By Julie Cole
How’s your prayer life? This question causes many Christians to admit that they don’t pray as often as they feel they should. This even applies to those in ministry. New Year’s resolutions are filled with good intentions to pray and read the Bible more, but it’s easy to get bogged down by life or boredom and fail to accomplish these goals. Prayer is a spiritual discipline, which means that it requires consistent practice to become stronger at it. Regular, consistent prayer grows spiritual muscles. How can we find ways to stay consistent with prayer?
The strongest muscles are built by a variety of exercises. Many Christians pray the same way every time they pray, which can sometimes lead to boredom. Praying in a variety of ways allows us to hear God in fresh ways, which adds strength and breadth to our spiritual muscles.
Here are a few ways you can switch up your prayer life in the year ahead:
- Take a walk. Go outside and enjoy some fresh air, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Don’t worry about what to pray. Just look and listen around you. What thoughts or feelings spring up in your heart? Do you sense God saying anything to you? Talk with Him about that.
- Slow down. Sometimes we binge read the Bible to accomplish a reading goal. Try relishing it one Scripture at a time. This is called Lectio Divina. As you read a specific Scripture pause and consider it. Is there a word or phrase that stands out to you? Ask God if there’s anything He wants to say to you about that word or phrase. Talk to God about that.
- Breathe. Prayer doesn’t always require lots of time. It can be accomplished in a deep breath. This is called breath prayer or centering prayer. Choose a short verse such as Psalm 23:1 (NLT): “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.” Pause for a moment to quiet yourself. When you are ready, say, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Then take a deep breath in and out. Now say, “I have all that I need.” Repeat this exercise five to ten times. Even though it seems like it would be robotic, meditating on this truth while you are breathing deeply provides a spiritual refreshment and has a calming effect.
- Write it down. Journaling your conversations and experiences with God helps you take yourself seriously and documents your spiritual life so that you remember it in the future. Looking back on past journals can show your growth and remind you of how God answered prayers.
- Be still. Sometimes the most powerful communication from God comes in silence. Just sit still and allow yourself to feel His presence. Silence can be uncomfortable at first because it can bring things to the surface that we want to avoid. Allow God to be with you in that place. If your mind wanders, just bring it back to focus on God’s presence.
- Review your day with God. Many of us have a hard time sleeping because we are thinking about something that happened during the day. Try going through the day with God. This is called the prayer of examen. Where did you see God’s goodness in your day? Thank Him for that. Is there something that you want to ask forgiveness for that happened in the day? Take time to do that. Is there a hurt or a burden that you carry from the day? Spend some time giving that to God. Then take time to look at the day ahead and invite God into that. This can be a great way to end the day.
This is a small sample of the many ways you can pray. Prayer is simply communicating with God. Think of it, the Creator of the Universe wants to talk to us! Once we begin to realize we can hear His voice, prayer becomes an exciting dialogue.
About the Author
Julie Cole is the Director of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care at The King’s University in Southlake, Texas. She’s a licensed marriage and family therapist and an ordained Open Bible minister desiring to inspire people to connect with God and to see His hand in both the miraculous and the mundane experiences of life. Julie and her husband, David, live in Trophy Club, Texas, and have four children and eight grandchildren.
This article was originally published at collective.tku.edu. If you are interested in learning more about prayer and other spiritual disciplines, check out Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun.