How to Pray When You’re Not Sure Where to Start

Sometimes we know that shooting up a “prayer flare” just isn’t going to get the job done. But spending an extended time in prayer intimidates some of us. Many of us aren’t “prayer warriors,” and we need a little help.

Why carve out time for prayer? One reason is for extended fellowship with God. Like any personal relationship, our relationship with God is nurtured by spending time together. God takes special note when His people reverence Him and think upon His name (Malachi 3:16).

Extended prayer can give us a new perspective. Our spiritual defenses are strengthened when we “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Extended prayer lets us catch up on specific intercession for others (rather than “bless Suzy” prayers) and to gain insight into what God wants to do in our own lives. Here’s help for how to pray when a quick prayer just isn’t enough.

Pick a place. Find a place away from your home or office where you can be alone and away from distraction. Turn your cell phone off. Take a Bible, a pen, and a notebook.

Make a plan. Divide your prayer time into three sections:

  1. Waiting on the Lord. Don’t hurry. Don’t look for some mystical or ecstatic experience. Read a couple of passages about waiting on the Lord (Isaiah 40:31 and Psalm 27:14 are good ones). Read Psalm 51 and the last two verses of Psalm 139 and wait on the Lord for cleansing. Pray about what you read. Then try reading Psalm 103 and Psalm 111 and wait on God in worship.
  2. Pray for others. Take your time and pray in detail for the people you ordinarily don’t get a chance to pray for. Pray for leaders, missionaries, friends, and family. Paul’s prayers in the first and third chapters of Ephesians are good models to use when praying for others. Ask for others what you are praying for yourself in your walk with God.
  3. Pray for yourself. If you’re facing an important decision, this is a great time to bring that before God. If there is a verse or a passage of Scripture that God has impressed on you lately, pray over that. Ask God, “What do You think of my life?” Spend some time thinking and praying about your activities. Ask God to help you evaluate your priorities. Use your notebook to jot down things you may want to change. Bring up problems or decisions you are facing. Ask God to give you guidance from the Scriptures.

Mix it up. Variety is important during your time of extended prayer. Read for a while. Pray a while. Take time to think. Get up and walk around.

Pull it all together. At the end of your time summarize in your notebook some of the things God has spoken to you about. Answer two key questions (the same questions Paul asked Jesus on the Damascus road in Acts 22:6–10): “Who are you, Lord” and “What shall I do, Lord?”

Don’t worry about coming up with some new discovery or revelation. That’s not the point. A “successful” time is when you have waited on God and exposed yourself to His Word. The test is not how exhilarated you are when you’re done, but how what you’ve done works into your life tomorrow.

Adapted from How to Spend a Day in Prayer by Lorne C. Sanny ©1979 by The Navigators.

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