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5 strategies for those who struggle with prayer

One of my favorite short works on prayer is JC Ryle’s “A Call To Prayer” where he challenges his readers to pray by reminding them…

“Without controversy there is a vast difference among true Christians. There is an immense interval between the foremost and the hindermost in the army of God. They are all fighting the same good fight, but how much more valiantly some fight than others.”

I don’t know about you, but I want to be one who ‘fights valiantly’ – not one whom he describes later as those, “…who seem never able to get on from the time of their conversion. They are born again, but they remain babes all their lives…You remark in them the same want of spiritual appetite, the same want of interest in anything beyond their own little circle…”

And what is the difference between these two groups? “I believe that those who are not eminently holy pray little, and those who are eminently holy pray much.” If these words don’t stir you to pray – then I’m not sure there is much that will! But what if your prayer life is weak – or you do pray, but you really struggle? Or you do great in praying for a little while, but then you fizzle out? If that’s you, then let me encourage you – that’s NORMAL! If prayer is the way we, “obtain fresh and continued outpourings of the Spirit,” and fight our sin most effectively – then you can guarantee that there is nothing the Enemy wants more than to diminish prayer’s importance in your mind, or discourage you in your prayers, or distract you from pursuing prayer!

In other words, if you would persist and grow in private prayer – you must have a PLAN…a STRATEGY for persevering in prayer. And I would recommend the following 5 Strategies to persevere in prayer so that you may 'fight valiantly'!

  1. PICK a quiet place and an open time to pray – It’s trite but true that those who FAIL TO PLAN, PLAN TO FAIL! So begin by picking a place that is quiet with minimal distractions and one where ideally you can pray out loud (really important!) without feeling self-conscious. Then pick a TIME where you can REGULARLY go before the Lord in prayer. I recommend mornings because it’s the time when you typically exercise the greatest control over your schedule, but another time might work better for you. The point is – let it be a place and time where you can be 100% focused on the Lord. I am all for ‘breath prayers’ and praying all through the day – but this does not replace a time and place for devoted prayer.

  2. BEGIN with worship from the Word – If prayer is most simply defined as ‘talking to God’ then Scripture is a great place to begin because that is where God speaks to us! I like to begin my times of prayer in the Psalms – reading over one or two Psalms that direct our hearts and minds to the one we are praying to and calling us to worship him for who He is! This may seem strange at first, but you’ll find that it sets your focus and posture appropriately from the start of your prayer. Some people even spend their whole time in the Psalms just praising and praying to God using the words of the Psalms.

  3. CONFESS your sins and struggles to God – After you’ve spent a minute or two (or longer if desired) praising God for who He is, next take a few minutes to examine your life and heart and confess any sins that you may be struggling with (or asking God to reveal sins you may not know you are walking in!) and ask him for forgiveness and help in battling them. Then express to him any struggles that you are dealing with. These aren’t necessarily sins, but hurts… disappointments… concerns… cares that you are wanting to ‘cast on the Lord’.

  4. THANK God for What He’s Done – Again, this may seem foreign at first, but too often we run from one request to another without following up and thinking about how God has answered former prayers. This discipline to thank God for answered prayer or simply for what he’s already done for you – cultivates a thankful heart and encourages us to continue bringing our requests to God. In particular, I encourage taking a particular promise of God from scripture and thanking God for what he has done or will do!

  5. PRAY God’s Priorities For People – I have a list that I typically work through when I begin to pray for the people in my life. I begin with myself (because nobody knows my need better than me!) and then move outward in concentric circles to my family, our church staff/leaders, our church, my extended family, other area churches/pastors, missions partners, our nation, etc. I don’t cover all of these every time I pray, but I try to work through all of them in any given week. And when I pray, I try to make sure that I’m praying for more than just their immediate needs, but God’s priorities, by picking from one of these short prayers that Paul prayed for the church: Eph. 1:15-23, Eph. 3:14-21, Col. 1:9-12, Phil. 1:9-11, 2 Thess. 1:11-12.

My hope is that these simple strategies will help grow you in your times of prayer…so that you may be one who ‘fights valiantly’ in the days to come

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