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What can we do when we realize our prayer life is becoming monotonous, and we are just going through the motions? How can we improve our time in prayer and our relationship with God?
Making prayer part of our routine is helpful, but we have to be careful not to ritualize our prayers by repetition, because we are just putting in the time. It is appropriate to pray often and regularly, but a prayer list is a good idea to assist us in avoiding vain repetition.
In Colossians 4:12 we are told that Epraphas always labored “fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” Not only do we have to discipline ourselves to set aside time to pray, it also takes some preparation and planning to know what we are going to cover during our prayer time. During such times it is helpful to ask God for assistance in praying effectively (Romans 8:26).
The Bible doesn’t specifically say how long to pray, but there are several scriptures to consider—Paul exhorts, “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17) and Jesus taught “that men always ought to pray and not lose heart ” (Luke 18:1). We have to balance that with what Jesus said about avoiding “vain repetition” and also about thinking we are going to be heard for our “many words” (Matthew 6:7). Sometimes you may want to focus on the need for God’s kingdom, the work of the Church, individual people or perhaps your own needs. The point is, prayer takes effort and some planning.
Use God’s Word and Holy Spirit to help you pray The Bible often talks about the prayer of faith or praying according to your faith. Faith is an important component of effective prayer. Paul instructs that “...faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). We grow in faith by studying the word of God, and if we are not studying our Bible enough, it may affect our prayer life.
The outline Jesus gave us in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4 is a great guideline to prayer. The Bible teaches us we can cast our anxieties upon God, and we should pray for others, including our enemies. We are also told to pray for church leaders and civil leaders. The Psalms offer wonderful prayer ideas as well.
We should also pray for God’s Spirit to assist you in your prayers: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Romans 8:26).
God wants us to pray from the heart with sincerity, so tell Him what is really on our mind, not what we imagine God wants to hear. We can go to God when we are hurt, afaid, or when we don’t understand something. He will listen with compassion and understanding.
Reminding ourselves of what the Bible tells us to pray about can also help us with our prayer life. Read some of the prayers of men like Moses, Elijah, or Jeremiah. When they prayed, they told God what they really thought.
God wants an intimate relationship with us and His affection is beyond our ability to imagine. We are his children, and His love for us is far greater than any love a human parent can have for their children.
Virtual Christian Magazine (Feb 2010)