Being able to communicate well is a skill that I thought people naturally possessed or were just weak at. As part of the latter group of people, I would always hide behind the excuse that I was an introvert or enjoyed my own company, but the worst excuse I would give to friends was “just because I don’t call or text you doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about you”. Which begs the question, how does you thinking of someone help you build a relationship with them?
So when I read these words “thinking and praying are two different things, and for something this important, you need prayer” in a book* I was honestly really rattled. IT made me realise how easy it is to make prayer synonymous with thinking when they are in fact two separate verbs. Prayer is directed to someone (i.e. God) whereas our thoughts remain with us unless we decide to communicate them to others.
It would be wrong for us to take advantage of the fact that God is all-knowing and so should invade our privacy to pick out our thoughts as an alternative to communicating them directly to Him. Most of us will ignore conversations that are not addressed to us as we assume that if someone had something to say, they would give us the courtesy of specifically addressing us. So how much more God, does He not also deserve us actively seeking His face, His opinions, His help, His voice?
I personally think He does and so would encourage you to make sure that you are not just thinking thoughts, but you are talking them through with God. For some, thinking is so much easier than praying and if that’s the case for you then the following tips may help you work on your prayer life:
Create an atmosphere
There was an evening where I was about to go to an event that required me to dress up but I was in such a funk that I wanted to just show up with minimal effort until my friend alluded to the fact that I had predetermined in my mind what I would be present at the event without having a presence. Similarly, there have been times where I tell myself I will pray and so I get myself comfortable in bed, go under my duvet, lay my head on my pillow and start to pray. Those prayers quickly turn into thoughts and those thoughts quickly turn into dreams. Why? Because whilst I told myself I would pray, I created an atmosphere appropriate for sleeping.
I find that playing worship songs gets me into the right attitude because no matter what mood I am in, the simple act of worshipping another (God) humbles me to the point where my melodic tunes naturally flow into prayers of thanksgiving and other prayers. It may not be worship for you but the point is that you should be intentional about your prayers and ensure that you are in a position to be able to fully focus on God.
But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
Write down your prayer points:
There are time where I do the usual prayers of thanksgiving and asking for forgiveness and then realise that I actually don’t have much else to say which in some situations is okay and very intentional. However, other times it may be because my mind is elsewhere and I am praying out of duty as opposed to desire. Writing down prayer points ensures that I know exactly what I need to pray for and set time aside to get through my list before allowing something else to distract me. It also helps me avoid situations where I tell someone that I will keep something in prayer for them but never actually follow through. If you need help setting prayer points then have a read through the Grace Mag 7-Day Prayer Guide.
Then the Lord answered me and said: “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it.
For some of us group prayers are a great source of encouragement to get us praying and if that’s you then please by all means continue to set up those zoom prayer calls and monthly fasts with your friends. For others however, group prayers make us freeze and suddenly become self-conscious of how we pray, how long we’re able to pray on one point for and our ability to focus on that point without just speaking generic words. If this is you then may I suggest prayer walks? I find that going on a walk with the specific aim of talking to God really helps to focus my mind on Him. A 30min walk with no phone or human company forces me to either talk to myself (think) or talk to God (pray).
So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed
Keep your faith up
Sometimes improving our payer life can simply come by looking through lists of old prayer points and pointing out the ones that naturally fell of the list because they were answered by God. When you remember your answered prayers, you will remember the power of prayer.
However, there are times where we can simply ask God to top up our faith, one of the simplest prayers that I often pray in these situations is taken from Mark 9:24 which always reminds me that I can ask God for anything, even more faith!
The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”
* An American Marriage non-Christian novel by Tayari Jones
Words by Yemi Adekoya