How do I get started?
“Real prayer comes not from gritting your teeth, but falling in love,” says Richard Foster. Prayer is not hard work. It is something we grow in day by day, a rich experience that gives us greater and greater joy.
A good way to begin praying is to find a quite place to relax and be alone with God. Take a few moments to be still and sense His presence. Think about God’s greatness, His compassion, His deep love for you.
Then take a few moments to express your love for Him. Thank Him for the good things He has given you. Express your gratitude not only for what He has done for you but also for who He is.
After you spend some time in God’s presence, share your needs and concerns. Ask for God’s help if you need it—for guidance if you’re confused, peace if you’re troubled or help for a friend. God cares about all aspects of your life. Feel free to tell Him anything.
Then take time to listen. God may give you specific guidance or calm for your anxious mind or reveal new insights about how to help your friend.
Can I really hear God?
Yes. The Bible says that, “He who belongs to God hears what God says” (John 8:47).
You do not have to be a pastor or go to seminary or be someone special with a “hot line” to heaven. Anyone who has a personal relationship with God through Christ can hear God.
God speaks in many ways. He may communicate to you through thoughts, feelings, impressions or pictures while you are praying. As you spend more time in prayer, you’ll begin to recognize the unique ways God speaks to you.
Recommended Resource: When God Speaks: How to Recognize God’s Voice and Respond in Obedience by Henry Blackaby and Richard Blackaby
What about distractions?
It is common to get distracted when we pray. Our thoughts wander. We think of a thousand things we need to do. One way to deal with this is to keep a small notebook beside you. When distracting thoughts crowd your mind, simply write them down. This will free your mind to focus again on prayer.
This works for little things. However, if there are bigger things that your mind keeps returning to when you are quiet before God—a burden that weights heavily on you, angry feelings toward someone, a troubling situation—that may be something you need to pay attention to. Feel free to share it with God as you would share a concern with a friend and then be open to what He might show you about it.
Is there a right way and wrong way to pray?
No. There is no right way or wrong way to pray. Find what works for you. Some people spend quiet time in the morning with God when their minds are clear and uncluttered. Others like to pray at night when they can slow down and reflect on their day. You may find quiet moments to pray when you are commuting to work or swinging a child on a swing.
There are also many ways to pray. You can sit in a comfortable chair, kneel as you pray, lift your hands or lie prone on the floor while listening to music. You can be silent, pray aloud or write your prayers in a journal. Try new things. It will keep your prayer life fresh and exciting.
Does God always answer prayer?
God answers our prayers more often than we think. The answer may not be what we expect or come when we’d like it to come. Or we may not recognize it when it does come! After you have prayed for something, Henry Blackaby says, watch what happens next. We often don’t recognize an answer to prayer, he says, because we don’t make the connection between our request and God’s activity in our lives. When we begin to do this, we will be amazed by how many “coincidences” happen when we pray.
God answers prayer in three ways: “yes,” “no,” or “wait.” The answer may be no because we have “wrong motives” (James 4:2-3). For example, if we are asking for something out of self-interest. Or the request is clearly out of the will of God, e.g. a married spouse asking to marry another man’s wife.
When the answer is “wait,” God is often doing something in us or in others involved in the situation. Or He may be answering the prayer in an unusual or more far reaching way than we can imagine.
Are there hindrances to prayer?
Yes. Unconfessed sin is a hindrance to prayer (Psalm 66:18). This causes a barrier between us and God. In any relationship, if there has been hurt and wrongdoing, communication breaks down. The remedy? To acknowledge our sin and ask for God’s forgiveness so that our fellowship with Him can be restored.
Our relationships with other people can also hinder our prayers. God cares about how we treat people. For example, if we harbor resentment and bitterness toward someone who has hurt us, those angry feelings block the free-flow of communication between us and God. The remedy? Confess those feelings, forgive the person who has hurt you and do what you can to mend the relationship.