I knew I should pray more. I tried–I really did. I got up earlier and got in my cozy chair . . . only to find it was too cozy and I was nodding off.
Then I got a Nordic Trac and propped my Bible up on the thing so I could pray the scriptures. But my Bible fell off, and I did too one day.
Shortly thereafter I was walking down the steps out my back door when one of my knees gave way, and I found myself in a crumpled heap. I knew I needed to do something about my health, but that “Couldn’t you just tarry one hour?” question from Jesus (Matt. 26:40) kept nudging me too. So, I decided I would get up a little earlier the next day and go for a short walk . . . and while I walked, I would pray.
I prayed for my marriage, my kids, my job as an English teacher–yes, there was a lot of my-ness in my prayers at first. But then I saw a young man hand over his toddler girl to a daycare worker on our little town’s sidewalk before 6 a.m. And the little girl said, “Bye, Daddy. Love you.” And I knew right then that God had me out on the streets to pray less for my own prayer needs but more for the needs of others. I began opening up my eyes to my community, asking God to show me how to pray for the people. Soon my praying-while-walking became prayerwalking: praying on-site with insight, as author Steve Hawthorne would say.
That experience started a pilgrimage of sorts to learn everything I could about prayer. I started reading through the Bible from cover to cover each year, marking references to prayer with a circled P. I read prayer classics and newer books on prayer (a hundred or more). And I began praying that God would show me how to “pray without ceasing” (as Paul wrote in 1 Thess. 5:17).
There are many ways to develop a praying lifestyle–one that goes beyond a few prescribed minutes a day. Here are a dozen ways to pray.
- Grace: Say a prayer of thanksgiving for each meal and each snack and each drink of water or other beverages each day. This simple practice develops a thankful heart. Be bold in restaurants and pray over your meal there too.
- Pray scripture: As you read the Bible each day, choose a passage and personalize it for yourself and others as a prayer by changing the pronouns.
- Prayer journaling: Write out your prayers in a journal.
- Listening: Dedicate 10 minutes each day to a mini-Sabbath of time dedicated solely to listening to God. We spend a lot of time talking to God–asking him for things. Quiet your heart and ask what he would like to say to you.
- Prayer lists: Keep a journal of prayer requests. Date the request. Pray daily through the list, dating and writing the answers as they come.
- Labyrinth: If a church in your community has a labyrinth, walk it slowly. Confess your sins and air your struggles as you walk slowly inward. Stop and sit in the center to hear from God. Then slowly walk back out, asking God to speak to you. You can do this in your back yard without a formal labyrinth, walking the circumference of your yard and slowing walking in spiraled circles toward the center, then reversing the walk back out.
- Commute with prayer: See your daily commute times as your prayer times.
- Home prayerwalk: Walk through your home frequently from room to room, praying for your family, your marriage, and others in your life.
- Prayer exercise: When our town had a pool, I prayed one lap for each member of my family . . . thirty laps equalled a mile, so that was a lot of family! I’ve also walked the school track, with one lap of prayer for each in our immediate family: twenty–that’s five miles of prayers!
- On your knees: God will sometimes impress upon me the need to literally get on my knees and pray–especially when there’s a critical situation or when I wake up in the night with something impressed upon my heart.
- Teach your children: Praying with your children at bedtime is a treasured time. But praying with them at any time is also important–just breaking into prayer wherever you are when concerns arise.
- Prayer hand: Let your hand be a great reminder to pray–with each of your five fingers representing a different kind of prayer: confession, petition, intercession, thanksgiving, and praise. This is a great tool for children.
- ACTS: Others use the acronym ACTS: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication (asking prayers).
- Prayer reminders: Put up sticky notes for important prayer requests here and there in your house–the fridge, your bathroom mirror, your desk. I also have farmhouse-style signs here and there in my house, notably one that says “Pray big.” During one season when I was praying for the marriage of a couple close to me, things didn’t look good, and I was about to start praying, “Lord, I just want them to be happy.” While that’s not a bad prayer, it indicated a shift in my thinking that God wasn’t going to keep them together. One day I was in Hobby Lobby and saw this sign: “Pray big.” I was drawn to it–seemingly a message to me to keep persisting in prayer. God honors the prayers of those who persist in prayer, as Jesus taught in the Parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8) and those who pray BIG, beyond their own personal reach for the impossible instead (Matthew 19:26, 17:20-21).
- Prayer cards: NavPress (Navigators) has a great tool for praying scripturally-based prayers: 3-1/2″ x 8-3/4″ prayer cards on illustrated, heavy paper. As the coordinator for the prayer ministries at my church, I keep these stocked in our Prayer Room. You can purchase a pack of 29 different prayer cards for just $10 here: https://www.navigators.org/resource/bookmark-prayer-cards/.
- Prayer ministry: Join your church’s prayer ministry. Many churches have prayer teams that receive email prayer needs–this is a terrific way to support people in their time of need. Your church may also have other kinds of prayer ministries.
- Read books on prayer or prayer books: I’ve written six and most of those are available in my bookstore: https://janetmchenry.com/lookingup/specials/. I also have a free e-book called Prayer Helps: Scripture-Based Prayers When You Don’t Know How to Pray for those who sign up for my newsletter: https://janetmchenry.com.
- Open your eyes: Prayerwalking taught me that wherever I am, there’s a need for prayer. The mom struggling with kids in the Walmart line. The speedster on the freeway. The ambulance rushing by my home. The neighbor mowing his lawn. The UPS guy delivering a package. Everyone has needs. I simply ask God to help them, favor them, and let them know that HE is behind all that so that they give their lives fully to him in love and service. It just takes a moment and draws me closer to the Lord I love. Honestly, this is the best approach to developing a praying lifestyle–going from having snatches of prayer here and there to staying in touch with God all day long.
Janet McHenry is a speaker and the author of 24 books, including the bestselling PrayerWalk, PrayerStreaming: Staying in Touch with God All Day Long, and her newest, The Complete Guide to the Prayers of Jesus. She would love to connect with you: https://www.janetmchenry.com.