Recently, my best friend Reilly spent the weekend with me in Springfield. From the time we were little we’ve had sleepovers filled with laughter, and this weekend was no different. We talked until we couldn’t stay awake any longer, but this time our late night conversations took on a more serious note.
We had gone to church together that morning, so our conversation drifted to the topic of faith and prayer. She asked me if I thought there was a right or wrong way to pray. In the moment I didn’t have a very concise answer, but since she left we have been texting and talking a lot about it.
I think a lot of what we’ve talked about are questions that other people are searching to answer as well. So I pray that this can help you in your walk with Jesus as you seek to know and love Him more in your quiet time.
My Personal Journey with Prayer
My dad was the one who taught me how to pray. Every night before bed, he would check my closet for monsters, tuck me into bed, and then we would pray together. We would list off prayer request after prayer request and talk through everything together until my mom and sister yelled because we were keeping them up with our loud chatting and giggling.
When he was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer he just prayed even harder. I remember finding a sticky note on his desk that said “pray always, in all ways” and he definitely personified that. He truly believed God was going to work a miracle in his life.
But when that miracle never came, I really struggled with the concept of prayer. I couldn’t wrap my mind around why God wouldn’t answer the pleading prayers of the best man I knew. I thought maybe I didn’t pray hard enough or didn’t pray in the right way.
At the time, I thought I was alone in those thoughts. Since then, I’ve talked to so many people who felt the same way. The entire community was praying for him, and so many people were left feeling like their prayers held no power after he passed.
Looking back now, I know it wasn’t that God wasn’t listening or didn’t care. He just answered our prayers differently than we wanted. He healed dad, He just didn’t do it here on earth.
Before I understood that, I simply stopped praying for a while. I hated praying without my dad, it felt so lonely. But once I opened those lines of communication again, I found so much peace in prayer. I spoke honestly to the Lord, expressing my grief and anger without holding anything back.
My prayers are far from perfect, but they’re open and honest. They’ve helped me know and love God more and more each day. I strive to pray like my dad did, with long lists of prayer requests for those around him and a heart overflowing with love for the Lord.
What Should Praying Look Like?
I don’t think there is any right or wrong way to pray, but it is more about trying to find what works best for you. There are lots of different factors that can play into this and affect your prayer time including;
I choose to do my quiet time in the mornings. There is no legalistic reasoning behind this, God will hear your prayers no matter what time of day you pray them. I made the decision to do so because so many people I admire and respect do their quiet time in the morning. Sometimes I’ll try to fit in somewhere in the day or late at night, but I’m so forgetful that it doesn’t work nearly as well.
A couple of weeks ago I woke up and still felt like I needed another 8 hours of sleep. So I convinced myself to go back to bed and just fit my Bible time in later that afternoon. Throughout the course of the day, it just felt like everything that could go wrong did.
It wasn’t until I was driving back from a day full of activities later that night that I realized I never made time for Jesus in my day. I looked back on my day and knew that starting in prayer wouldn’t have kept all the bad things at bay, but it definitely would’ve given me the sense of peace I feel on days I start with the word.
Regardless of what time of day you decide to get in your quiet time, I think it is important that your time in prayer expands outside of that specific time frame. If I’ve already had my quiet time in prayer that morning, it doesn’t mean that I don’t pray throughout the rest of the day.
Right now I am really working on inviting God into every moment of my day. I tend to be overly focused on each moment I am in, but when I take my mind off the things of the world and set my mind on things above, each moment feels much more peaceful.
A lot of people have a set spot for their time in prayer, whether it is at their desk, a table at Panera, or kneeling at the edge of their bed. Again, I think it is a personal decision, for example, some people feel like kneeling helps them be reverent and focused, but for others, it just cuts off their circulation and makes them dizzy.
Personally, I prefer to pray in bed. This helps make my quiet time the first thing I do each day. If I get out of bed then I get caught up with a million other things like washing the dishes in the sink from the night before.
Instead, I stay in bed until my quiet time is done. I turn on my space heater, background music, and twinkly lights, but even with these things, it’s typically not a picturesque cute and cozy morning.
Most of the time I’m struggling to keep my eyes open, my PJs are bunched up from tossing and turning, and I’m having trouble focusing because my mouth hurts from grinding my teeth in my sleep.
In other words, I would much rather still be sleeping, but it takes discipline to grow your relationship with Jesus and put Him first. I don’t think prayer should be treated as just another box on your checklist to cross off, but rather a necessity for starting your day with Jesus.
If I start treating my quiet time as a mundane task, I like to change up my environment. I always feel most connected to God outdoors. Whether it’s walking down a beautiful trail at the park or sitting on my front porch swing, I think you can pray and talk to God wherever you are.
Personally, I am really bad at praying in my head because my mind tends to wander off to a million other things. Through the last couple of years, I have discovered that I am much more focused writing down my prayers.
For a long time I liked to write out my prayers by hand out each night by candlelight. It felt so wholesome and old-fashioned, but unfortunately, it took a very long time and I never seemed to get out all of my emotions and concerns on paper.
Now I have an ongoing document that I have filled with hundreds of pages of prayers because of how quickly I can type out my thoughts. It takes forever for it to load, but I love keeping it to look back on all of the prayers God has answered and all of the blessings He has given me.
I use this document each day to type out my prayers. Each morning I delve into five different sections;
“I AM SORRY FOR…” Doing this first helps me to reflect on the previous day and repent from my sins. It allows me to come into agreement with God before I spend time with Him in community. It has also made me much more aware of my sin so that I can strive to not make the same mistakes again.
“I AM GRATEFUL FOR…” I love listing off all of the things I am grateful for before delving into all my prayer requests and concerns. It always brings me contentment and the greatest feeling of peace. I think this is because it shows me all that God has blessed me with. He has taken care of me time and time again in the past and will continue to do so in the future. A lot of the things I am praying for later wind up being things I am grateful for.
“I AM PRAYING FOR…” This is where I bring all of my prayer requests. I cover a pretty wide range of topics for this. A lot of the time they are focused on things other people have requested I pray for. I also like to pray over any time I am irritated with someone else. It always gives me a better perspective of where they might be coming from, and it makes it a lot harder to hold a grudge against them or allow any hatred into my heart. My prayers are also centered around what is going on in my life at the time and what I want God’s guidance on. I essentially write down anything that crosses my mind.
“I AM NEEDING YOU FOR…” I typically end with this portion because I tend to get carried away and write out page after page. Anytime I am working through something, this is where I turn. I don’t hold back, and simply let the words pour out of me. There have been a lot of days where I open up my laptop crying and by the time I am done, I’m smiling. This has really helped me through some of the darkest moments of my life and has made me learn to run directly to the Lord with my problems and rely on Him alone. Plus sometimes it’s kind of funny to look back and see how over-dramatic I was being.
“I AM LEARNING…” I use this section to take down any notes from whatever passage of the Bible I am reading that day. I love this because even if I’m just re-reading a passage, the Holy Spirit always teaches me something new. I also use it to take notes on podcasts that I’m listening to, books that I’m reading, or what I’m learning in church and bible study to help me remember the wisdom that is being instilled in me each day.
Maybe this process works for you, maybe it doesn’t. But I encourage you to develop a plan for yourself. This is definitely not me saying that I am in any way perfect. Some days I am able to spend hours simply enjoying my quiet time with the Lord, and other days I am barely able to squeeze it in between class and work.
Typically I end my prayer time with reading from the Bible. Then I finish with my morning prayer. I constantly add new things to my morning prayer so it is kind of all over the place because there are so many things that I want a daily reminder of. I treat it as a list of everything I want to be mindful of throughout the day.
My Morning Prayer
Good morning Jesus. I love You with my entire heart. I thank You for today. I thank You for saving me from my past sin and making Your mercies for me new each morning. I invite You into each moment of my day. Carry me through the hard times, hold my hand through the mundane, and walk with me in the joyful moments. I ask that You reside in my heart and help me to love others, see others, and hear others the way You do.
Lord I give You today, You are in control of whatever comes my way. I know that no matter what today holds, nothing could possibly happen that would steal my joy. Even if the worst possible thing comes my way today; nothing can separate me from You.
Remind me of all that You have in store for me. Help me to set my mind on things above. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
I pray that You help me to manage my expectations today. Help me not to expect the worst, to stay positive, but to remember that You owe me nothing. Help me to control my desires and expectations today so that I won’t be disappointed tomorrow. I want to align my expectations for my life with Your expectations.
Place me where You want me today. I want to be obedient to You and accept whatever You give me with a smile, to accept all of the people and all of the work that You give me. I pray that You keep me in the present, guide me so that I am living entirely in the moment, knowing that You have placed me there for a reason.
I give You all of my worries and anxieties of today, tomorrow, and beyond. Help me not to focus on the future, but in each and every moment You place me in. I pray that throughout the day I can give myself unreservedly to building Your kingdom and trust that You are building mine.
I pray You set a guard over my thoughts, words, and actions. Help them all to glorify You and to shine Your light to others. Help me be a blessing to others and reflect the fruits of Your Spirit; “Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23
I pray that You help me not to lie or gossip but to speak life and joy to others. I pray that You help me to view all those around me as my brothers and sisters in Christ and guide me in being authentic.
In moments of temptation remind me of all that You have for me. Help me to flee from all temptation and not bask in it. “The Lord will fight for You, You need only be still.” Exodus 14:14
Bind my wandering heart to You and help me to stay close by Your side. Help me see that each little step I take away from You, is what eventually leads to me drifting to rock bottom. I pray that You help me grow closer to You rather than farther each day.
When I do fall and I do mess up, help me to come to You, confess, repent, and then keep going and walking with You. Remind me that my brokenness is why I need You, but that it does not define who I am.
I pray You help me to see myself the way You do and to better understand Your love. Remind me that I don’t have to perform or do anything to earn Your love, that You will love me in every moment of today.
In every high and every low of today, I pray that You would help me follow Your will. Help me to live each moment to bring You glory. I love You and I can’t wait to see what You have in store for this day.
Praying for His Will
I grew up treating God like He was Santa Claus. I didn’t set out milk and cookies for Him or think that He was going to come down my chimney late at night. But I did give Him long wish lists of everything I wanted and thought if I was good enough then I could earn them by being on His “nice list.”
As much as I love Santa, I’m learning that God operates a lot differently, and not just because He uses angels instead of elves. I’ve begun to grasp you don’t have to do anything for Him to answer your prayers. He does it simply because He loves us, and there is nothing we can do to earn that love.
I have also been learning that God is not a genie who will grant your every wish exactly the way you want Him to. Sometimes He answers our prayers differently than we want.
In the moment it can be hard to see how your unanswered prayer can be a blessing, but it is so important to remember that God knows what is best for you and is working all things together for your good.
It’s like one of those photos that are so zoomed in you can’t even tell that it’s just a picture of a walnut. We only see that tiny little zoomed-in picture, but God sees the entire photo. He sees you entire life and is working out each moments and detail.
So ultimately, I don’t think there is any right or wrong way to pray. But I do believe that we should mirror our prayer time after that of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane where He prays, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
In this moment Jesus is facing his death, he knows God’s will is for him to give his life on the cross and yet he still prays for God’s will to be fulfilled. In all of our prayers, we should always pray that ultimately God’s will would be fulfilled in and through us.