Developing an Effective Prayer Life

Developing an Effective prayer life begins by developing an intimate friendship with God.

How Do You Develop an Intimate Relationship with God?

* A. Spend Time with the Lord every day.
* B. Study the Word of God
* C. Worship
* D. Repentance
* E. Practice the Presence of the Lord

A. Spend Time with the Lord Every day.
In any earthly relationship, the way to develop a relationship with someone is to spend time with them. Intimate relationships are born by learning to trust. A  relationship with God takes time to mature. Being open and vulnerable and being willing to show all of your heart with Him invites intimacy. To be intimate is to be prepared to show all that is in your heart to the person. To be an intimate friend of God, you need to be able to pour out your heart to Him, sharing the most intimate details of your life, your hopes, your dreams and your very heart with Him.

Prov. 17:17 – “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

This scripture not only applies to God’s heart toward us, but it should be our stance toward the Lord. Our hearts should long to be with Him no matter what the circumstance. As His people, We are to love Him and be His friend first. From that base of intimacy, we can pray effectively.

If our prayer life consists only of petition and intercession, it can lead to anger and frustration. If prayer is not answered at the speed that we wish it to be answered, we can become bitter and resentful of God. However, If we grow to know God, a delayed prayer will only be an opportunity to pray again. Spending much time with the Lord is one of the only methods to understand His ways and not just His acts. Knowing God leads to resting in the assurance of His ultimate goodness, despite the circumstances we see around us.

Habbakuk 3:17-19 – “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”

Ask the Lord to show you any idols in your life that are more important to you than your relationship with Him. These idols can take the form of family, friends, ministry, work or even personal aspirations.

Matthew 10:37 -“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

B. Bible Reading
As you prayerfully read the Bible, you will soon get to know His will, His ways, and His heart. When you understand the way He moves in the lives of people; you can pray prayers that line up to His will. Psalm 119 is excellent to meditate upon, as the psalmist reveals the rewards of immersing ourselves in His word.

Before you read the Bible each day, ask the Holy Spirit to inspire a deeper understanding of the passages you are about to study.

C. Worship
As we worship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God births intimacy in our hearts. In worship, all our attention and affections are centred on Him. Worship refreshes us and brushes away the “dirt” we pick up as we go about our day in an unsaved world. As we worship, we speak to our spirits, reminding ourselves of the truth about who God. To be an effective intercessor, we must awaken our hearts and be on guard of allowing our spirits to slumber or become dull. A posture of worship keeps our hearts alert and listening ready to be aligned with the will of the Father.

D. Repentance
Take time to allow the Lord to search your heart, and to show you there are areas in your life that He would like to address. The Lord is faithful to show us motivations and secret desires of which we might not be aware. Don’t let things build up that would create a wedge between you and Him.

1 John 1:8-9 – “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Allow the Lord to heal those areas of your heart that are wounded from betrayal, abuse, or disappointment. Learn to forgive others and learn to receive His forgiveness and move on from past mistakes. If you find it hard to hear from God, ask Him to show blockages or walls of self-protection that you have created that hinder your ability to hear.

A pure heart prays the most effective prayers. By allowing the Lord to touch those sensitive places in your heart, you will be less likely to pray with bitterness, anger, and judgment.

Prayers prayed out of impure motives are not effective. When the Lord begins to show us things to pray for, and our hearts are free from unconfessed sin and judgments toward others, we can pray without prejudice. Again, it takes time, trust, and a humble heart to develop a thriving prayer life. Be patient with yourself and be patient with God’s methods.

I must insert a word of caution here: be careful not to belly-gaze. Don’t spend hours chasing down sin that does not exist. Allow the Holy Spirit to do the convicting. His conviction is swift, accurate, and never condemning.

E. Practice the Presence of God.
Practice just “being with God.” Just enjoy being with Him. Sometimes, just sitting with the Lord in silence can bring deep communion and refreshment to your spirit, soul, and body. A practical example of this sort of ‘being together’ would be a loving, mature couple. They are comfortable in silences. They know each other so well that a glance, a smile or a gentle squeeze of the hand speaks volumes. They relate to each other from a place of deep intimacy and assured knowing.

You don’t always have to be talking to God in times of prayer, and you won’t always receive a profound revelation from heaven in your daily quiet times. It is God’s hope that you enjoy just being with Him. Part of practicing the presence of God is to understand He is with you always, even when you don’t have an emotional sense that He is near. The evidence that He is always close at hand is found in His promise never to forsake us.

Deuteronomy 31:6 – “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”.”

Learning to rest in the knowledge that He is with you always will take time and patience. Just drink in His love. In God’s presence, fear cannot reside, anxiety cannot reside, heaviness cannot abide. You just need to learn to tune into His presence. He is always there, but we need to practice becoming aware of Him.

Tips for Developing a Healthy Prayer Life

  • Keep your Bible, a pen and a notebook always close at hand. Keep a journal of prayer requests and remember to make note of answered prayer!

  • Find a quiet place to pray if possible. God still blesses your prayer time in the midst of distractions but finding a place that you can set aside for prayer is ideal.

  • Be accustomed to periods of silence and don’t be afraid of pauses.

  • If you find your mind wandering in prayer:

    • Pray out loud.

    • Read scriptures out loud. If you don’t know what to pray, then pray the prayers of the Bible, there are dozens of prayers that you can take as your own. Pray the Psalms, injecting your name or the names of those you are praying for in the psalm. They are songs, after all, and songs are better heard by the heart when heard with our ears!

      Paul prayed as an apostle over his charges all through his letters so grab a pen and paper and make note of where these prayers are and pray these in faith for yourself and for those you have made prayer priorities. There are many prayers in the Old Testament as well that you can make your heart’s prayer. As you read the Word out loud, you will find certain passages leap out at you that you never noticed before, as it takes longer to read out loud than to scan a page silently. Your heart and mind will have a longer opportunity to “chew” on the Word.

      Walk or pace as you read the Word, you’ll be amazed how it will inspire you and keep your mind from wandering. The combination of reading out loud and walking trains your brain to concentrate on the task at hand. If you can’t walk, then be creative in finding another way to keep your body a part of your prayer experience.

    • Put on worship music.

    • Ask the Lord to protect you as you pray.

    • Declare you are determined to pray.

    • If there is a pressing need of your own on your heart, submit it to the Lord in prayer. Write down those things that are causing your mind to wander and submit them to the Lord.

    • Walk! Stand, kneel, lay on the floor face down, just do anything to change the posture you were in as you felt yourself nod off. If you find you are dozing off regularly in your devotions and prayer times, then stand and walk around as you pray. The Bible is full of examples of various postures used in prayer.

    • Ask the Lord what time of day is the best time for you to be praying. Some people are morning people, others can press into the Lord in the wee small hours of the night. Find out what works best for you.

Note: I am indebted to Ruth Rousu, a pastor at Harvest Vineyard Christian Fellowship (Edmonton Alberta) for being a living example of an effective intercessor and whose prayer life is an inspiration to many. I also am grateful to Joy Dawson of Youth With A Mission whose teachings on prayer provided a foundation that spurred me on to pursue a deeper, more intimate prayer life.

Further Bible Resources and Leads to Prayer Examples:

Encouraging Bible Verses
Another website I created that is home to hundreds of Bible verses organized by subject.

Daily Christian Quotes
Examples of prayers written or spoken by modern-day Christians and by our brothers and sisters in Christ who went before us.

Daily Audio Bible Listen to the Bible being read 365 days a year. This isn’t a pre-recorded CD or audio book! For the last 10 years, Brian Hardin reads the bible every day and often adds a short commentary at the end of the daily bible reading. By the end of each year, you will have read God’s word, cover to cover!

BibleGateway.Com Find dozens of Bible translations, a search engine, bible reading plans and study aids here.

Encouraging Bible Quotes  A ministry under Katherine Walden Ministries.  Find daily Bible reading plans, bible verses organized by subject, and more!

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All Bible verses, unless otherwise attributed, are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

©1997, 2016 Katherine Walden

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