How is your prayer life? Is it all it should be? Is there room for improvement? Here are some helpful fools to help you be more effective in your prayer life.
All Scripture quotations were taken from the King James Version except as noted.
If you have been in God’s church very long, you have heard many sermons on prayer. There is a reason for that. As a Christian, earnest, heartfelt, continuous prayer is one of the hardest things you will ever do! It is difficult because it is spiritual, and the carnal fleshly mind is the enemy of God (Romans 8:7).
It is very easy to make people feel “guilty” about failure in prayer because we all fall short.
That is not the purpose of this article. Here, we want to give you some tangible tools to assist you in your prayer life. Nowhere in the Gospels do we read where Jesus instructed His disciples how to preach well–how to project, gesticulate, or prepare a sermon–but He went into much detail as to how to pray well, how to be humble and obedient, and what to pray for.
Most Americans profess to believe in prayer. Comparatively few follow through, as they know they should. During a recent survey of over 17,000 people in a major evangelical denomination, it was found that those interviewed prayed an average of five minutes a day. Of 2,000 pastors and wives who were interviewed, it was disclosed that they averaged only seven minutes of prayer a day. We can assume that these people were above average in their interest in prayer.
It is a demonstrable fact that kneeology will do far more good than all this world’s theology, It is said that the army of God advances on its knees. As Christian soldiers, we should all be “prayer warriors,” not “prayer paupers,” If we go out into spiritual battle on only five minutes of prayer a day, we are like a soldier going into battle with only a slingshot. It is true that Satan hinders prayer, but prayer also hinders Satan. Deception is his only armor. God’s Word penetrates that armor and exposes him. Satan must indeed tremble when he sees the weakest Bible-believing and Bible-obeying Christian on his knees because he knows the potential of answered prayer. It is the gateway to his demise. He will do everything in his power to prevent you from praying effectively. It is sometimes overlooked that the final article of a Christian’s armor is prayer. “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:18).
Prayer is not a “gadget” we use when nothing else works. Prayer is the Father’s invitation to visit Him. Prayer should come before anything else, not as an afterthought. Prayer is the lubricant in the machinery of life. Jesus recognized there would be times when men would not really quite believe that their prayers would be answered, and as a result He gave much instruction and encouragement in prayer. He often repeated in one form or another that we are to “have faith in God” (Mark 11:22), and that “all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27).
Communicating With God
God communicates to us through His Word, the Bible. We communicate to God through prayer. It is always God’s will for us to pray. Prayer is not an option; it is a command! Prayer provides power, poise, peace, and purpose. The more we pray, the more God-conscious we become. A rich prayer life is mandatory if we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of God. We will not enter into the Kingdom of God without it. It is just that important. Years ago, Dale Carnegie wrote a best seller, How To Win Friends and Influence People. To know how to befriend God and influence Him is far more important than knowing how to speak to man.
God also wrote a best seller. It is called the Holy Bible. In it, He says…
“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2),
“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
“… men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1).
“… Continuing instant [diligent] in prayer” (Romans 12:12).
“… without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day” (2 Timothy 1:3)
“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6).
“But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer” (1
Prayer says, “I can’t… but I know One who can!” Prayer says, “I trust you, Lord, to guide, protect, and provide for me.” Nothing lies outside the reach of prayer except that which is outside the will of God (Matthew 6:10). Consider: the praying Christian who moves God can move anything God moves!
Why We Do Not Pray
There are many reasons we do not pray as we ought. A major reason is doubt–just plain lack of faith, or unbelief. We don’t think prayer really works, or at least not in, our case. If we truly expect results and look forward to the answer, we will be more enthused about our prayer life. Instead, we pray small prayers to a small god, limiting our requests and thus limit what God will do for us. Christ said in Matthew 9:29, “According to your faith be it unto you.” We need to pray big prayers to an Almighty God. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10: 17). Prayer does not cause faith to work, but faith causes prayer to work. Living faith is acting on God’s Word now. Faith is the hand that takes what God offers; it is the spiritual organ of receiving the promises of God.
To some, prayer is dull, dreary, irksome and “no fun.” It is hard work and just something to endure “because.” A lot of the trouble about prayer would disappear if we only realized that we go to pray, not because we love prayer, but because we love God.
Another reason we do not pray as we ought is indifference. We often do not pray until a small problem has grown large, perhaps out of control. Instead of placing our problems in God’s hands, we habitually hope they will all “just work themselves out” somehow. How much better to have God involved! Often our priorities are out of balance and other things and other people seem more important to us. When we become more focused on the things of this world than upon the promises of God, God is easily crowded out. Whenever we place other things ahead of God, He looks upon this as the sin of idolatry. He says, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). Do not expect thousand dollar answers to ten-cent prayers.
Some want to face their trials and work out their problems for themselves, excluding God completely. At the other extreme, others want to pray only and do nothing else. Some treat God as though He is a “genie in a jug,” bound to serve their every wish. We need to be balanced.
A wise man once said that we ought to pray as if the answer resides only in God, but to work as though the answer resides only in us. Working together with faith, the answers will come.
And finally, sin may be blocking us from access to God. Sin creates barriers. Sin separates us from God, and from one another. Ultimately, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). We cannot live wrong and pray right. We cannot despise our brethren and love God. Only when sin is dealt with can reconciliation and godly fellowship take place. Sin does not just “disappear.” It has to be removed. Repentance comes from God (2 Timothy 2:25), and forgiveness is His gift. Watch how you live. Watch how you speak. Watch how you think and what you see and what you hear (Psalm 101:3; 141:3; 139:23; Isaiah 55:7). God does.
Seven Tools for a More Effective Prayer Life
Here are seven simple tools to help you become more effective in your prayer life.
Tool #1: Planning is Necessary
Be warned! If you are too busy to pray, you are too busy! Being too busy to pray is your cue–your flashing red warning light-that you need to take time to make time to pray!
Jesus, our example, made arrangements for a place and a time when He could be alone and free from distractions (Mark 1:35; 6:45-46; Luke 5:16; 6:12; 9:18).
The main reason many do not have a significant prayer life is not because they don’t want to, but that they don’t plan to, If you take an extended vacation, for example, you do not just suddenly say, “Hey, let’s go on vacation today!” You make detailed plans and arrangements. When you wish to marry the love of your life you do not say on the spur of the moment, “Let’s go get married after lunch.” After much thought, cooperation, and coordination you make preparations, plans, and arrangements. Likewise, you seldom find time to pray; you must make time! The opposite of a plan is disorder and confusion, sometimes called a rut. God is not the author of randomness or confusion. Make prayer a habit, not an occasion. Remember that our prayers cannot be answered unless they are first prayed. And they cannot be effectively prayed unless we plan to pray and pray our plan.
Tool #2: Develop a Prayer Notebook
Along with our own prayers, we in God’s church receive many prayer requests from others. If we do not write down prayer requests we will probably soon forget them. A pocket sized personal prayer notebook is a handy tool for jotting down scriptures, thoughts, and prayer requests. Such a personal prayer notebook reminds us that we are not alone, but part of a team, and helps us to get out of the “gimme” mode. Is everyone in your congregation written down in your personal notebook? Properly used, your personal prayer notebook will soon become a source of inspiration and will help build your faith as you browse back though it from time to time and see when and how many prayers were answered. In some cases, you may wish to jot down the date prayer was first enjoined about a matter, followed by the date and how the prayer was answered. Over a period of time, this notebook may become the second most important book next to your Bible. Don’t overlook this simple, but very effective, prayer-aid!
Tool #3: Adjust Your Environment to Facilitate Your Prayers
Are we as excited about prayer as we are all other areas of our lives? Let’s face it: sometimes we just don’t feel very spiritual. We don’t always feel like praying, even though we know we should. This often leads to feelings of “guilt” and spiritual depression and ultimately even to withdrawal. Without a steady diet of prayer, we become spiritually malnourished, just as we would if we were to abstain from physical food for a long period of time. We are by nature physical, emotional creatures. We know what we should do, but just have a difficult time making ourselves do what we know we should do. In other words, sometimes we need to get ourselves “in the mood.” There are times when we need to “grab ourselves by the collar,” so to speak, and make ourselves pray.
When we want to set the mood for a romantic evening, for example, we might darken the room, light a candle or two, prepare a beverage, and put on some soft music. Likewise, as a suggestion, before you pray, review your personal prayer notebook, read a few Psalms, sing several hymns, or listen to a music tape to help get you “jump started,” Strive to make your prayer time a pleasure instead of a chore. Before we pray, we should recall who and what God is because it matters what kind of God we pray to. It is often helpful to envision yourself coming before the very throne of the God of the universe (Revelation 4:2-6) in fear and trembling and consider what a privilege and honor it is to be able to petition Him there. When we fast and pray, we are telling ourselves we mean business! Do whatever it takes, but do it.
Tool #4: Use Variety in Your Prayers
It is easy for prayer to become routine. Routines soon become boring. Boredom leads to avoidance. We need to make our prayers interesting, both to God and to ourselves. If something is interesting, we invest time and effort in it. Just as we do not use the same words over and over when talking to a friend, neither should we become locked in to stiff, repetitive verbiage when talking to God. God loves variety. Variety sparks up our interest and diminishes drudgery. It is very difficult to separate our attitude from our posture. We see many Bible examples of people being in different positions while praying: standing, sitting, kneeling, walking, and yes, even while lying down (Psalm 63:6).There is no “best way” to pray for everyone. Find what works best for you.
Notice that we never see a Bible example of Jesus ever praying silently–He always prayed aloud. Praying aloud makes you, the pray-er, put your thoughts and feelings into tangible words—just as you would do in talking to your closest friend, If, for some reason, your environment prohibits your praying aloud, try sub-vocalizing your prayer as Hannah did in 1 Samuel 1:13. Praying aloud makes prayer personal. We should never feel “embarrassed” if someone knows we are praying. Some have even written their prayers to God to help them formulate their thoughts. A “prayer diary,” like your personal prayer notebook, can become a valuable source of inspiration in years to come.
Tool #5: Find a Quiet Place to Pray
The world is full of distractions, including work, traffic, radio, television, children, mates, pets, and chores, not to mention recreational activities. Some have become so conditioned to raucous noise and distractions that they cannot stand silence! We need to find a quiet, undisturbed place to pray. The secret to prayer is prayer in secret. “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:6). The meaning of this is that there should be some place where we may be in secret—where we may be alone with God, not just when driving our car or doing our job. Private devotions are mandatory. This is certainly not meant to prohibit prayer in public assemblies. The Lord himself prayed “in the mountain alone” (Matthew 14:23), in the night alone (Luke 6:12), as well as in public in the presence of His disciples. We have records of many prayers offered by the apostles in public assemblies. “Thy closet” may mean any private place. Peter’s “closet” was on the housetop (Acts 10:9). Jesus often rose up “a great while before day” to be alone and often went into a solitary place to pray. A grove, a mountain, and a garden frequently furnished such a quiet place for Jesus. Where is your quiet place, and when do you go there?
Tool #6: Pray Spontaneously as the Spirit Moves You
From time to time, we all have that little tingle, feeling, or nudge that we ought to pray about a matter. Always respond to and obey every impulse to pray* Make it a personal rule. This is a form of being “instant in prayer” (Romans 12:12). Such heartfelt desires may well be the nudging of God’s Holy Spirit working in you. It is important that we do not quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). When we repeatedly push aside such urges of the Holy Spirit to pray about a matter, we become more and more callous and eventually even resistant to its direction. Praying spontaneously as a matter comes to mind will “soften” you spiritually and make you more and more aware of your incessant need for prayer and draw you closer to God. While it is good to shoot quick “arrow prayers” up to God on the spot throughout the day, they should never substitute for heartfelt “quiet time” prayers as mentioned above. If it is not convenient to pray “on the spot,” jot it down in your personal prayer notebook, as mentioned above, and get back to it as soon as you can. Remember to pray for others as you would have others pray for you.
Tool #7: Use a Prayer Outline to Help You Concentrate
We are cautioned, “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matthew 6:7), What is commonly called “the Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew six is meant to be a model, not a recitation. We are not to just repeat the outline repetitiously as though it were a mantra or a magic talisman. This example was a pattern around which His disciples were to shape their own approaches to God, not the prayer itself. The construction of the Lord’s Prayer is a prayer outline of categories of things to pray about.
The Bible makes many promises concerning prayer. Answers are promised to those who put thought, energy, and faith into their prayers, not to those who mouth vain, monotonous, empty words. Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7). “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matthew 2 1:22). “Therefore I say unto you, What things so ever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11 :24). “If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7). “But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). “And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us: And if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him” (1 John 5:14-15). Are your prayers dynamic, faith-filled, and expectant?
God wants to answer our prayers. He is more willing to answer than we are to ask (Matthew 6:8; Luke 11: 11-13), His promises are sweeping, but conditional. The promises of prayer are only for those who please God and upon those whom He will have mercy (James 1:5-7). God says, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight” (Proverbs 15:8). “… but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My Word” (Isaiah 66:2). “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination” (Proverbs 28:9).
God is more than willing to answer prayers that are according to His will, but it is only through studying His Word that we come to really know and obey God’s will. We honor God by accepting what He says (belief) and committing our daily lives to Him (action). “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17). “And He said to them all, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me’” (Luke 9:23). God’s promise is that if we will pray as He has taught us and live as He commands, we will see Him work marvelous things in our lives, “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him [why?] because we keep His commandments [all ten of them], and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22).
This booklet was written to provide you with several useful “tools” to help you pray more effectively. We pray that you will implement them into your everyday prayer life and draw ever closer to Him that called you.
A Few Inspiring Prayer References
2 Chronicles 7:14
Psalm 34:15, 17 1
Psalm 66:17-1 9
1 Timothy 2:8
Daily Prayer Outline
Following is a suggested daily prayer outline for your personal use. You may wish to personalize it and copy it into your personal prayer notebook and peruse it as you pray for a “thought stimulator.” If you do, you may well be surprised to find yourself praying for hours instead of minutes. May God bless you as you effectively communicate with Him.
OPEN by addressing God, the Father
I. Praise God
- His name
- His greatness
- His plan
II. Pray for God’s Kingdom to come
- Discuss this world’s ills
- Discuss need for God’s intervention
A. Pray for God’s ministers (by name)
- For God’s guidance
- For spiritual strength and courage
- For God’s inspiration
- In decisions
- In writing
- In speaking
- In making the telecasts
- Health and Longevity
B. Pray for God’s work
- Reach more people (Matthew 28:19-20)
- The work’s income and expenses
- More people to be called and to respond
III. Pray for God’s will, guidance, blessing, and direction for
- The work
- Your life
- Your family (by name)
- Your enemies (by name)
- Other members (by name)
- Peace within and peace without
- Pray that you will be able to be a good example in all things
IV. Pray for daily physical needs
- Give thanks for your many blessings (by name)
- Ask for protection
- Ask for increased income
- Ask for good health
- Ask God to bless your mate
- Ask God to bless your family
- Ask blessing for other members
- Pray for the sick and afflicted (by name)
V. Pray for daily spiritual needs
- More of God’s Spirit
- Ability to handle stress, tests, and trials
- Inspiration and guidance in personal Bible study and prayer
- Correction with mercy and encouragement
- Spiritual needs of other members
VI. Pray for spiritual growth
- Help to build God-like mind and character
- Ask for more wisdom, knowledge, and understanding
- Ask for tactfulness and discretion in dealing with others
- Ask for more of the hits of the spirit:
- Love in all its many manifestations
- Longsuffering patience
- Faith and trust
- Meekness and humility
- Temperance, balance, self-control
- Ask for forgiveness of your sins (be specific in naming them)
- Ask for help to forgive others
- Ask for other members to grow spiritually
- Ask for God’s church to grow in grace and knowledge
VII. Pray for spiritual protection
- Ask for God’s church to grow in grace and protection from Satan’s society and its influences
- Ask for the right attitude
- Ask for God’s viewpoint
- Ask for God to show you your weaknesses and sins and to help you overcome them
- Ask God to protect other members from Satan’s influences
VIII. Praise God
- Thanks for Christ’s sacrifice
- Thanks for mercy and forgiveness
- Thanks for your calling
- Thanks for your brethren in the faith
- Thanks for all the blessings God has given
- Thank God for being God and for all He is doing
CLOSE with Christ’s name and amen
About the Church of God International
This literature is published by the Church of God International, based in Tyler, Texas. Incorporated in 1978, the CGI has ministers and congregations scattered throughout the United States and Canada. We also have churches in Jamaica, the Philippines, and Australia.
The CGI’s mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world (Matthew 28:19). We are blessed with four basic tools to accomplish this:
- Personal and local church evangelism.
- Television and radio broadcasting.
- Booklets, brochures, and study tapes.
- The Internet.
How You Can Help
All our materials and services are offered to the public free of charge. Many naturally ask us how we can afford to send out thousands of booklets and study tapes each month. The answer is simple.
On a regular basis, prayerful friends and members of the Church of God International voluntarily support us with tithes and offerings to further the advancement of the gospel to the world. No financial obligation is ever demanded, but if you are moved to support this work of God, donations are gratefully accepted at the addresses listed. (Contributions in the United States and Canada are tax deductible.) Giving to and through us is an effective way for people like you to help spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.
For Further Information
If you would like to visit a CGI congregation, or if you would simply like to speak with a CGI minister or representative with any questions you may have, feel free to write or call us. We will be delighted to serve you in any way possible.
United States: Jamaica:
Church of God International Church of God International
3900 Timms St. P.O. Box 776
Tyler, TX 75701 Kingston 19
(903) 939-2929 Jamaica
Church of God International Church of God International
Canadian Office Makati Central
PO Box 33034 P.O. Box 2450
900 Oxford St E 1264 Makati
London, ON N5Y 5A1 Metro Manila, Philippines
Australia: Web site:
Church of God International http://www.cgi.org
P.O. Box 171
Boonah, Qlnd 4310
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you!
Copyright © The Church of God, International Copyright 2005
The Church of God International, Tyler, Texas
All rights reserved, Printed in U.S.A.
Text: Lloyd W. Cary