Is your prayer life feeling a bit dry? Do you find yourself going days without communicating with God at all? I don’t know a single Christian who hasn’t experienced a drying up of the prayer well at some time or another on their walk with God. There are lots of reasons why. Maybe we have been doing the same old routine for a long time, and our prayer time has become a little stale. Perhaps our circumstances have changed, such as a new job, starting a family, or reaching retirement. Sometimes, there is something emotionally blocking us from talking to God, whether it be anger, guilt, shame or struggling with our mental health.
Regardless of what may be the cause of our stagnation, here are a few suggestions to help you hit the refresh button to reignite your prayer life:
Getting Real With Ourselves
One of the surefire ways we can set ourselves up to fail in our prayer life is to overcommit. The best place to start is to get real with ourselves and take an honest look at what we are willing and able to give to prayer. There is no point in deciding to have an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening when all you can do in the morning is get the kids off to school on time or yourself to work. Setting unrealistic expectations of ourselves will lead to repeatedly hitting the skip button and, as a result, will cause us to lather ourselves with shame.
The best advice I can give you is to start small. Whatever number you think of, maybe do one per cent of that first and build up from there. If all we do is say, “Good morning, Lord,” upon waking and “Goodnight, Lord,” before sleeping, we will go a long way to improve our relationship with God.
Location, Location, Location
Where we pray can also have a massive impact on our prayer life. Of course, in an ideal world, we would all have a walk-in closet to spare that we could strip bare and use as our prayer sanctuary, just like in the film The War Room. Sigh. If only. Sadly, despite trying, I only have a wardrobe I can’t fit in even if I successfully Marie Kondo my way out of the clutter currently crammed there.
If we struggle to find a sacred space to pray in our homes, one great place to pray is in our cars. Whether on our way to work or right after dropping the kids off at school, this is an excellent time and space to pray. The good news is that unlike in the past, if we chat merrily away to God while driving, the other drivers on the road will assume we’re talking to someone hands-free on our phones. They don’t need to know we have the Creator of the Universe on the line! Give it a try and see what you think. I’d love to hear how you get on.
Lost for Words
Finding the right words, or any words, is one of the biggest roadblocks for people in prayer. It can help if we find some pre-written prayers to get us started. The Lord’s Prayer, the Serenity Prayer, and the Prayer of St Francis are great examples of prayers we might like to use. But even these might start to feel a little dry if they are all we ever say to God.
I believe our communication with God needs genuine, heart-felt dialogue. This can be challenging, like a baby learning to talk or a new language. We may feel shy or tongue-tied. It’s perhaps not helped by the eloquent prayers we hear around us. If John or Jane at church can reel off these amazing soliloquies off the top of their heads without batting an eyelid, then surely we should be able to string a sentence together.
It doesn’t work that way. A wise woman once said, “It’s messy in the nursery and tidy in the graveyard.” We may babble. We may stutter and stumble. We may feel awkward and clumsy. That is absolutely OK. God wants to hear from us, even if all we can muster is a simple “hello.” Once we get started, we will find our prayers evolving, changing and growing alongside our relationship with God.
Praying Another Way
Prayer doesn’t always involve words. As it says in scripture, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with sighs and groans too deep for words. Pray without ceasings, and, if necessary, use words.
You may pray best through arts and crafts, pictures or textiles, or even gardening rather than words. That is more than OK. God loves gardens and would be thrilled to spend time with you in one.
Some people pray using music and dance. Worship is another kettle of fish, which we will cover in a separate article. Here, we’re looking at secular song and dance. For example, I firmly believe that God is a HUGE ABBA fan. I feel this immense joy when I listen to Dancing Queen and can picture myself twirling with God around the dance floor. I believe God likes my singing, even though I won’t be a contestant on the Voice anytime soon. The Psalms tell us to “make a joyful noise to the Lord.” My rendition of “Never Enough” from The Greatest Showman is nothing if not joyful.
Perhaps, like me, you pray best through journaling. When I pray this way, I often lose all sense of time and space and am transported to the throne of God. Wisdom and guidance come to me through this medium in a way that I miss if I speak my prayers aloud.
Going for walks in nature is another way to commune with God. As much as God likes gardens, God also likes going for walks. What would it be like for you to go on a walk with God today? Where would you go?
One other way of praying, which has at times helped me enormously over the years, is to pray the Psalms. The Psalms, particularly those of Lament, give me a voice to articulate sometimes painful emotions. They permit me to get angry with God, express my frustrations, and cry for help. If you feel like there is a block of fear, guilt or shame in your life, praying the Psalms is one way to break through.
There are numerous suggestions of where to start, but you can’t go wrong with the 23rd Psalm. There’s a reason it’s so popular. It says it all. I also pray part of Psalm 51 every night. “Create in me a pure heart, o God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.”
No matter what you do to refresh your prayer life, I pray you will take a step closer and go deeper in your relationship with God than ever, experiencing the joy of His salvation and granting you a willing spirit to sustain you. Let me know how you get on, as it is always heartwarming to hear your stories.