sit in your car before you head to work or school that day. Start with creating the habit for just one time of day, and then add another once that habit seems fully formed. I know that at some points in my life I could not fall asleep until I said a prayer before bed!
2. Prayer Reminders.
Perhaps you want to be better about saying more prayers organically during the day, or you need help with reminders to pray at those set times in the point above. Think about put up some post-it notes with the word “PRAY!” on your bathroom mirror, your steering wheel (or somewhere else in your car), or on your front door. Or create a prayer rock that you place on your pillow each morning as you make your bed (assuming you regularly do that), and that you put on the floor at night, so that you’ll bump into in the morning and remember to pray both morning and night. You could also put a prayer rug next to your bedside to encourage you in a similar way. Or if you live with a phone near you most of the time, set phone alerts on your phone with reminders telling you to pray. Or set up an alarm clock or kitchen timer to signal to the whole family that it is time for prayer.
If you really want to improve the prayers you are now saying, it makes a huge difference if you prepare for them. Quickly spouting out the first things that pop up in your mind first thing in the morning or last thing at night, rarely makes for a truly empowering prayer experience, the kind that really transform your heart or the heart of others.
Relax, strike a calming repose, and think. Think about what it is you stand in special need of that day, who else needs special prayers, and what you would like to pray about today. Maybe you’ll mediate and think while in the shower, and then pray once you’re in the car. Maybe you’ll think and mediate as you exercise.
2. Write or talk about what you say in your prayer.
In my family, with my young children, and even with my spouse, we have talked about what we should pray about or who we should pray for, before we begin the official prayer offering. We ask our children to tell us a number of things they are grateful for, or who we should pray for. With my spouse, we have talked together about some common goals and desires, or about a family that needs special blessings (that maybe the other was unaware of) before we pray together. Either way, talking about, or writing down some ideas (so you don’t forget) is a great way to slow down before you start to pray, to focus on what you will be saying, and what you will pray. My new friend Celeste does this now too.
3. Prayer wall/prayer jar
If you are on social media, chances are you see prayer requests pop-up fairly regularly, for friends, for friends of friends, or even for people you may not know. It can be a great idea to put together a prayer wall full of pictures of people you want to pray for. This could include family members (extended and immediate), family friends, missionaries, church leaders, political leaders, and so on. Or you could put together a jar of sticks, or prayer pail, with people’s names written on them, and pick out several for your family to pray over several times that day, or pick a few new names each time you pray together.
Doing this is a great way to teach your children empathy as well, and to harness the power of prayer on someone else’s behalf. Picking and discussing these individuals can help you know who to pray for when you do so.
Offering up Prayers
There are many, many different ways to pray. There are really only a few ways that are considered “wrong.” They include praying on street corners, loudly for all to hear, and putting others down for our own gain and boasting (or praying as the Pharisees). The other way to pray “incorrectly” is to use vain repetition. While I’m not exactly sure what qualifies as vain repetition in prayers, I would think boasting of ourselves qualifies, but also just saying words in order to check prayer off our daily to-do list would also qualify as vain repetition, as it’s useless prayer when our heart is far from our words to God. So, I hope the following with help you avoid being vain in any manner, and give you some ideas on how to pray in a way that suits you and your life.
Since God knows our hearts, and our thoughts, we can offer up prays silently in our minds. This is great for prayers that we kind of narrate as we go about our day, or perhaps when we don’t have the proper time to prepare or get down on our knees, we can offer up a quick, silent prayer, on someone’s behalf, or as we are driving down the road in scary conditions.
2. In our Hearts
We don’t even have to necessarily form the coherent thoughts or words, because we can keep a prayer in our hearts. We can simply live with a full heart, giving thanks from our heart, seeing blessings, and loving fully.
3. Through Song
“The song of the righteous is a prayer unto me.” We can pray to God through music. Some people love to sing (even if they can’t carry a tune). You can choose to sing hymns or other songs of worship during the day, or listen to them, as a form of prayer unto the heavens.
4. Written in a Journal
Have you read the book The Help (affiliate link)? It’s a great book, and one of the parts that stuck out most to me is how Aibileen carefully writes out her prayers every single night. She never says them vocally, but prays through her written word, and painstakingly writes down every word, and every desire on behalf of others in her notebook each day. I had never thought much about writing down a prayer, I guess because we mostly talk about prayers being spoken. But, I think this one example convinced me otherwise. If speaking or singing are not your strong suit, but writing is, consider writing your prayers down, keeping them in a special prayer journal. The bonus of this is being able to see when and who you prayed for, and to more easily see if those prayers were answered, or how they were answered in time.
5. All Day Long.
I started reading the book “Women Living Well: Find Your Joy in God, Your Man, Your Kids, and Your Home” (affiliate) a few months ago, and I could not get enough of her ideas on prayer (really, the whole book is phenomenal for becoming a more godly woman), but one idea in particular stood out to me. As she would go about her day, tidying up her home, she would say prayers for her family members. She would say a prayer for her husband as she made his side of the bed. She would pray for her child as she picked up their laundry or toy. She made actions trigger prayers to heaven on her loved ones behalf. If she touched her wedding ring, she’d say a prayer for her husband. I really love that. I am not good at doing this, but the idea of doing this is just so beautiful to me!
6. Written Prayers
In the church I attend, we don’t use prayer books, or written prayers. Prayers are just offered organically at the pulpit or before meetings begin. We don’t even recite the Lord’s prayer as a congregation. But, lately, I’ve been thinking about the worth of such books and written prayers, because I am often at a loss on how to best pray for individuals, especially individuals in my family. These books of prayers are a beautiful way to bless our families and our lives. Some of these prayers are simply exquisite in their composition, in their format, and in their intent. Just as I shared before, written prayers are powerful and beautiful, and sometimes better express our true desires. Don’t be afraid to pray a written prayer out loud (or in a different way listed above). It is not vain repetition. And you can easily do a Pinterest search for all sorts of excellent written prayers – prayers for spouses (futures ones included), for children, for parents, for friends, for America, for our enemies, for your marriage, for your church, for your pets, for your home, for strength and encouragement. Whatever you are struggling with, there is likely a prayer written that you can pray yourself.
There are just some scriptures that make for a perfect prayer. So many verses from Psalms (sing they are songs) make excellent prayers to God. If you memorize a few verses, you can easily recite them in a time of need, offering it up as a prayer. You can memorize a few bedtime psalms with your kids, or a few of your favorite inspirational passages, or verses that help you remember to keep your cool when you are stressed, and more.
Record the Answers
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard spiritual leaders emphasize the need for us to journal and write down the times we see the hand of God in our lives, the times we see Him answer our prayers. And, I honestly have done this very little! It’s sad! But, writing down the small blessings, the miracles, the abundance of joys, the rays of hope, and the direction we see and receive helps us develop more gratitude and a great testimony of prayer. These could be recorded in a regular journal, or in a word document, or on your phone, or a blog, or perhaps even on Facebook. The point is to record it somewhere you can find it again (because while writing things down is step one, keeping it and having that reminder accessible is step two).
And those are the tips I have! I would love to know how you pray or if you have found a prayer system that has helped you grow in your relationship with God.