I think we need to rethink how we pray.
What if we’ve got it all wrong?
What if we have created an organised prayer life on the wrong foundations?
I have tried more prayer formulas than donut flavors. Prayer formulas? Is that what we can call them? Like a formula that will suddenly increase our prayer life and help us pray the most effective prayers?
I think I could almost even say I’ve tried them all. SOAP, ACTS, JOY, HEARTS and every other prayer acronym. I’ve done 5 day, 30 day and 365 day challenges. I’ve tried apps, books and journals, and I’ve tried small groups, big groups and by myself.
After all those attempts, I can safely say, none of those were the answer to my inconsistent and lack-luster prayer life.
Let’s be clear, it’s not that prayer formulas are bad or wrong, in fact they can be super helpful in developing a healthy prayer life.
But my intention was to create the perfect prayer habits, and that was never going to be enough.
Why do we pray?
I’m going to be honest with you, the times that I have been most consistent in my prayer life, were times where I used one of these prayer formulas. 15 minutes a day, 7 days a week, I’d go through my pray to-do list.
Consistent, well-polished prayer routines means nothing without a desire for real, authentic relationship with God.
It’s easy to amp up our prayer life when things are out of control and we desperately need him. So maybe we just need to realise that we desperately need Him…always?
Prayer is the foundation of a relationship, not hero of a good routine. When you desire to know God more and be known by Him, our prayer changes.
Our prayer life is most effective when we are fully aware of our undeniable need for His sovereign presence in our life.
If your prayer life feels stagnant and hard work, then maybe you need to rethink why you pray.
Learn about hearing God’s voice: How to Hear and Know the Voice of God
Stuck in a prayer rut
Pray until you can pray; pray to be helped to pray and do not give up praying because you cannot pray. For it is when you think you cannot pray that is when you are praying.Charles Spurgeon
Imagine a young daughter coming to her dad for a chat. Rather than a conversation, she starts to read a list. A list of all the things she loves about her Father, a list of all she has done wrong and a list of all she needs. Once she has read the lists, she leaves.
Strange right? So why do we do it to God.
We get real good at coming to God with our lists that we totally miss the opportunity to simply know Him. We get stuck in a prayer rut, feeling overwhelmed, disengaged and like we are somehow never doing it ‘right.’
Is that you? Because I’ve got some good news for you today then! You don’t have to be ‘right,’ you’ve just got to be real.
What does the Bible say about how to pray?
The Bible is loaded with verses that reveal God’s design and intention for prayer. One of the most common bible verses that is referred to when people talk about prayer, is of course the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus teaches his disciples to prayer:
“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:9-13
Jesus is teaching people how to prayer. As you begin to look deeper, this step-by-step prayer formula seems to be vastly different to the prayers of people like David. In Psalms, you get this unlocked dairy of the vulnerable and raw prayers of some of David’s prayers.
Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Psalm 143:7-8
So why are the prayers we see people praying in the Bible often nothing like the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught his disciples?
A Not-So-Common Approach to Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer was never designed to be a daily script for the perfect prayer. Even Jesus warns against meaningless repetition in prayer (Matthew 6:7).
Looking at Jesus’ instructions on prayer, combined with Jesus’ lifestyle of prayer, it is evident that Jesus was all about relationship with the Father. Jesus was constantly speaking to His Father. He would often withdraw from others and find quite places to pray. (Mark 1:35).
Jesus modelled a prayer life of relationship and intimacy.
When you examine the Lord’s Prayer through the lens of relationship, it transforms the prayer from a to-do list into a glorious invitation for deep communion with the Father. It realigns our hearts and minds with His.
We get to co-labor with God (1 Corinthians 3:9). Meaning we get to join Him in what he is doing. He is already at work, he has been since the foundations of Earth was laid, and he invites us to join him.
What if we ditch the prayer list that consists only of our desired outcomes, and start asking God where he is already at work in each situation?
It is from this place that we begin to surrender our desires and align our hearts with His.
It is from this place that our prayer becomes more effective.
It is here we find a not-so-common, yet powerful way of praying.
Drawing Near to God
God desires to be close to you. He wants a beautifully deep and authentically real relationship with you. He gave everything, because he loves you (John 3:16). He promises to draw near to us, as we draw near to Him (James 8:4).
What you need to work out, is do you want to be near to Him?
Do you want know God? Do you want to experience the fullness of life that he has designed for you? Do you want to be close enough to know His plans and purposes for your life? Do you want to fully experience and know the relentless love of the Father?
Because it starts with prayer.
It starts with the way that you talk to your Heavenly Father.
He has called us to be children of God (1 John 3:1), therefore we get to approach him as child. Not as a servant, uncertain of what they can speak or request from their master, but as a child, completely unhindered in affection, bold in expression and fully certain of their Father’s love for them.
Read more: What does it mean to be Fully Loved and Fully Known by God?
How do I improve my prayer life?
Your prayer life will improve when your core desire is Jesus. Even the most well-organised, consistent prayer routine will never satisfy. Fervent and passionate prayer is birthed from a fully surrendered, desire for relationship with God.
Prayer changes everything, including the one praying. When relationship is the main intention of our prayer, the beauty of prayer is unlocked. The Father reveals his heart to us in the secret place, He transforms our minds and invites us to join Him in bringing Heaven on Earth.
So go on.
Use your favourite prayer formula.
But do it with the all-in, sold-out, no-turning-back desire to know your Heavenly Father more.
I love this post. Prayer should be the result of a relationship that improves because you communicate with the one you love. I imagine myself crawling up into the arms of a loving father. Thank you for the download. We are currently looking for tools to help our teenagers improve their prayer life.
Such a beautiful picture – crawling into his loving arms! Enjoy the journaling pages too.
Journaling and writing out my prayers helped me see God’s faithfulness. Otherwise, it’s all too easy to forget what He’s done for us. It also helps me concentrate better during prayer. Thanks for these great reminders!
I can relate with being in a prayer rut. There are times when I feel like I have nothing worth saying. Thank God the spirit that lives inside of us intercedes on our behalf. So grateful for a merciful God that would design us that way.
Amen to that! He is so gracious that we can come to him, even when we have no words.
I love your prayer journal! When I started journaling my prayers (like writing a letter to God) and recording responses, I saw some totally amazing evidence of God working in my life.
What an amazing testimony of God’s goodness! I love being able to go back my notes and being reminded of his faithfulness time and time again.
Prayer presents such a beautiful opportunity for us to spend time with the Lord. I love the example you’ve shared of a child with her Father.
Wonderful post. I could relate to the experiences with prayer that you shared, although I don’t know all of the acronyms. I have found whenever I am struggling with getting started praying, I feel the nudge of the Holy Spirit whisper something like, “What if you just tell me what’s on your heart?” This is so much more inviting that jumping through the hoops of a formula, and of course, it is very important to remember that our goal is always to know him more and be close tot him.
Love this. Thank you for reminding us that prayer is about relationship and wanting to know Him more!
That whole “bringing a list” thing was a little convicting. You also have some great suggestions for those of us who have been guilty of that in the past. May we all get closer to our Heavenly Father through prayer.