Prayer is perhaps one of the most misunderstood, guilt associated, under utilized disciplines in the Christian faith, and all three of those things work against each other. It’s under utilized because we don’t fully understand it and we feel guilty because we under utilize it. Most people probably wish they prayed more and most likely wish they prayed more efficiently.
Efficiency for me is the key. When I say efficient, I’m not talking about time spent vs. how many prayers were answered in my favor. I’m talking about making the most out of my prayer life.
Prayer is not about the answer you receive as much as it is the attitude in which it is relayed. God’s not looking for a forced ritual, He wants a faithful relationship in our prayers. Just as I will naturally spend time talking to someone I love, I should be naturally spending time talking to the God I love. But this is where I think some people get slightly off the rails when it comes to prayer. I’m all for “praying continually” as the Scripture tells us to do, but I think some people claim they pray continually so they can avoid actually praying consistently.
[Tweet “I think some people claim they pray continually so they can avoid actually praying consistently.”]
I know I’ve struggled with this in my own life. As I said, I’m all for praying continually. I think we should always have our hearts open to hear from God and our minds ready to cry out to God, but this for me actually causes my prayer life to suffer not to succeed. When I finally got serious about becoming more efficient in my prayer life, I now recognize 5 things that helped me get there.
1. I write down my prayer requests — Like you, there are literally dozens, if not hundreds of things in my life that I feel need to be prayed for. This can be overwhelming to keep track of. When I would “pray continually” I found myself praying inconsistently for things I wanted to pray for regularly. Something would happen, an event would pass and I would say, “Oh yeah, I wanted to pray for that.” Writing down my requests not only made me more efficient in my praying, but it also made me more aware of what God was doing.
I number all my specific prayer requests and I write down the date I started praying it. Right now I’m on prayer #3,785 since I started this process. That prayer request stays “open” until God answers it with a “yes” or “no”. Once God answers the request, I put a check mark over the number in my prayer journal (X it out if it’s a no), go to the end of my list, write the same number, circle that number and write down the date it was answered and a brief explanation on how it was answered. It’s been amazing for me to go back and actually see all that God has done in my life and in our church. I have faith to ask for new things because I see God’s faithfulness in the past. I have requests on there about my kids’ future spouses, my future grandkids and about people I may never see again but I’m praying for their salvation.
[Tweet “I have faith to ask for new things because I see God’s faithfulness in the past. “]
2. I organized my prayers into days — As you can imagine, 3,785 specific prayer requests, plus a bunch of daily prayers over my family, friends, our church, etc. became an overwhelming feat. So as my prayers became more numerous, in order to stay efficient I started moving specific prayers to certain days. For instance, I don’t pray for every family member every day. I pray for my wife every day, but I split up my four kids onto Monday through Thursday. My extended family I spread out over weeks at a time. For instance, every Tuesday I pray for some specific leaders in my life (Political, social, spiritual), but I don’t pray for every one every Tuesday. I broke down the list of leaders to where I’m praying for one of them every Tuesday, but all of them don’t get prayed for until a rotation of several weeks passes. I did the same thing with all of my numbered prayer requests. I had to break them down into days or I would never get through the list. This has helped me remain efficient on praying for specific things in an organized fashion.
3. I started memorizing Scripture — There is an amazing app out there called “Scripture Typer”. It has revolutionized the way I pray. If we believe that the Bible IS God’s Word to us, then I wanted to store more of it in my heart and tie it to my prayers. Right now in Scripture Typer I have 420 verses that I’m working on. Again, it breaks it down into bite size daily chunks. Many of these Scriptures I have tied to specific prayer requests over my children, my wife, our church or other prayer needs. It’s so powerful for me to seek God on a specific need and tie part of His Word to my request. I’m literally praying God’s Words back to Him.
4. I read books on praying — There are too many books on prayer out there for me to reference, but the one that changed my life the most was “The Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson. The Circle Maker is an inspiring look at the power of prayer in your personal life. It literally changed the way I prayed. Because of Mark’s book, I have prayed circles around my home, around our church and actually drove an entire circle around our state to seek God on behalf of Wyoming. There are other great books out there, but this one is on the top of my list for people looking to get serious with prayer. The companion 40 day devotional that goes with it called “Draw The Circle” is a must read/do as well.
5. I stopped beating myself up for missing a day — One of the biggest road blocks to getting more efficient in prayer is to beat ourselves up about missing a day. I don’t spend un-interrupted prayer time every day of my life. I can honestly say now that it’s most days, but sometimes something comes up that gets in the way. Sometimes, if I’m honest, I sleep a little too long. Sometimes God leads me to do something different. That’s where the “continual” praying becomes a supplement in my prayer life but isn’t the supply. If I miss a day of quiet time, I pick it back up the next day. God is waiting and wanting to meet with us but He’s not gonna drop the hammer on you for missing one day. Just like when I’m on a trip and I might miss one day talking to my wife, the next day we just pick back up where we left off. She doesn’t rail me when I call her, it’s a relationship that continues to grow!
Those five things definitely aren’t the only things you can do or any that you have to do, but they are what helped me become more efficient in my prayers. Don’t think that you can’t do this. It didn’t happen overnight for me and it won’t for you either. Make a plan, stick to it, adjust it, expand it and pretty soon you’ll find yourself in a place you never thought you could be with prayer. Don’t let “I’m not good at praying” keep you from growing in your prayer life.