How to Build a Stronger Prayer Connection
by Whitney Hopler
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Peter Lundell's new book, Prayer Power: 30 Days to a Stronger Connection with God, (Revell, 2009).
When you pray, do you sense God listening to you, or do your prayers seem to just float off into the air unheard? Do you hear what God has to say, or do you struggle to discern any message from Him? Do you pray frequently because you love to do so? Or do you often neglect to pray because you’re discouraged or worried that you’re somehow not praying correctly?
If your prayers seem ineffective, you can strengthen them to experience more of God’s power when you pray. Here’s how you can build a stronger prayer connection to God:
Develop a hunger for God. Ask God to help you want Him more than anything or anyone else in your life. When you’re hungry for more of God, you’ll naturally be motivated to meet with Him in prayer.
Seek intimacy with God. Be willing to make drawing closer to God your top priority. Make whatever changes you need to make in your life to allow yourself to spend significant time with God daily in prayer, and regularly confess and repent of sin that blocks your intimacy with God. Deliberately build the rest of your life around your relationship with God.
Pursue God with passion. Overcome complacency and distractions that can cause you to cut back on how much you pray. Simplify your life as much as possible so you won’t be too exhausted to invest lots of time and energy into prayer. Whenever you encounter challenges, view them as opportunities to pray and discover more about God’s plans for you. Ask God to give you a passion for the people and situations that burn in His heart, so you can pray with passion for what matters most to God.
Start a dead engine. Sometimes you may not feel like praying but know that you need to pray anyway. If you crank your prayers to life like you would a stalled engine on a car, your prayers will then begin to flow more naturally. Recognize problems as opportunities to tap into what God can do in your life; pray about whatever problems you encounter, no matter how frustrated or discouraged you are. Use written prayers (like the Lord’s Prayer) to start praying when you don’t have an idea of how pray about something on your own. Play praise and worship music – especially a song that proclaims what you’d like to pray about aren’t sure how to pray yet. Use a prayer notebook or a list of prayer topics to give your prayers clear substance, focus, and direction.
Get a faith lift. When you’re discouraged by challenges you’re facing, don’t give up praying. When you don’t understand what’s going on, keep trusting God. Ask God to give you more faith to help you hold on through the challenges.
Clean house. Lingering sins in your life can block the answers to prayer that God wants to give you – and also lead to spiritual lethargy, emotional turmoil, and physical illness. Clean out your soul by regularly confessing and repenting of whatever sins you know about, and ask God to reveal the ones you don’t so you can deal with them, too. Let go of grudges and forgive other people regularly. Ask God to keep your relationships with Him and others right.
Invite God to strengthen your character. Struggling through hardship gives you a valuable chance to grow in your character if you’re determined to trust God in the process. Pray for God to use your struggles to change you more into the person He wants you to become – someone who is more like Christ. Ask the Holy Spirit to heal, correct, and transform you from the inside out.
Praise God. Decide to praise God for who He is even when you’re dealing with discouragement or trouble. Let your praise rise from your faith rather than just your feelings. Choose to praise Him every day, no matter what, since He is above your challenges. When you praise God, He will respond to your praise and actually become to you what you praise Him for – from your healer, to your provider.
Let the Holy Spirit lead you. Open your mind and heart to the Holy Spirit when you pray and yield your own prayers to the Spirit’s prompting. Let the Spirit guide your prayers, empower you, and connect directly to your spirit as you’re praying.
Practice God’s presence. Develop a continual sense that God is with you at all times throughout each day – even as you go about the most mundane activities, like cleaning your house or commuting to work. Pray while you do various tasks, offering your efforts to God’s glory and thanking Him for His presence with you. Say short prayers that you can say in a single breath to focus on a particular need you may during the day. If you’re too busy to notice God’s work around you every day, cut whatever activities you can out of your schedule and slow down. Think of God as you move from one part of your day to another, and use even brief times between activities (such as while waiting in line to pick up your kids up from school) to pray.
Listen to God. Quiet your mind and heart before God to listen to Him. Ask God to help you be willing, patient, and perceptive, and to learn how to discern His voice speaking to you above your own thoughts or thoughts from other people or the evil side of the spiritual realm. Trust that God will respond and speak to you. Whether you hear an audible voice inside your mind, receive a mental impression, or sense God speaking in some other way, listen carefully.
Pray out loud. Verbalize the prayers you have inside your mind. Lift your voice to God either quietly or loudly, remembering that He loves to hear you speak.
Be specific. Clearly identify what you’re seeking when you pray. Don’t be vague; tell God exactly what you hope to receive. Then place your desire in God’s hands and trust Him to do what’s best. Expect Him to respond with a specific answer.
Pray God’s Word. Find and apply Bible verses to whatever situation about which you’re praying. That way, you’ll be praying not merely by your own desires, but according to God’s promises. You can pray Scripture either by reading it verbatim and affirming what it says, personalize it as if it were written directly to you, or paraphrase what it says in the context of what you’re praying about. Then trust that God will do in your life what He promises in His Word.
Fast. Take your spiritual prayers into the physical realm to show God that you’re serious about being humble and broken before Him as you pray. Offer your body to God as a living expression of your prayers.
Pray at a special place. Establish a particular place to go to regularly for prayer and focus on God whenever you’re there. Try to find a quiet place where you can be alone: a nearby church sanctuary, a corner of your backyard, a room or part of a room in your home, etc. When you travel, designate part of your hotel room as your prayer place. Dedicate your special place as sacred to your time with God.
Pray at a certain time. Schedule a regular time to pray – first thing in the morning (which is ideal, if possible), during lunch, or even before going to bed at night. Establish a minimum length of time to pray daily, as well, to keep other demands from intruding. Guard that time when you plan other activities, and intentionally neglect your to-do list while you’re praying so you can get the full time with God.
Speak body language. Express your prayers in physical ways, from lifting your hands and eyes upward, to bowing down in reverence before God.
Use prayer guides. Compile a custom-made prayer guide to help give structure and consistency to your prayers. While some days you’ll want to pray spontaneously, other days you can use a prayer guide that lists various people and situations to pray about, plus reminds you of how God has answered past prayers.
Minimize distractions. Do your best to focus your attention completely on God when you’re praying. If your mind wanders, ask God to help you focus. Write down thoughts that persistently pop up in your mind, so you can deal with them later. Pray for people whose names come into your mind. If any sinful thoughts (like those based in worry or lust) distract you, confess them as part of your prayer time.
Deal with unanswered prayer. When God hasn’t answered one of your prayers and you’re struggling, consider whether or not something may be blocking His answer. Do you have enough faith to believe He will really answer? Have you confessed sin in your life? Have you forgiven everyone you need to forgive? Do you have inner wounds on your psyche that need to be revealed and broken down before their effects can be overcome? Are you harboring self-pity in your heart? Does your whole lifestyle agree with your prayers? (If you’re praying to be healed of an illness, have you stopped smoking or overeating? If you’re praying for financial provision, are you avoiding debt and giving generously?). Are you asking for a blessing in order to hoard it, or to share it? Has Satan been infiltrating your life? Are there any strongholds of ungodly thoughts or behaviors in your life? Consider, too, that God may still be planning to answer your prayer but is just waiting for the right time. He may also be punishing you for something, trying to teach you something, testing your faith, or letting a natural order of events take place. Ask God to help you understand why He hasn’t answered your prayers. Even when you don’t know why, commit yourself into His hands and trust Him to eventually do what’s best, letting your unanswered prayers lead you see Him more.
Wrestle with God. When you’re facing a difficult situation about which God hasn’t yet answered your prayers, grapple with God over your desire versus God’s will. Have the faith and tenacity to say to God: “I won’t let you go until you bless me.” In the process, God will change your desires so that they line up with His desires for you.
Be both a sprinter and a marathoner.
Running the race of faith sometimes calls for sprinting (being quick to pray when opportunities arise) and sometimes for enduring a marathon (continuing to pray for people and situations when God is taking a long time to answer).
Keep asking God, boldly and persistently. Don’t worry about trying to be polite with God. He actually invites you to bug Him – forcefully and often – for what you need. Rather than assuming that your request must not be God’s will if you pray and don’t see anything happen, keep on knocking loudly on heaven’s door until an answer comes.
Engage in spiritual warfare. While the battle against evil is ultimately God’s to fight, He wants you to participate by exercising your authority against the evil you face. Pray God to protect you and give you the power you need to confront and overcome evil.
Agree in prayer. When you pray with at least one other person and God leads you how to pray together, your prayers will have more power than if you were praying on your own. Agree with God, making your requests in harmony with His will. Agree with the person or people with whom you’re praying, placing your expectations all at the same place when you pray and believing that God will answer.
Serve those for whom you pray. Ask God to show you specific ways in which you can serve the people for whom you pray. Then you all will experience the power of God’s love at work. Also, the more you serve those you pray for, the more you’ll be motivated to pray for those you serve.
Write it down. Write down answers to prayer you receive, mental impressions from the Holy Spirit, prophecies, and anything else that might help you to pray more effectively. Consider using a prayer journal.
Start a prayer group. Gather some friends to pray together regularly or hold prayer vigils for specific issues.
Expand your horizons. You can change and grow into person who prays more effectively if you expose yourself to the whole spectrum of Christianity. Visit churches of other denominations and learn how people there pray. Then try out new prayer styles yourself so you can experience all that God has for you.
Adapted from Prayer Power: 30 Days to a Stronger Connection with God, copyright 2009 by Peter Lundell. Published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.revellbooks.com.Peter Lundell, a former missionary to Japan, is a pastor at Walnut Blessing Church in Walnut, Ca. He has an M Div and D Miss from Fuller Theological Seminary and teaches widely on revival and spiritual warfare. Lundell is the author of two books, and his articles have appeared in numerous magazines.