This was inspired by Stuff Christians Like.
Over the past several weeks, I have considered how to make my prayer life more efficient. You see, I am pretty good about getting up and reading my Bible and other edifying Christian books. My prayer life, however, I feel leaves something to be desired.
So, I set my brain to work on solving the problem of becoming a better pray-er (I don't really know how to spell it when I need to say "one who prays"--is it "prayer" or "pray-er").
Here are some tried and true techniques:
Popcorn prayers (or shout outs to God)-The theory behind this is that whenever something comes to mind, you toss it up to God--perhaps in a sentence or so. This can happen anytime throughout your day. For example, you are walking down the street and find your eyes wandering and give a shout out, "God, I just looked at a woman lustfully. Forgive me." Once done, you move on--simple as that. We even make use of group "popcorn prayer" at church. The leader will say something to the effect of, "let's pray together. We'll do popcorn prayers."
Member 1: "God, be with our church. Guide the leadership."
Member 2: "Remember our country, God. Guide the leadership."
Member 3: "Help me to be a good husband, Father. Guide my leadership."
Member 4: "Lord, I really want a new I-phone, but only if it is in Your will."
Lord's Prayer Pray-er: We all know that Jesus taught us to pray (Luke 11:2-4), "Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation." My line of thinking goes something like this--Jesus taught us how to pray, so if I pray the Lord's prayer, I need not say anything else. The Lord's prayer covers it and in fact, perhaps if I say anything else, I may be like one of the hypocrites.
He knows what we need: As a variant on the theme of the Lord's prayer and popcorn prayers, one of the quicker prayers we can use is something of this sort: "God, you know what I need. Amen."
Worship Music as prayer: If you listen carefully, certain worship songs are prayers...kind of. If I just sing the right songs, I am praying. "Take my heart, and form it. Take my mind, transform it. Take my will, conform it. To Yours, to Yours, O Lord!" See how easy that was? If you ever see me driving down the highway belting out "Jesus take the wheel!" You will know I am just praying.
Using the A-C-T-S method: You've certainly heard of this structured approach: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. It goes a little something like this. "God you are awesome! You are great and holy (How did David make this look so easy?!?). God I ate too much...again. Help me to turn away from this sin (is eating really sinful, God?). God I am a worldly man, drawn to the things of this world. Lord forgive me. OK, God, you already know all the bad stuff I did. Sorry. God thanks for sending your son. Thank you for my wife and my kids and my church. Thanks for the food that I binged on. (OK, what is the "S" again? supplication? what the heck is supplication? Oh yeah, this is the part where I get to ask for stuff!)." This is usually the longest part. "Dear God, please bless our church. Please provide us with a new refrigerator, Lord, as ours is getting too small and you know that we will need one if we are to bring home more children which you call a blessing. Make my kids beautiful, smart and compliant. But only if it is your will Lord. Amen." Importantly, I have heard that you should be careful not to mess up the order on this one. It is A-C-T-S, not S-C-A-T. or some other variant. If you don't get it right, your prayers may be hindered.
Praying in the car (shower, bed, movie theater): You can pray while you are doing other stuff. Capture your commute for Jesus. Jon talked a lot about this in his post "Teaching Yourself to Breathe Underwater". I have attempted this method and I suck at it. I start driving, turn off my radio and start praying away. (One of the true beauties of cell phones is that you can talk to yourself in your car and no one thinks you are crazy). About 5 minutes later, I get bored and I begin to wonder what is playing on the radio. Perhaps it is one of those worship song/prayer combos.
Clearly, I haven't figured out how to pray yet. As I read the Bible, I look for clues about how to strengthen my prayer life. I think it really comes down to a matter of the heart. David was a man after God's own heart who sought Him earnestly and had a passion for praising and talking with his heavenly father. He did not do it out of a sense of obligation, or an item to check off of his to do list. He did it because he wanted to spend time with the father and knew that he was worthy of all praise.