A PRAYING LIFE
Spiritual Growth Objective
Walk and talk with God in an ongoing conversation
throughout all the activities of daily life
Introduction to a Praying Life
1 Thessalonians 5:17: “pray without ceasing”
Ephesians 6:18: “praying at all times in the Spirit with all prayer and supplication.”
Psalm 16:8: “I set the Lord always before me…”
Philippians 4:4, 7: “Rejoice in the Lord always; . . . in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Resources for Study
A great starting point to learn the foundations of practicing the presence of God (especially the first two). Miller’s numerous anecdotes illustrate the highly personal quality of relationship and ongoing conversation with God that is appropriate and available to sons and daughters of God. Most highly recommended!
Cynicism: Low-Level Doubt
Persisting in Prayer
Pray Like a Child
A more comprehensive book covering all three foundations. Keller covers all aspects of biblical teaching about prayer, the experience of prayer, and the practice of prayer, with helpful lessons from famous writings about prayer in church history.
1. Study Paul Miller’s book A Praying Life or another resource on prayer to develop your vision and understanding of the continual dialogue of “side-by-side” prayer with God.
Why is “side-by-side” prayer throughout the day so important?
How should the presence, power, love, and grace of God that we experience in union with Christ invite and motivate ongoing prayer with God?
What are the false assumptions/beliefs and practical obstacles and habits that prevent us from turning to God regularly in each situation?
More Practical Methods
Here are some practical suggestions about how to build a greater awareness of God’s presence by seeing daily routines and experiences as opportunities for encountering God and speaking with God.
If you are weary and unfocused, start with praying about that.
If your mind wanders, follow it, and pray about what preoccupies you (rather than just dwelling on it/stewing over it).
When you wake up, make your first thought a prayer to walk through the day with an awareness of God’s presence. (This will be easier if you make a habit of removing smartphones, tablets, and computers from your bedroom and refusing to open them before turning to God in Bible-based prayer each morning.)
Set an alarm or notification that alerts you to pray 1-2 minutes each hour. (You might consider combining this practice with a single Scripture text selected for the day to memorize and use as a means of repeatedly re-focusing one’s mind and heart on God.)
When you are lying in bed going to sleep, make your final thoughts of the day prayers of thanks for God’s blessings that day, confession of any sin he brings to mind, and rest in his mercy and care (see Psalm 3:5).
Pray quickly before beginning a task.
+ “Establish the work of our hands…” (Psalm 90:17)
+ Brother Lawrence once summarized his prayer before each to daily task this way: “O my GOD, since you are with me, and I must now, in obedience to your commands, apply my mind to these outward things, I ask you to give me the grace to continue in your presence; and to this end, prosper my work with your help, receive all my work, and possess all my affections.”
Pray short prayers while doing a task: “Lord, have mercy.” “Lord, help me,” etc.
Pray when completing a task. Give thanks and pray for fruit from your labor.
Build margins of time between tasks and appointments as much as possible to pause and take a breath to re-focus on the Lord and to pray for what comes next.
When thinking of a person, pray for that person: “Lord, thank you for this person (praise/thanks). Is this person/conversation showing me I need to change (confession)? Turn this person’s heart to you (petition).”
Before, during, or after talking with (or emailing, or texting…) a person, pray for that person: “Lord, show me this person’s heart. What is your purpose for them and for this conversation? Help me listen well. Help me forgive them. Remind me what you have taught me. Bring forth what you have put in me to serve this person.”
Before, during, or after a time at church or another public gathering, pray for what is happening: “Lord, show me my mission in this event. Who at this gathering do you want me to talk to? to listen to? to laugh with? to reach with my words?”
When watching TV or reading/viewing on the internet, focus prayers on what is in front of you at the moment. For example, at the art museum, pray for artists and the world of art. When seeing big issues addressed (e.g., politics, education, art/music, business/finance, science/technology), pray about those things and for people you know involved in them.
How can the same experience lead to different kinds of prayers, i.e., something for which to give praise/thanks, something exposed in me that needs confession, suffering that needs lament, and/or something that needs my petitions for God’s work? Example: visiting a friend in the hospital; new neighbor moves in next door.
What NOT to do:
Do not strain. Prayer “side-by-side” with God is not straining to achieve but more like awakening to the God who is already present and acting, more like opening up our minds and hearts with a greater awareness of God’s constant presence and bringing
Do not think it means always talking, still less always talking out loud. The goal is turning one’s mind and heart continually to the Lord. This involves meditative listening as much as speaking.
Do not be discouraged. It is a habit that takes time to learn. How do you know you are straining? If you are discouraged and anxious about your failures. Remember the grace of the gospel! Simply confess, thank God for his understanding and constant forgiveness, and move on.
For more on practical methods, see
Jan Johnson, Enjoying the Presence of God: Discovering Intimacy with God in the Daily Rhythms of Life (NavPress, 1996).