How to Have a Better Prayer Life in the New Year
Many Christians are unhappy with the state of their prayer lives, and we often tend to make New Year’s resolutions to do better. By mid-year, we are lucky to still be giving it an honest effort. Why is it so hard to be mindful of having our prayer time each day? Why is it so hard to simply do a better job of praying without ceasing?
But what does it mean to “pray without ceasing”?
Recently, I had the joy of sitting with a friend and lifting her up to the Lord while I listened to her bare her heart (if you don’t have spiritual friendships like this, we need to talk). One of the things that came up was a feeling of guilt for not having what she perceived as a sufficient amount of time set aside for prayer.
Now, knowing her the way I do, I knew that she has a very close walk with the Lord. So, I was interested to hear her say that she felt that way. As I listened, it became very clear to me that she had a certain understanding of what a Christian’s prayer life should look like. So, having the personality I have, I challenged that notion with this truth:
Rather than trying to fit prayer into your life, it is far better to observe a life of prayer.
What could possibly be the difference between these two ways of considering prayer? Let’s take a quick look at each viewpoint and see both the difference in application and the difference in results.
Fitting prayer into your life:
- A person seeks to set aside a certain length of time that is specifically designated for prayer.
- Many people struggle to fight against inner distractions, environmental distractions, and may struggle to find something to say to God in the quiet without anything going on.
- Many people struggle with feeling a meaningful connection with God or struggle with knowing what practices to use during this time in order to feed their faith.
- Many people find it difficult to set aside this block of time in the midst of busy days with people vying for their attention and multiple responsibilities.
- Often, our response to these challenges is to shame the person into thinking that they are not committing enough to God or putting Him first, leading to guilt, shame, and further difficulty in being encouraged and empowered in their faith walk.
But what if there is a better way?
Observing a Life of Prayer:
- A person seeks to walk in the Presence of God throughout the rhythms of his or her daily life.
- Inner distractions become invitations to talk with God about what weighs heavy on our hearts and share our burdens with Jesus at the same time as we live them.
- We notice his work more
- We feel less alone or isolated
- We are more empowered to overcome temptation
- We are connected to the source of love in our lives
- Our burdens are not as heavy or unmanageable
- We are empowered to consistently live out our identity in Christ
- There is constantly something to talk with the Lord about as we do our daily activities
- We won’t forget to pray about a situation if we are praying as they come up
- We experience our world through a different perspective of faith
The benefits of unceasing prayer are clear, but how can we get from where we are to this model of living and breathing prayer throughout our days? I recommend a book called The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. This book revolutionized the way I viewed prayer and walking through my day. After reading it, I kept an end-of-day journal in which I would reflect back and write the ways I was either aware or unaware of God’s presence during each of my waking hours in a day. I kept this journal for a few months, and I was surprised by just how much time I was actually spending in prayer (versus setting aside 30 minutes or an hour block, then leaving prayer behind for the day)!
I became more aware of the ways God was working in and through my life, but probably the best benefit was the way I truly began to feel like God was my constant companion and friend. It created a level of closeness with the Lord that I had always craved but never attained. In a sense, it seems to make sense that including Him in so much of my life would deepen our relationship! It also helped to dispel all that guilt and shame that I either couldn’t seem to commit to that pious block of time and actually pay attention through the whole thing! I am simply not wired for that way of approaching my faith. Our faith is a living, breathing, active, and ever-present faith. Shouldn’t our prayer lives match?
This helped me stop feeling guilty that I couldn’t pound a square peg into a round hole. Maybe it will help you too.