This week, our community study of Planted is focusing on the discipline of prayer. This can easily turn into a neglected part of our spiritual walk, a selfish wish list, or a last resort in desperate times. But we are called to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17) and, through the blood of Christ, we can access the throne of grace with confidence (Heb. 4:16). What does it look like to practice prayer in daily life and grow as praying women? Here are some thoughts and suggestions from the Well-Watered Team to encourage your prayer life. May His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6).
Mother Theresa said, “The family that prays together stays together….” Family prayer is a beautiful, sanctifying, powerful spiritual discipline that yields a lot of spiritual fruit. When my dad was alive, we committed as a family to come together once a week on Monday nights to share our prayer needs and praises with each other. We kept a hardback journal of each request and would often return to older entries to write down how God had answered specific prayers.
As we sat and listened to each other, my sister and I discovered that our parents were, in fact, people with struggles and dreams who needed our prayers. Our parents were able to see our spiritual needs and hear what really mattered to my sister and me. We learned to be patient and listen better to each other, and bear each other’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). It lessened tension between the family members, as it’s hard to be frustrated with someone you’re praying for! Today my husband and I make it a goal to pray with each other, and pray with our little girls, as often as we can. And whenever I go to my parents’ house, I pull out that old prayer notebook and thumb through page after page of God’s faithfulness.
There is nothing too small to pray about. There is nothing outside of God’s reign and rule in our lives that we we cannot bring to His feet. That’s been my prayer approach for awhile now, and it’s opened up my prayer life in a whole new way. I love to pray throughout the day about anything and everything. I pray simple prayers of gratitude like, “Thanks, Lord!” when something sweet happens, or when I find the thing I was looking for, or when there’s a beautiful sunset. I prayer prayers of repentance when I recognize my flesh or a bad attitude and simply say, “Lord, please forgive me for that gross reaction. It was in anger and selfishness. Help me reset my heart on you.” Don’t feel that you have to say the perfect combination of words or over-think things. Come with an honest and open heart.
I also love to pray “breath prayers”—short, one-line prayers that keep my heart focused on the Lord. I say these aloud when I’m home, think them over and over when I’m out and about, and write them on my hand for reminders throughout the day. This may be, “Lord, help me choose joy,” or, “Lord, be all that I cannot be.” And when I have my journal nearby, I write out prayers that are heavy on my heart. Ongoing requests, prayers for friends and family, prayers about life circumstances. But I also make a point to write out praises. Prayer can become so inwardly focused if we aren’t intentional to stop and focus on the glory of God, and when we do that, prayer comes forth like worship as we praise Him for all He has done and all that He is!
In my friendships, one of my favorite things to do is go on walks and talk about anything and everything. There’s something about walking together outside that creates a space for meaningful conversation. I love to do this with Jesus, too. I often go on “prayer walks” where I talk with and listen to God. These walks are nothing fancy—I simply walk around my neighborhood or a nearby park. I put in my headphones but don’t play anything because something about having my headphones in helps me focus more. I talk out loud (or in my mind) to Jesus, and I also walk quietly and listen. If you need to be alone with our Savio—away from your to-do list, the piles of dishes, or your work—try taking a long walk with Jesus! The alone time with Him can truly change your day!
Faith. It seems simple, but sometimes I feel like this is the hardest thing in the world. Doubt and fears take over, and I sit and let them wash over me like waves instead of remaining grounded in truth of the Lord. These terrible moments creep in when I’m not walking in faith, but instead leaning on my own will. Prayer is key to these moments in my life. Recently, the Genesis study I’m going through had me explore the life of Enoch (Gen. 5:21–24). Enoch was a man who “walked with God,” and his faith allowed him to draw near to the Lord (Heb. 11:5–6). As I read these passages, I was baffled by how strong Enoch’s faith and prayer life must have been in this relationship with our Almighty God.
Then I considered my struggle with doubts and how they arise when I am not walking as Enoch did with the Lord. Someone who is walking with God is taking His will into consideration daily—by the hour, or even minute. Time in prayer and communion with the Lord allows me to strengthen my faith, release my doubts and fears, and draw near to Him as Enoch clearly did. Find hope in the life of Enoch and walk daily with the Lord!
I struggle to stay focused during my prayer time. One practical tool that has helped me is the Echo prayer app. I upload prayers, from general things like my marriage and children, to specific requests in my own life and from friends. I keep the prayer title short, then use the description section to claim Scripture over those areas and note specific promises, needs, hopes, etc. I can set reminders to pray and mark prayers as answered, then look back over answered prayers. Selecting one topic at a time makes my prayers more intentional and less distracted and rambling. I even keep one section labeled “Gratitude + Praise,” filled with reasons for thanksgiving and attributes of God. Setting aside this separate time to praise the Lord for who He is and what He’s done gives Him glory but also comforts my heart when I’m feeling down or anxious.
Have you ever responded to a prayer request and then forgotten to pray for the person? I have, many times. A few years ago I committed to praying immediately for requests that come to my attention. If I read a prayer request on social media and commit to pray, I stop what I’m doing and pray right then. If I’m talking to a friend and promise to pray for them, I start by praying aloud for them right there—over the phone, in person, even via text.
I’m also growing in this discipline by spending more time in focused prayer, and praying more consistently for people or situations in my life that tempt me to worry or grasp for control. Lifting those people and situations to God in prayer day after day, for more than a few rushed sentences, places everything in its proper perspective and reminds me who is truly in control: our loving, sovereign Father.
Recommended Resources on Prayer:
- Breathe: 40 Days of Prayer study from the Well-Watered Women Co. Shop
- Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller
- Prayer Journals and free resources from Val Marie Paper
- Does Prayer Change Things? by R.C. Sproul
- Answers to Prayer by George Müller