How can I find the motivation to pray?
This is an important question! To do anything you have to be motivated, don’t you? Here are some sources to get you really motivated to pray!
- Understand the workings of the Holy Trinity in prayer
We need to appreciate and understanding the workings of God the father, Son and Holy Ghost. When I pray it’s important to know that God is there, that he sees and rewards those who pray (Matthew 6:6). Then the Holy Spirit participates by giving me energy, precision and direction in my prayer (Romans 8:26). Jesus is with us when we pray (Matthew 18:20). He gives us access to God: he opened the way for us (Hebrews 10:19-20). So there are no more barriers and no more guilt. And one last bonus: when I am unable to pray in moments of difficulty, such as illness, mourning, discouragement… when the devil comes to knock me down and I am unable to pray, then I rest assured in the knowledge that Jesus will intercede for me (Hebrews 7.25). He takes charge!
- God responds!
“I call on you, my God, for you will answer me” (Psalms 17:6). David prays because God responds to prayer! When I count the number of God’s interventions in my life, in the lives of my friends, in the Bible and throughout the history of the Church, I am encouraged and want to pray. In the Bible, there are at least 653 prayers! During the baptism of Jesus, for example, we witness three miracles during Jesus’ prayer (Matthew 3:21-22). George Müller, a man of faith and prayer, noted around 10,000 responses to prayer in his notebooks!
Thanks to the prayers of others, I have seen lives transformed and the birth and growth of churches. Thanks to the prayers of men of faith like George Verwer or Dale Rhoton (the founders of Operation Mobilisation) I have seen how God can provide, not only the finances for four ships (Logos I, Logos II, Doulos, and more recently the Logos Espoir), but also the personnel needed to run the ships and evangelise around the world! I too, like David the psalmist, can say “I call on you, my God, for you will answer me”. ( Psalm 17.6) What about you?
- Praying is good for me and relieves stress!
It’s true! For me, praying is a joy. I can speak to God like a friend! “It is good to be near God” (Psalms 73:28). God, my Father is the great healer who knows all my needs. It does me good to be able to tell him everything: my questions, failures, projects, struggles… “present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). It is such a joy to be able to relieve myself of my burdens in prayer. John Chrysostom (Bishop of Constantinople 334-407 A.D.) said that the greatest benefit of prayer is received before we receive the response to our prayer.
- Praying helps me see situations differently.
Prayer does not always change the circumstances, but it helps me to see and understand them through the eyes of God. It gives me another perspective! David expressed this truth: “When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.” Be careful, praying is not about obtaining what we want but becoming who God wants us to be! Praying means letting ourselves be transformed, being available, letting God mould us; like the canvas in front of the painter or the marble in front of the sculptor. Often, God doesn’t change the circumstances but, rather, changes the way we see them!
- Praying is collaborating with God! (1 Corinthians 3:9)
“God instituted prayer in order to lend to His creatures the dignity of causality” (Blaise Pascal). What a privilege to know that prayer is, first and foremost, a demonstration of God’s power through man rather than the work of man! God could have done everything without us! But instead, through our prayers, he wishes to collaborate with his creation! God often asks men to pray in the Old Testament before acting (Genesis 20:7-17; Job 42:7-9). Isn’t it wonderful to be God’s co-worker? John Wesley goes even further: “God does nothing except in response to believing prayer”… What do you think?
- Understand the main goal of prayer
God does everything for a reason (Proverbs 16:4)! In his prayer in John 17, Jesus explains that the goal of prayer is to glorify God. Praying creates an opportunity for God to demonstrate his power!
How can I make praying more enjoyable?
1. Build solid foundations
Praying is like music: it comes with practice! If you want to become a concert pianist and play Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Liszt that’s great! But, to get there, you first need to build solid foundations: practice your scales, learn the correct fingering, know the theory, respect the timing, know the composers and their style, practice every day, love the music and persevere… no matter what the challenges! At the beginning it can seem like a tedious waste of time. But this learning process is useful and indispensable if we want to progress! It is the same with praying, we build solid foundations and we trust in God and his promises. Through perseverance, praying in the presence of the living God becomes enjoyable. This is how your prayer life takes shape, depth and wings!
2. To build high you need to dig deep!
God needs to be the foundation upon which we build our prayer lives! In order to pray well, we need sound theological groundings: namely knowing God who is just and profound. God has to be the source and the centre of our prayers. “Plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated.” (C.H. Spurgeon). To experience real joy in prayer, I recommend that, above all, you get to know God better. Real prayer is when God himself becomes more important than our requests or the answers we hope for. Contemplate God’s attributes: his majesty, power, greatness, saintliness, faithfulness, justice, wisdom… and let them nourish your prayer.
Be careful, books, CDs and the experiences and suggestions of others can be useful but they can never replace the foundation on which we build our own prayer life, knowing God himself!
3. Ask questions about prayer and look for answers in the Bible
What can we learn about the structure, content and effectiveness of the prayers in the Old Testament? For example, the structure and content of Nehemiah’s prayer. What does Jesus say about prayer (Matthew 6)? When, how and for whom did he pray? What can I learn from the prayers of the apostle Paul? Note all the references to prayer in the book of Acts! Use the prayers in the Bible as models.
4. Set aside a time and place each day when you will not be disturbed during your prayer!
5. Pray using bible passages
Prayers based on the Word of God are rich and powerful. God’s living Word not only gives direction to our prayers but also content and substance. Start, for example, with Psalm 1: contemplate this passage, or focus on a word within it, then use the main idea of the passage to feed and direct your prayer! For a concrete example of this have a look at my article “How to pray for a brother or sister using a passage from the Bible”. You could add a link to the page in here to make it easy to find.
6. Get some variety!
Explore the different facets of prayer: adoration, intercession, requests, confession, thanksgiving, song, listening to God through his Word… Try to define and practice each of these types of prayer to maintain a balance!
7. Find a Christian friend who enjoys praying and with whom you can pray regularly
8. Attend your church’s prayer meetings
9. Pray in the right conditions
Pray when you are feeling alert! I often pray when I am walking outdoors. Pray aloud, it helps you to concentrate. If music helps you to draw close to God, why not put on some good music in the background? Avoid places and things which risk distracting you from your prayer. That is why I never pray in my office where there are too many distractions.
10. Write down your prayers in a notebook
Throughout the years and even today, I write down of my prayers. It helps me to express my thoughts on paper, keep a record of my requests and the responses I have received.
11. Combat the enemies of prayer
Know how to discern the enemies of prayer and combat them: lack of concentration, fatigue, lack of discipline, discouragement, lack of order in our personal lives, doubt, legalism… Try to understand why God sometimes doesn’t respond to our prayers! There are at least four reasons stated in the Bible, are you aware of them?
12. Use the prayers of others
When I struggle to pray or cannot find the words I can also pray using the prayers of others. Go to your Christian bookshop to get information about this kind of book.
13. Pray like you breathe: naturally!
Cultivate the habit of speaking to God like a friend. Let it become as regular as your heartbeat! Pray at all times, in all places and for all things! If you pray whilst driving (it’s allowed!), don’t forget to keep your eyes open!
14. Invest in good books which will enrich your prayer life
Praying with the Grain: How your personality affects the way you pray, Pablo Martinez, Éditions LLB.
Knowing God, J.I. Packer, Hodder and Stoughton.
I Believe in Prayer; At the Heart of Prayer – Prayer in a Group, Ian Newberry, Éditions Biblos.
Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation, D. Carson, Baker Academic.