A strong prayer life is an essential foundation for any godly leader.
And yet, for many of us, it’s one of the most neglected parts of our walk with God.
If you’re anything like me, you probably won’t win any awards for your prayer life.
I’ve got so much to do everyday! It’s hard to make time and quiet my heart to speak and listen to God. My mind easily wonders away to non-prayer thoughts, I prefer action over contemplation, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m prone to falling asleep during prayer (my patient wife can attest to that last one).
And yet, when you look to the great spiritual movements of the past, you can see the important role prayer played.
The Bible itself is full of examples of the power of prayer, and Jesus himself demonstrates its importance. He frequently went away to pray, even when large crowds clamoured for his attention.
As Luke 5:16 says, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
Just because I’m not a natural prayer warrior does not mean I can skip it. If you want to be a Godly leader and make a positive difference in your family, community, and place of work, you need to pray.
Over the years I’ve learned a few creative and proven ways to improve prayer life, and today I’m going to share those with you.
While not every one of these ideas will fit your style, I believe many of them will. Try them out and see which ones stick!
Let’s do this:
Start with an Outline
One of the simplest, most practical ways to improve your prayer life is to start by writing an outline.
An outline gives you a chance to consider what you want to pray for and then actually pray for those things. It will curb distractions and keep you on point. It will prevent you from forgetting things you really want to pray for as well.
You can obviously outline however you want, but if you’re looking for a starting point there are a couple popular templates you can use for your prayer outline:
Praise: Start by praising God for who He is and what He has done
Repent: Confess your sins and repent of them
Ask for others: Make prayer requests on behalf of others in your life
Your own needs: Pray for the things you need or want in life
Write a Prayer Journal (and then come back to it)
If you’re going to write down an outline, you might as well write them down in some kind of journal or notepad.
Sure, you could write them down on random pieces of paper and then throw those away, but keeping a record of what you pray for has a huge benefit: you can look back to see how God answered your prayer.
Every few months or weeks you can look back and see what happened with the things you prayed for. You might be surprised by the number of things God answered, or you might be surprised to see how your heart changed on a certain matter.
If you struggle to believe in the power of prayer, then write your requests down and see what happens as you continually pray for them.
Create a Prayer Calendar
If daily journaling seems like too much work, consider creating a prayer calendar. Plan out the people and things you want to pray for each day of the week or month. This is a great Sabbath day activity!
You can pray for the same things each week or you can review it and rewrite it each week.
This long-term planning can help you remember to pray for people in your life. You can add notes for the different people you pray for as well so that you can pray for them specifically.
Having a prayer calendar also frees up planning time each day and allows you to jump straight into prayer.
It can be easy to pray with generics – “bless our family, thanks for all you do, etc.” The problem with this is, we neglect to ask God for what we truly need or praise Him for what He has done.
Praying specifically allows us to actually track the way God answers prayers. “Blessing” can be hard to identify, but you can recognize when God answers your prayers for a successful job interview. Praying for “people” to come to faith is good, but it’s much better to pray for specific people.
Specific prayers also strengthen our relationship with God, just like they do with people.
When someone asks you, “how are you doing?” Do you simply reply with “good?” Or can you get specific and share your struggles and successes?
Getting specific brings down walls and draws you closer in any relationship, and this is particularly true with prayer.
I was a big fan of the BBC version of Sherlock. Both Sherlock and one of the villain’s in the series had, what they called, a “mind palace.”
They memorized everything they could and stored it in their brain. It took time to access all the info, so each of them would remove all distractions so they could more effectively think and remember.
We often need to do the same thing when we pray. Find a place that is quiet and distraction free, and pray there on a regular basis. Hopefully you can get there in a less rude way than Sherlock did in the video!
Greg Stier refers to this as a prayer hot spot – it’s simply a go-to place when you want to quickly go deep in prayer. Perhaps there is a chair or a room in your house that you can visit and pray without distractions. Maybe it’s the shower. Maybe it’s a trail near your home.
Just like Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (Luke 5:16), we need to find our lonely place as well.
Go on a Prayer Walk
One of the best ways to wake up is to go on a walk. So if you, like me, struggle to stay awake while you pray then try a prayer walk.
There are a few popular ways or purposes you can get the most out of a prayer walk:
Want to pray for your neighborhood and the people who live there? Walk through it and pray for each house as you go.
Want to pray for the people you work with? Go for a walk around your office during your break and pray for everyone.
Want to pray for your family and your guests? Prayer walk around your house and pray for each person in the room or what happens in the room.
Just need to get away and remove distractions? Prayer walk through a nature trail or park.
That’s a small sample – you can walk and pray about anything. Go through your prayer outline, or just take a walk with God and see what comes to mind.
Popsicle Sticks at the Dinner Table
I got this idea from my cousin. They keep two mason jars on their dinner table, and fill one with popsicle sticks. Each stick has a person’s name on it. Family, friends, co-workers, and anyone else that they want to prayer for has their own prayer stick.
Each night, they pull one of the sticks and pray for the person (or people) on the stick. They place it in the second jar until all the sticks from the first jar are gone. Then, they simply start over.
It helps you to remember to actually pray for people.
It gets the whole family involved in praying for others, including your kids if you have them.
It prevents prayer before meals from feeling too routine.
Keeps people you care about fresh in your heart and mind.
Pray with your Spouse
There are several benefits to praying with your spouse on a regular basis. It builds intimacy, keeps you involved in each other’s lives, and studies have shown that it drastically reduces divorce rate.
Despite this, a FamilyLife® survey revealed that less than 8% of Christian married couples actually pray together on a regular basis.
Praying with your spouse is key to a spiritual foundation in your marriage and better enables you to serve your husband or wife. I challenge you to pick a time each day (either first thing or at the end of the day) to pray with your spouse.
Most of the ideas so far have focussed on individual prayer, but there is great value in praying with a group.
Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Something about group prayer makes it easier to connect with God. He created us as individuals, but He also created us for community.
Praying with a group allows you to connect with others on a deeper level. It provides encouragement and accountability in your own walk with God. You can learn from the way other people pray. You can become a better leader and servant.
In the middle of a conversation with the King of Persia, Nehemiah prays to God. I’m sure he also prayed before and after the conversation, but as soon as he recognized his need for God’s help, he chooses to pray.
Prayer life is not limited to specific times in the day. Like Nehemiah, we should never neglect an opportunity to pray in the moment.
Pray through Scripture verses
When you talk to people, one effective way to ensure clear communication is to repeat what they say back to them.
We can do the same thing with God by praying scripture back to Him.
Praying through scripture enhances our prayer life in several ways:
It reminds us of God’s truths
It helps us hear from God
It helps our hearts align with our Father
It keeps us focussed
If you want some guidance on how to actually pray through scripture, check out Justin Taylor’s article on the Gospel Coalition, how to pray through a Psalm.
Text Message Length Prayers
A solid piece of marriage advice I received a few years back was to send my wife a text message from work. It didn’t have to be anything special, just a quick note to let her know I was thinking of her that day.
I think we can do the same thing with God. Odds are you don’t actually have the good Lord’s phone number, but short, tiny prayers throughout the day can really go a long way in developing a stronger relationship.
This short prayer simply gives you a chance to tell God you’re thinking about Him, working to glorify Him, and looking forward to spending more time with Him later in the day.
Schedule Prayer Times each day
Erik Raymond recognized his never ending need for prayer when he realized that Tom Brady, one of the best quarterbacks ever, still schedules time with a private quarterbacks coach.
Most athletes have a routine for game days. They might wake up at a specific time, eat a certain meal, do certain stretches, or listen to specific music. They do these things to help them focus and ensure they’re in the right mindset for competition.
These rituals aren’t just done in the morning or 5 minutes before start time, they happen throughout the day and the game.
In the same way, we can and should schedule times throughout each day where we can do our gameday “prayer routine.” Keeping to this schedule helps us get in the mindset to pray and helps us to continually grow in our passion for prayer.
Change your Posture
There is a lot of research that shows our posture can actually influence the way we think or feel.
I took a few improv acting classes and one of the exercises we did demonstrated this. We were first told to walk around with our shoulders back and our heads held high. It was amazing how quickly we felt confident.
Then we tried the opposite – we walked around with our shoulders slumped and our head down. The confidence disappeared and you could feel the insecurity creep in.
If you’re struggling to connect with God while you pray, consider changing your posture.