1. Find a prayer "hot spot" and use it.
"But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." Luke 5:16
We all know about wireless hot spots...you go into a coffee shop and want to know the wireless code for the hotspot so you can get online. Well, I believe that Jesus had prayer hot spots. Sure, he could pray anywhere but I believe there were places he especially liked to connect with God through prayer. The Judean wilderness was one of these prayer hot spots...for forty days and nights anyway. It was here where Jesus got his marching orders from his Father to kickoff his 3 1/2 years of power-packed ministry.
A second place that became a prayer hotspot were the mountains around Galilee. Here, there were plenty of places for Jesus to get away to pray in this beautiful region of Israel.
And, finally, there was the Garden of Gethsemane. It's interesting that Judas knew right where to find him when Jesus was arrested. Maybe it's because it was his go toplace of prayer when he was in or around Jerusalem.
Where's my prayer "hot spot"? It's a place called Van Bibber Park. Once or twice a week I try to go there and spend time walking it's sidewalks and dirt trails. I have a few other places I'll go to from time to time but this park, with a stunning view of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, gives me a great place to pray right on the way to or from the Dare 2 Share offices.
2. Get really good at short prayers.
"At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: 'Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.' Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, 'The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!'" 1 Kings 18:36-39
When Elijah prayed on Mt. Carmel he prayed a prayer that was short on words (only 60 words in length) but tall on faith. He prayed like God was really listening. Unlike the prophets of Baal he didn't need to dance around the altar or work himself up into a frenzy. He didn't need to shout and yell. He just prayed. He talked to God and believed that God was listening.
And God was.
Meanwhile, the prophets of Baal had prayed for thousands of man hours on Mt. Carmel that day. Their prayers lasted for around six hours. If you multiply six hours by 450 prophets of Baal that's 2,700 man hours of prayer. But what they couldn't do in 2,700 man hours of praying, Elijah did with 60 words in less than 60 seconds. This shows us that the volume, intensity and length of our prayers are nothing compared to the focus, authenticity and depth of our faith.
God wants us to talk to him. We don't have to get all worked up like the prophets of Baal. We don't have to approach him with fancy, churchified words. We don't have to pray some lengthy prayer. We can just talk to him and believe with childlike faith that he is really listening. Some of the best prayers are short and sweet and strong. These power punch prayers can be prayed while walking down a hallway or waiting at a stoplight.
As Charles Spurgeon once said, "Prayer is not to be measured by the yard, nor weighed by the pound. It is the might and force of it—the truth and reality of it—the energy and the intensity of it."
3. Write out your prayers from time to time.
"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God." Philippians 1:9-11
I have a running log of my prayers on my computer that dates back to the year 2000. It may be months between entries in some instances but it's in this digital prayer journal where I pound out my prayers on my keyboard when I'm so moved. Here I catalogue extraordinary times of need through words to my Heavenly Father. Or sometimes it's just a fountain of praise that I pour out to God, my own not-so-eloquent version of a Psalm if you will.
At Lead THE Cause, our full week training-meets-mission-week, we often challenge teenagers to write out their prayers in a letter to God. I'll never forget hearing a 14 year old student reading his letter aloud in Moody Memorial Church before 600+ other teenagers. His heartfelt call for revival moved many of us to chills and to tears. He, like DL Moody more than a century ago, shook this old church and the heavenlies with his fresh pleas for spiritual awakening in his generation.
Whether you keep a prayer journal or make a digital one on your computer, writing out your prayers to God from time-to-time can be a powerful and rewarding experience.
4. Use a prayer app.
We have an advantage of our Old Testament friends like Elijah and even our New Testament friends like Paul. We have smart phones! We can use technology to help us to pray more specifically and remind us to pray more consistently.
Personally, I like PrayerMate. It's an easy to use app that allows me to pray for the list of people and things I am interceding to God for on a regular basis. This is what I use to pray for my family members, co-workers, partners in ministry and the people I am seeking to reach for Jesus. If you know of other great prayer apps please feel free to list them in the comments below.
5. Start your prayer time by reading a Psalm.
"I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise youand extol your name for ever and ever." Psalsm 145:1,2
A preacher once said, "The Psalms are in the middle of the Bible because they are the heartbeat of God." While I don't know if I can prove the whole why-Psalms-are-in-the-middle-of-the-Bible theory I do think it's true that the Psalms are close to the heart of God. They represent the raw, unfiltered praise and requests of great men of God like David, Moses and the Sons of Korah.
Often, when I'm on my prayer walks, I start by reading a Psalm or two or three from my phone. Why? Praise helps me recalibrate my heart toward heaven. It helps me center my heart around the Lord and his will. And it keeps me from approaching the Heavenly Father like a divine ATM or a cosmic Santa Claus with my long list of toys. Don't misunderstand. It's not that I don't ask him for things. I do...lots of things! But I don't usually start with the wishlist. I end with it. Because after I see him for who he is I can see my requests for what they are. After I've prayed for his "kingdom to come and will to be done" then I'm ready to ask for my daily bread...and then some.
These are my five simple ideas to help improve your prayer life. If you have an idea or two you can add to the list then please do!