As the school year drew to a close and the kids brought home their work from the year, I reflected on the progress they’d each made over the year. Looking through their notebooks, the improvements from the first of the year to the end were marked. Even the kids readily recognized the differences. It’s a great reminder of the importance of education and training.
We’re born with natural tendencies toward language and numbers, curiosity about the world, and creativity, but without proper training, we don’t develop them beyond the basic necessities. When we study and practice, though, we develop skills that become the basis for our life’s work. We develop effective language skills to daily navigate this world and communicate in the workplace. We cultivate our curiosity into a love of learning. We learn to think and question and seek answers for ourselves. We learn to work together collaboratively, to research and innovate, and learn from the masters.
“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” ~Nelson Mandela
If we place so high a value on education, why do we so often neglect our spiritual education? Why do we forget prayer needs training and practice? Why do we too often just “wing it” only when we’re in our most desperate moments, instead of deliberately developing our prayer language and discipline?
Everyone prays, but not everyone prays effectively
Even in our modern world, where prayer is often publicly avoided and concessions made to those who don’t believe, prayer remains an activity most people admit to practicing on some level. Attempts to communicate with the spiritual world and higher powers are a focus for all religions and even those who profess not to be religious. Most studies on prayer find that a majority of people pray, even those who profess to atheism. So, if so many of us are praying, why don’t we see more of the effects of such faith?
“Prayer, understood and disciplined, reveals possibilities whose limits have never been found.” ~Harry Emerson Fosdick, in The Meaning of Prayer
Prayer needs training and practice to fully develop
We’re born with the ability to pray, much like we’re born with the ability to use language to communicate. Yet, when we don’t take the time to learn the language, we know only the basics and tend to use it only in times of crisis. Consider the young child who hasn’t developed language skills yet. Communication is used primarily for urgent needs, such as hunger, fear, and discomfort. Similarly, when we haven’t learned the language of prayer and developed a discipline of regular prayer, it becomes something we resort to in times of crisis and need, but not something ingrained in the fabric of our lives.
“Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.” ~Mark Twain
3 Reasons Prayer Needs Training and Practice
1) To develop a relationship with God through prayer
Prayer is meant to be so much more than a last-ditch cry for help. It should be the underlying conversation in your life; the first place you turn in times of joy, sadness, grief, fear, and uncertainty. Prayer should be your go-to, not your last chance.
As you develop your prayer life, you’ll develop a relationship with God. Without this relationship with God, he remains a distant, theoretical deity. You’ll miss the God who desires a personal connection with you and makes a real impact in your life.
“We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first line of defense. We pray when there’s nothing else we can do, but God wants us to pray before we do anything else at all.” ~Oswald Chambers
2) To reach the potential God has for you, allowing God to work through you
God has plans for you. He wants so much more for you than what this world has to offer. To reach his better future for your life, though, you need to learn to hear his voice and recognize his guidance in your life. Prayer is where you learn to hear God’s voice. Prayer is where you begin to release control of your life to God. Prayer is where you seek God’s guidance and lean into his plans for your life. These aren’t one-time prayers, though. This kind of guidance comes from steady, regular time in prayer, a discipline developed through study and training.
When you only pray in times of crisis, your prayers become very self-focused. You’re caught up in your needs. However, if you’re praying regularly and develop your prayer language, you’ll learn to pray about a variety of topics beyond yourself. You’ll begin to focus more on what God can do through you, instead of what God can do for you.
“Do not have your concert first, and then tune your instrument afterwards. Begin the day with the Word of God and prayer, and get first of all into harmony with Him.” ~J. Hudson Taylor
3) To unleash the full power of prayer
God listens to your prayers whether you pray once in desperation or have developed a regular habit of prayer. Even one prayer can unleash God’s will in this world. Yet, when you train in prayer and develop your prayer language and discipline, how much more can you partner with God and release his full power in this world.
Prayer isn’t to change God’s plans or to convince him to enable yours, but rather to open your heart to allow him to work his plans through you. Prayer opens the way to release God’s purpose. “Not my way, but Thy will be done.”
“Every great movement of God can be traced to a kneeling figure.” ~D.L. Moody
How will you begin your training in prayer?
Are you ready to get started? Below are some ways you can begin your training in prayer:
- Commit to forming a habit of daily prayer. The more you pray, the more you’ll learn to pray.
- Learn different ways to pray and explore various aspects of the prayer conversation.
- Use a prayer guide or devotional in your daily prayers to help guide the conversation.
- Pray from scripture to expand your prayer language. Try praying through the Psalms or work your way through one of the Gospels.
- Learn from others. Join a prayer group or find a mentor to pray with.
Need a resource to help you get started? Try one of my prayer devotionals to guide your daily prayer time. Pray Deep: Ignite Your Prayer Life in 21 Days will lead you through different prayer methods and examine the nature of prayer over 21 days of prayer. Pray Deep: The Lord’s Prayer will lead you through the Lord’s Prayer line-by-line over 40 days.