Do you ever feel guilty about your prayer life—or lack thereof? Perhaps you’ve tried to start a prayer habit, and you know you need to talk to God, but you keep forgetting to prioritize Him. Prayer is integral to the Christian walk, but while most of us think we should pursue it, we don’t always know why.
But it’s because we don’t know the “why” of prayer that we fail to make it a habit. Prayer doesn’t come naturally to us; humans naturally want to depend on their own strength, not seek the strength of God. And even when we do, unless we understand the nature and practice of prayer, we’ll get discouraged when we “don’t hear anything” in response.
If you don’t enjoy praying, here are some things to understand about this important spiritual discipline.
Faith Comes Before Feeling
If you wait to feel like praying, that feeling may never come. Prayer is a discipline of the spirit, which means we often choose to do it without feeling positive emotions about it. But as we pray—in faith that God rewards us and draws near to those who call on His name—our emotions catch up. The more often we seek God through prayer, the more consistently our emotions respond to the habit.
The Christian walk is often a conscious choice to say “no” to our fleshly desires in order to draw near to God and hear His voice. While this is very difficult at first, it becomes progressively easier with time. What’s more, the reward of knowing God closely and personally cannot be measured! Talk to any prayer warrior woman you know and she’ll tell you that the presence of God is so incredible, she would never go back to life before her walk with Him. Until you experience God personally, it’s hard to understand how people can be so passionate about studying His Word and praying to Him. But this experience comes through discipline, which means praying even when we might not feel like it.
Prayer Is a Lifestyle
Prayer isn’t just something you do in the morning or at night. It’s not relegated to only one time or place. While it can be helpful to have a designated spot for your quiet time (or a “war room” for prayer), prayer is a lifestyle, not a location:
But a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such as these to worship Him. God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24)
When you’re tempted to gossip, pray about that person. When you’re hungry or bored, let that remind you to pray for specific people or issues you’re struggling with. When you’re worried about a cultural issue, pray for your nation. This can happen in the car, while you’re cleaning up your room or even when you’re with your friends. Prayer is constant communication with God, telling Him everything that is on your heart and listening for His response.
There Is More Than One Way to Pray
One reason we don’t like to pray is this whole “listening” part. Since God rarely speaks audibly in the Church Age (as opposed to the Old Testament), how do we hear His voice? God now speaks to us through His Holy Spirit in our inner being. But in order to hear His voice, we must do the following:
- Be Still. Quietness and silence don’t come naturally to us, but it’s important to take time after reading God’s Word—even five minutes—to simply think over (meditate on) God’s Word. Ask yourself, “What does this mean?” Ask God, “What are you teaching me?” As you pray through the passage, listen for anything that is brought to your mind.
- Check Your Thoughts. God speaks through our thoughts, but we don’t always know what is Him and what is just…us. That’s where God’s Word comes in. Did the thought relate to the passage you read? Does it resonate with your life at this moment? And does it contradict God’s Word in any way? If a thought contradicts God’s Word (For instance, if you heard, “It’s all right, you can sleep with your boyfriend”), you know it’s not from God. God’s voice will never contradict what the Bible says.
Listening for God is something you learn, and it gets easier as you make it a habit. You can also pray aloud, or pray short, one-sentence prayers. You can journal your prayers or pray Bible verses. There are many ways to make your prayer life more “interesting.” But ultimately, a thriving prayer life that you enjoy will require making time for God in faith that He will respond. Be ready to hear Him, and He will speak!