Second, the substance of habits of grace. As we seek after spiritual disciplines, it is so very easy for us to grow lax and indifferent. We get distracted or busy in the various seasons of life, and we suddenly find ourselves feeling dry or questioning what could be missing. We are outwardly doing the right things, but there is no authenticity or substance to what we are doing. While it is God who works in us, we must be mindfully engaged in the process, not just passive participants. Habits of grace are not just items to check off a to-do list. They are the lifeblood of our faith and deserve an intentional focus as an essential priority.
Before we examine how we can cultivate a fruitful prayer life, we must first consider what God’s Word tells us about the subject. Prayer is a necessity, not an option.
Scripture tells us continually of the vital importance of prayer in the life of the believer. Not only did Jesus instruct His disciples to pray (Luke 18), but He also gave them a pattern for prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). The apostle Paul furthered this directive.
“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” Colossians 4:2
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6
“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17
Prayer does not change God, but it does change us. God already knows what we need. He knows our deepest longings and desires. He does not need to be reminded of what is happening in our lives, nor does He need to be coaxed or roused into acting on our behalf. God is perfectly sovereign in all things, and yet He still commands us to pray and cast our burdens before Him. Therefore, we can surmise that prayer is not about getting God’s attention or changing Him, but rather prayer is a means to refocus our attention on Him and change our hearts. When we pray, we are admitting our dependence on Him. We are acknowledging His authority and power. As A.W. Pink said, “Prayer is not designed for the furnishing of God with the knowledge of what we need, but it is designed as a confession to Him of our sense of need.” As we daily admit our dependence on God in prayer we are changed — we are humbled to our proper place and reminded that we can unreservedly place our trust in the One who “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3).
Prayer is much more than just a means of request. Prayer is not just a way for us to ask God for things. It is a means of communing with Him. Just like God speaks to us through His Word, He allows us to speak with Him through prayer. Our conversations with God should be more than just asking Him for what we want or need. Our prayers should be filled with adoration, confession, and thanksgiving, not just petitions.
This is the pattern that Jesus gave us in Matthew 6. So, as you consider the following resources and methods, remember that this is the goal:
How can we have meaningful, authentic prayers? What are practical methods and tools we can use to cultivate a dynamic and fruitful prayer life?
1. Praying the Scriptures
Let’s be honest, some days we just don’t know how to pray. Perhaps we are tired or overwhelmed. We may even be depressed and discouraged. There are just some days when we go to pray that the words just do not come. This is where praying the Scriptures, particularly the Psalms, can be tool to reorient our heads and our hearts in line with what God desires for us.
Of course, we must always be careful to understand the context of the Scripture we are praying. There are promises in God’s Word that He made to specific people for a specific purpose that do not apply to us. But His character never changes. So, even in these passages we can find great comfort.
Let’s use Psalm 121 as an example.
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
Here the we find he psalmist reminding himself that God is his guardian, protector, and preserver. Although he finds himself in a place of suffering, he remembers that God will sustain him. How can he put such faith in God when all else seems so bleak? Because the Lord made the heavens and the earth, He simply spoke them into existence. Such power can surely sustain the psalmist, too. As he progresses through the psalm, the author preaches truth to himself — the truth of God’s character (adoration) and the truth of His deeds (thanksgiving). By the time the psalmist concludes, He is confident in the character and care of God, even though his circumstance have likely not changed.
Now that we understand the context, we can go back and consider the ways we can apply the passage to pray for ourselves. As we pray the passage from our own perspective, we may find statements that differ from our own set of circumstances, but God’s faithfulness toward us is the same. Additionally, we can use the passage to ask ourselves questions.
2. Prayer Journal
I have used a prayer journal off and on for many years. There are so many prayer journals out there but I have two personal favorites.
ESV Prayer Journal: 30 Days on the Gospel - Crossway has numerous journals like this that provide a short devotional-type study and a brief prompt to help guide your prayer on a particular passage.
The Daily Grace Co. - Every Day Praise Journal - Daily Grace has a wide selection of prayer journals. Many include a passage of Scripture and short commentary. Others, like this one, are simply places write out a prayer. I have primarily used journals like this one over the years, journaling my prayers to the Lord. I love that it makes me slow down and collect my thoughts as I pray. It makes me purposeful with my words and helps me stay focused on prayer, rather than letting my mind wander. Additionally, I love that I can go back and see how God answered prayers and changed my heart over days and weeks of study and communion with Him.
3. Praying Head to Toe
This tool was shared with me as a newlywed by a dear mentor. This is a method that can be used to pray for yourself but particularly for others. Often when we pray for people, we tend to focus on the externals. My mentor showed me how using this way of praying can help us pray more meaningfully for those we love. The method is as simple as it sounds — you are praying for the person starting the from head all the way down to toes. Here's a brief example of how I use this to pray for my daughter:
I pray prayers like this often for my daughter and my husband. There are times when I even pray them for myself. Praying in this way help us to remember what truly matters — not our external circumstances, but rather the state of our inner man.
As we take time to speak with God, not only at a set aside time but throughout the day, we draw closer to Him. Back in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned, one of the most devastating consequences they encountered was the loss of fellowship with God. No longer could they daily walk and talk with God face to face. They felt this separation keenly. However, God in His kindness has given us sinners not only a means for forgiveness but also a way to commune with Him in our weakness and frailty. And yet we often think of prayer as something we have to do rather than something we get to do. Prayer is a gift, and we ought never to pray in such a way that lacks concentration or does not give God proper glory. He is our Creator, our Redeemer, and our Sustainer. We will never run out of ways to adore and praise Him. In fact, we will be praising Him for all eternity! Let’s begin the conversation now with meaningful prayer as we commune with Him!
How are you cultivating fruitful habits of grace in the areas of your life through prayer?
Hi friend, welcome to InstaEncouragements. I am so glad you are here. You’re among friends. You belong here.
How would you like access to our online library of helpful eBooks, devotionals, printables, lock screens, and more? You’re going to love this library, there is all kinds of exclusive content, just for you!
Join the movement by signing up below and I'll send you the link today. And no worries, We don’t spam. Promise! We don’t like spam either.
After you've joined the movement, hop on over to our about page to learn more about us and then to our contact form and introduce yourself so we can be on a first-name basis. I'd like that!