As Christ followers, we are encouraged to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17), at all times (Ephesians 6:18). But, in my own experience, I’ve found that prayer can sometimes take a back seat to busyness. We can get so busy with doing stuff—even good things, like serving in ministry—that the focus becomes more about our own efforts and our own work rather than the work that God is doing in us and through us (Philippians 2:13).
Yet even Jesus Himself demonstrated that prayer is an essential part of a life of ministry. He prayed both privately and publicly, alone and in small groups. He prayed before, during, and after major decisions, miracles, and other acts of service. And if Jesus needed to pray, then I’m pretty sure I do as well.
That being said, it hasn’t always come naturally to me. I’ve learned greatly from other people around me how to make prayer a priority. Because I know I need help in this area, I’ve sought out ways that help me have a more disciplined prayer life. Here are 10 simple reminders and tools that have helped me, and that I pray will help you.
- Prayer journal – To me, journaling your prayers—basically, writing down what you pray, or at least listing what you prayed for—is helpful because you can see a record of what you’ve prayed for and how God has answered prayers over time. There are many different ways you can do this, and many types of journals you can use. Personally, I like using an “interleaved Bible,” which includes a blank page next to every page of printed Scripture. It’s based on the Jonathan Edwards Blank Bible, which had blank pages stitched in by hand. (Thankfully, now you can buy them that way instead of doing it yourself.) As I read the interleaved Bible, I use the blank pages to write down my prayers and my observations on the verses I’ve read.
- Pray Scripture – Not sure what to pray for or how to say it? Then pray God’s Word back to Him. I’ve heard it called “Mueller Meditation,” becauseGeorge Mueller used it in his prayer life, and found it much more effective than trying to focus his own thoughts. (He also used a prayer journal, by the way, and in it recorded over 50,000 specific answers to prayers.) King David did something similar in 2 Samuel 7:18-29, praying God’s promises back to Him.
- Prayer cards – Here I write down things to pray for on index cards or Post-it Notes to stick in places where I’ll see them. Having these reminders of specific people and situations to pray for helps keep your prayer life focused upward and outward, and not inward or narcissistic.
- Prayer reminders on phone – While smartphones can often serve as a distraction that keeps us away from time in prayer, some friends of mine are great at using their phones to help them pray more. They do so by setting reminders to pray for specific people or things at specific times. For example, we have many people praying for the Church Leaders Conferenceat 4:28 each day, because the conference starts on April 28 (4/28). A little girl battling a disease has a reminder at 12:03 PM because December 3 is her birthday.
- Prayer apps – If you want something with more features than the alarm function on your phone, you can install a prayer app. A couple of free ones that I’ve had recommended to me are Echo Prayerand PrayerMate, although there are many others.
- Positions of prayer – Consider changing your physical posture towards prayer. When you pray, do you typically stand boldly (Mark 11:25)? Sit and rest (1 Chronicles 17:16)? Humbly kneel, or bow down (Psalm 95:6)? Raise your hands in praise and surrender (1 Timothy 2:8)? All of these (and more) are depicted in the Scriptures, and I find that they help align my heart with my prayer. I start every day on my knees, in glad submission, asking the Lord to guide me, knowing apart from Him I can do nothing.
- Prayer after confession – James 5:16 says to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” In community, whenever someone confesses a sin to you, remember to respond by confessing your own sin and then praying for each other. Nothing dispels accusation and condemnation like hearing a confession in response to your own and then being covered in prayer.
- Prayer before projects or meetings – I use projects or tasks that have to be done as reminders to pray. For example, one day recently I had to fix something on my wife’s car. My son Hill wanted to help, because he loves doing projects with me. So before we started, we prayed for the project and asked for wisdom. It’s a reminder to my son about the importance of prayer, and a reminder to me that I can do nothing on my own.
- Practice walk-by prayer – If I know that a coworker has a specific prayer request, I’ll pray for them each time I walk past their office (or cubicle). Depending on where they sit, that might mean I pray for them several times each workday, or just every once in a while. I don’t tell them about this, or at least not every time; I might tell them once that I’ve been praying for them that way. It’s been amazing to see some answered prayers come from that practice.
- Praying in the moment – In the past, when someone would share a concern or ask for prayer, I’d often find myself saying that “I’ll pray for you”—and then not always remembering to follow through on that promise. So now, instead of responding that way, I try to respond by just praying, right then and there. If the request is through text message or email, I can then reply with “I’m praying for you right now” or “My wife and I prayed for you.”
You don’t have to implement all 10 of these, of course. But even if you just pick one thing that you’re not currently doing, you’ll see fruit born as you stay in daily dependence upon the Lord and see what He has ordained: that God often moves by the prayers of His people.