I loved rocking my son to sleep when he was a baby. Not only did it signal the end of a long day after working full-time and caring for two little ones, it was also my bit of quiet time in the day. Sitting in the dark silence of his room, nursing and then methodically rocking him to sleep, I could finally still my body and mind. Most nights I was too tired to read and the light of my phone was too bright to settle him to sleep. Instead, I used this time as my daily appointment with God to develop a more consistent prayer life.
When do you check in with God each day?
On these evenings as I’d rock my little guy to sleep, my prayers took a variety of forms. Some nights I’d pray over the little one in my arms and my other child down the hall. I’d pour out a mother’s heart over these two precious gifts. Other nights, I’d talk to God about challenges at work and ask for His guidance and support. I used the Examen prayer frequently to review my day and let Him show me where I’d done well and where I needed to improve, like a daily debrief with God. The nights I just listened are the most memorable, though. I didn’t always have words for my prayers, so I’d sit in the heavy silence of that room and simply open my heart and mind for God to enter in. Most nights I didn’t hear anything, but on occasion, God communicated powerfully with me. It was in that rocking chair God changed the direction of my life, answering my prayer of “where do You want me to serve?” and outlining the first steps I needed to take.
When my son outgrew being rocked to sleep, I was most sad about losing this special time with God. I wondered where I’d find the time and space to connect with Him in this way. Quiet time is a precious commodity in our house and I struggled to carve out a new time and space for prayer. I’ve found different solutions in different seasons. Often I’ll get up a bit early to spend some time with God in the morning hours before anyone else is up. Other times, I’ll grab some quiet time after the kids get to sleep (if I’m not too exhausted myself). I’ll also engage in God a conversation as I’m driving to work or even in the parking lot before I go into the office.
How do you schedule time with God?
Consistency in our prayer lives is difficult. Even though I study, write, and teach about prayer, I have to admit it’s hard for me too. It’s been years since my son was small enough to rock to sleep and I still miss those rocking chair conversations with God.
I’ve learned, though, it’s not about where I pray, but that I do pray.
It’s not about the how I pray or the words I use, but that I open my heart for conversation.
It’s not about when I pray or how long I pray, but that I pray daily, keeping God close to my heart and on my mind.
Perhaps the hardest is that prayer also requires me to be quiet and listen so I can hear the still, small voice of God.
4 Steps to a More Consistent Prayer Life
Do you struggle to pray consistently, feel like you don’t have time to commit to a regular prayer time, or aren’t sure how to get started? These 4 steps will help you begin to build a consistent, vibrant prayer life and open that crucial conversation with God.
1) Start with “hello”
My kids and I were recently discussing strategies to reach out and make friends at school. As they were trying out different conversation starters, I suggested, “Why don’t you simply start with ‘Hello’?” Sometimes all it really takes to open a conversation is a greeting. “Hello, God… it’s me.” Go from there and simply begin a conversation with God. Talk about your day, what’s going on in your life, what’s weighing on your heart, what makes you uncomfortable about prayer, your doubts and fears, where you need His help the most. He wants to have all those conversations with you. No matter where you start, just start.
2) Make prayer a priority
Is your life busy? In my house, if it’s not on the calendar, it’s not getting done. Between my work calendar and the family calendar, I feel like my days are fully scheduled and the few open slots are precious breaks (or time to catch up on chores). Yet, there’s always a review of those items (whether explicitly on the calendar or not) to check that we’re meeting our priorities and letting non-essentials drop, if necessary. If it’s important to us, we’ll find time to do it. So, if prayer is a priority for you, make time for it. Look over your weekly schedule and decide when you will spend time with God. Put it on your calendar, if you need to. Allow something else to drop if you need to make time.
3) Build your prayer toolkit
What works for me in one season doesn’t always work for me in another. I need different methods for prayer and different methods for listening. Changing up your prayers can be a great way to break out of a prayer rut or to reinvigorate your prayers. Learn different methods. Try different places and times for prayer. Pray from the daily scriptures in a Bible reading plan. Use a prayer app or daily devotionals to guide your prayers. (I’m loving the Pray As You Go app for daily prayer.)
4) Don’t get discouraged
Keep at it! Prayer doesn’t come easy for most of us. You’ll go through seasons where prayers are vibrant and others where it may feel like a struggle. You’ll have seasons where you’re consistent and doing well at making time for God, and others where you fall out of those habits. Other seasons it may feel like your prayers go unanswered and God is unusually quiet. Let me encourage you to press forward, keep the conversation with God open and allow Him lead you back.
If you are struggling with prayer, maybe these will help: 5 questions to ask yourself when prayers seem unanswered and 5 questions to ask yourself if you’re not sure prayer matters.
How will you get started today? Will you take a look at your schedule and carve out time this week for God? Mark it on your calendar as a priority and get started. Open the dialog and let God into your life.
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