By Monk Preston (Co-Founder & President, The Prayer Foundation ™)
Monk Preston in the Egyptian Desert (Valley of the Kings in the Eastern Sahara).
The Letter we Received:
to grow in my prayer life, but I'm not sure how. I have prayed that
God will show me what to do. I have a list of people that I pray for
about various things (healing, salvation, a job, etc). I feel that I
pray the same thing every day. I want more in my prayers for these
people and for myself and family. Please let me know what I can do
to make my prayers more heartfelt (sometimes I feel I'm just reciting
Monk Preston's Reply:
You are doing Much Better Than You Realize!
We also want a better prayer life. The answer to your question is something that we have dedicated the rest of our lives to answering, and is the entire purpose of our web site and most aspects of our everyday lives all day long. Yet you have requested some practical advice, and it must be answered now, and in a short reply to be e-mailed this morning. This is indeed a humbling task. We think that prayer is an individual matter, and that the Lord leads everyone uniquely, so we will make some suggestions, in the hope that one or more will be helpful to you, personally.
You have said that you have prayed that God will show you what to do. That is of course the best and first answer to your question.
First of all, we think that you are doing much better than you realize! We do not recognize any particular "prayer form," as being exclusively correct prayer. Your "talking to God" prayer all day long is no less valid prayer than any other kind at any other time. Prayer is communion (communication) with God. It is us talking (usually thinking our thoughts) to God. Or it can be just sitting in His presence ("Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth."-Psalm 46:10) or even listening.
Supplication, Intercession, Still Silence, Praise, Thanksgiving
The "talking" part can be "asking" (supplication: making a petition) for oneself or for others (when done for others it is called intercession). Then there is praise, and thanksgiving. Remember the story of how Jesus healed ten lepers, but only one returned to thank him? "And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger," (-Luke: 17:17,18).
The natural (wrong) tendency is to go to the Lord when we have a "problem" and them forget about the Lord when it is solved, and we don't "need" him anymore. This is how we were in our own lives before we became Christians. Now we know that we need the Lord at all times! Non-Christians sometimes say to Christians, "Jesus is just a crutch." Our answer may be that they are wrong, Jesus is an iron lung.
Some Practical Suggestions
One idea is to keep a Journal where you write down the date you began praying your prayer requests, and putting the date down when and how each one of them is answered. We find it a blessing to read our pages of Answers To Prayer (you may want to read these pages of ours, too. We recommend it). You may want a separate Notebook just to record your answered prayers in so that you get the same effect.
Take a look at our page Open Letter: Monk Prayer Life. This is a pastiche of how we spend a typical day in our monastery. It may give you some helpful ideas.
Three Classic Writers On Prayer:
Another idea would be to read 5 pages a day on our web site (considering the number of pages on our site, this could be your practice for the next couple of months!). This may result in learning many helpful suggestions toward improving your prayer life. A good place to start would be with our three classic writers on prayer:
E. M. Bounds On Prayer (he will inspire you to want to set aside more time for prayer).
Brother Lawrence On Prayer (he will inspire you to stay in God's presence all day long---you seem to be doing this already).
Andrew Murray On Prayer (he will inspire you to live a holy life, pointing out hindrances to your growth in your prayer life).
Memorizing Psalms/Volunteering as a Prayer Warrior
We have found that memorizing some Psalms has improved our prayer life and communion with God. You do not want to recite them, you want to pray them as your own words. This can be done once they are memorized. I pray different Psalms off and on all day long, walking from the car, waiting in lines, etc. A Christian woman we know took this suggestion and memorized her first Psalm, Psalm 23 (many already know this one). She said that it was such a blessing, the Lord brought it to her mind all day long. All 150 Psalms are good; some that particularly stand out (Psalm 23 is of course everyone's favorite) are 1, 2, 8, 100, 121, and 150. You may already have your own favorites.
Martin Luther said that one thing he loved about the Psalms was that we got to see the actual words that David and some other Old Testament Saints used when they prayed. You may also want to look at our page: Athanasius: Praying the Psalms, (written by the same Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, who wrote the Athanasian Creed).
Volunteering as a Prayer Warrior on our 24-Hr. Prayerchain has been a blessing for hundreds of Christians all over the world.
Growing In Christ
We have a four-part series called Growing In Christ (it includes another Series called Memory Verses) that may also be helpful to you. Growing in Christ is a training program for our Knights of Prayer ™ Monks, but we have posted it on our site so that anyone may take advantage of it.
Prayer is the essence of the Christian Life. Conversely, everything in the Christian life is tied together, and will aid your prayer life.
Bible Reading and Study
Bible Reading and Study: think how important faith is in your prayer life; "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."(-Romans 10:17).
Dwight L. Moody once said that he had been praying for faith but not receiving it. Then he heard Romans 10:17, that "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." and opened his Bible to spend more time reading and studying God's Word. He said that is when his faith increased.
Christian Radio Programs
We also recommend two daily Christian Radio programs:
J. Vernon McGee (Thru The Bible) teaches through the entire Bible in five years (at this time we have been listening daily for 4 1/2 years).
The Bible Answer Man (Hank Hanegraaff) is a call-in show that answers any Bible-related Question.
Besides being so informative, both programs are also very enjoyable and entertaining.
We hope this has been or will be helpful to you as you seek to grow in your prayer life.
Yours in Christ,
President, The Prayer Foundation ™ Knights of Prayer ™ Monastic Order
Copyright © 2002 S.G.P. All rights reserved.