We all have those moments during prayer when we feel perfectly understood. We know that God is listening, that He loves us, and that He hears our pleas. Those are the divine moments that keep us coming back to prayer again and again. However, we've also all had days where our prayers seems to hit the ceiling and come right back down. We begin to wonder if God is really listening and if He even cares.
Always remember, God is listening, and He does answer prayers. Some days we need to put in more effort or accept an answer we didn't want. If you feel like your prayer life needs a lift, here are some suggestions to get you started.
Prepare to pray
I teach children's Sunday school, and one of my favorite phrases is, "prepare for prayer." This is a verbal reminder to the children that they need to settle down, focus their thoughts, and block out distraction. The same principle works for adults. Before we pray, we need to find a quiet spot free from distractions. Sometimes it also helps to think about what we need to say, or at the very least, keep in our hearts the call to let God direct our thoughts during the prayer.
Come to prayer often
Prayer life gets stale when we always follow the same routine. While it's good to never leave the house without a prayer for direction and never lay down at night without thanking God for blessings received during the day, we need to expand our repertoire of prayer beyond bedtime and mealtimes. Look for any quiet, uninterrupted time you have during the day, such as during the car ride to work or during a child's nap time, and use it as a time to reconnect with God.
Think about others more
Do your prayers sometimes feel like a laundry-list of desired blessings? When we get into the habit of only asking for what we need or only praying during times of crisis, our prayers feel hollow. To get back into a compassionate state of mind, dedicate one prayer or a day of prayers to thanking God for what you already have and asking for blessings on the behalf of others.
Linger a little longer
Saying a prayer is only one-half of the equation when communicating with God. You have to give Him time to speak back. If you hurriedly say a prayer then rush off to your next task, you've limited God's ability to give you comfort and impressions. Close your prayers and hang out for a few minutes to quietly reflect. It's during these peaceful moments that God does some of His best work in our hearts.
One of the sweetest things for a parent is hearing the innocent prayers of our young children. If we want our kids to pray, we must model prayer. Hold family prayer daily, and pray over all your family meals. As prayer becomes an intrinsic part of your family life, both you and your kids' prayers will become more meaningful.
Accept and act
If you receive an answer to a prayer, even if it's not what you expected or wanted, it's still your duty to act. After you've prayed, then is the time to get up and do. When God sees your faithful obedience to impressions, He will continue to bless and consecrate your prayers.
Finally, the best way to make the most of prayer is to pray, pray, and pray some more. God wants to hear from you, even if you don't feel like you have much to say. He is never too busy, and He is always available. Keeping a prayer in your heart keeps you in constant contact with God, and ultimately, He is the one who will teach you what it truly means to pray.