How to Pray — Part 2
When should you pray?
Doug Britton, MFT
The Bible doesn’t give us a rule about when to pray or how long to pray. Instead, it simply says to pray throughout the day. Paul summed this up when he wrote, “Pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We will look at practical ways to make prayer part of our daily life.
Establish a regular time to pray every day
It’s easy to forget to pray. It’s also easy to think we are “too busy” to pray.
You can overcome these excuses by setting aside a specific time to pray each day—perhaps combining this with your daily Bible study.
Establishing a prayer habit is similar to beginning an exercise program. The benefits of both prayer and exercise might seem small at first, but they build up over time. If you persist in prayer, you become more Christ-like, just as if you persist in lifting weights, you become stronger.
If you don’t have a habit of praying, start out small. For example, spend a few minutes praying when you wake up in the morning or after you read the Bible. Make this a regular habit.
Decide when you will pray.
Many people find that praying in the morning helps them walk close to God as they go through the day.
Decide where you will pray.
You can pray anywhere. However, if you are able to find a quiet place away from distractions, you can concentrate more easily as you pray.
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35)
Consider adding more regular prayer times
As time goes on, gradually make your time longer and perhaps add some more regular times. For example, you might decide upon something like the following three-times-a-day routine.
You could combine this prayer time with your daily Bible study. You could pray for your daily activities and for other people’s specific needs. You could also pray to love God more and to show his love to everyone you come into contact with.
As we go through life, we are exposed to ungodly influences that can cling to us much as dust does when we walk along a dirt trail. You could pray for God to cleanse you from this pollution. You could also pray for God’s help to overcome personal temptations such as watching TV for hours, yelling at the kids, spending too much time on the computer, getting drunk, or staying up too late.
You could pray for God’s protection over yourself, your family, and your friends.
Pray before meals
Make it a habit to give thanks and ask for God’s blessing before eating.
Make it personal
1. How will you build daily prayer into your life?
2. How will you remind yourself to pray?
Pray throughout the day
When we read the New Testament, we see that the believers prayed throughout the day, not just once or twice a day. For example, in Paul’s letters he wrote that he constantly prayed for the people to whom he was writing.
God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you. (Romans 1:9-10)
We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:3)
I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. (2 Timothy 1:3)
How often should we pray? In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul said to pray “continually.”
That doesn’t mean you can never think or talk since you are praying. But it does mean you can train yourself to pray more and more as you go through the day. You can pray for others. You can ask God for advice. You can thank him for his love. You can thank him for his help.
As you grow closer to Jesus, you will probably discover there are many times during the day when your mind is drifting aimlessly, or you are entertaining unhealthy thoughts. Learning to pray throughout the day can help you stay focused, know God more intimately, and live a more fulfilling life.
Not only that, when you pray throughout the day, you are better able to handle the problems that inevitably come up in life. Instead of reacting with frustration or anger, you will have developed the habit of saying a quick prayer before speaking.
Make it personal
3. How often do you pray during the day? What do you normally pray for?
4. Why is it difficult for most of us to pray throughout the day?
5. Pray silently for someone for two minutes. Pray for his or her walk with God, happiness, success, health, protection from harm, peace, and growth in areas of weakness.
6. What did it feel like to pray for this person?
7. How do you think you can go about increasing the amount of time you pray throughout the day?
Worship and praise God throughout the day
Praising and worshipping God when you are alone as well as when you are with other Christians is a powerful way to connect with your maker, a way to allow his Spirit to move in you and transform you. It’s also a great way to reconnect with God when you start to drift away in your daily life.
I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good. I will praise you in the presence of your saints. (Psalm 52:9)
Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. (Psalm 100:2)
When you worship God, you bring joy to him. If you have children or grandchildren, you may have experienced a taste of what this is like when they said they loved you.
God is our heavenly father, and he enjoys our love and worship. Not only that, he is much more worthy of it than we are of our children’s love.
One word of warning: Be sensitive to those around you. Don’t sing when it would cause an offense.
Make it personal
8. How often do you sing worship or praise choruses as you go through the day? How comfortable are you at these times?
9. Do you feel self-conscious because you don’t think you have a good singing voice? If so, how important do you think that is to God?
Make prayer your first response to problems
Although praying is often the most helpful thing we can do, it is often the last thing we think of. Sometimes we need to talk less and pray more.
What do you think?
10. Why do we find it easy to criticize or give advice but difficult to pray?
11. How can you remind yourself to pray when problems come up?
Overcome your excuses for not praying
The following are common excuses people have for not praying. Each is followed by a brief answer.
“I forget to pray.”
Make a prayer chart and tape it to your bedroom door or some other visible place. At the end of each day, check each time you prayed. Also write the reasons for times you did not pray and your plans to improve.
“I don’t have time to pray.”
When you say, “I’m too busy,” you are really saying prayer is a low priority. If you make prayer a priority, you can find time.
For example, if you think you are too busy to pray before going to work in the morning, you could make time by going to bed earlier, then getting up a little earlier. Or you could watch TV a few minutes less.
“I’m too angry to pray.”
When you are mad, you really need to pray. The first thing to pray about is your anger.
“My children want my attention.”
One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is the example of someone who prays. Train them to read or play independently as you pray for a few minutes. Also invite them to pray with you.
Make it personal
12. What have been your excuses for not praying when you should have prayed?
13. What will help you pray more regularly?
Pray continually. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Make it personal
1. Do you have a regular daily prayer time?
If so, when is it? How many minutes do you pray on average?
If not—or if you are not consistent—when would be a good time?
Is this something you will work on putting into practice?
How will you put it into practice?
2. How important was praying throughout the day to the early Christians?
3. Why do you think this was so important to them?
4. How many minutes a day do you pray as you go through the day?
If you think you should pray more often during the day, write a brief prayer asking God to help you start doing so today.
5. Describe your experience, if any, of praising and worshipping God as you go through the day.
6. If you sometimes neglect to pray when you know you should, what are your main excuses?
7. What do you think God would say about these excuses?
8. What steps will you take to overcome these excuses?
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About Doug Britton, MFT
Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)
Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.