Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Mark Littleton's new book, The Ten-Second Prayer Principle: Praying Powerfully as You Go, (Howard Publishing, 2007).
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t have long stretches of time to send lengthy prayers to God. He hears the short prayers you offer throughout your day – like while you’re driving, exercising, working, or eating – and He’ll answer them, too.
Incorporating brief prayers into your daily life will put you in frequent contact with God, which will make your prayer life rich and full, no matter how busy you are.
Here’s how you can pray as you go through your daily life:
Recognize the opportunities. Know that everything that comes your way is an opportunity for you to pray about something. Realize that tremendous power you have to change the world for the better through your prayers – and decide to use that power to the fullest. Ask God to give you His perspective on the people and situations you encounter so you’ll be motivated to pray for them.
Don’t stop. Think of prayer as something you can do continuously, without stopping. See it as ongoing communication with God. Remember that God is always present with you. Aim to check in with Him often through prayer.
Be natural. Understand that prayer should come as naturally to you as breathing does. Don’t worry about trying to follow any type of formula for prayer; instead, simply pray in the way that works best for you at a particular time. Be assured that God will hear your prayers even if you don’t go to a special place, kneel, close your eyes, speak your prayer aloud, use elaborate language, or pray for a certain amount of time. Relax and focus just on communicating with God in whatever way works best for you.
Be creative. Realize that prayer shouldn’t be boring; it should be enjoyable and interesting. Rather than praying about the same old subjects over and over, pray about new topics, as well. Instead of using the same format for your prayers, mix up the order and change the style for variety. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you pray, so the process will be exciting.
Pay attention. Notice the abundance of opportunities you have to pray all around you, and make a habit of praying as you encounter various needs from people and situations in your life. Instead of just praying about what’s routinely on your mind, make time to pray every time you interact with someone who needs God’s touch or deal with something that could benefit from God’s intervention. Know that the more you pray, the more God will answer and work in the world. Seek to become a significant force for change in your community.
Listen for the Spirit’s prompting. Expect the Holy Spirit to nudge you to pray about people or situations you may never have thought of on your own. Whenever that happens, respond right then, praying while the need is fresh in your mind. Then enjoy watching how God answers your prayers.
Use information from the media. Whenever a news story catches your attention, pray about it. Remember that, while you probably don’t personally know the people involved, they’re real people in real situations that need God’s help. Intercede using the specific details you’ve learned from the news story, asking God to transform the people’s hearts and impact the situations according to His will. Rather than assuming you know the best outcome (such as in the case of a political election), simply pray for God’s will to be done. Be assured that by praying about world events, you’re tapping into real, unlimited power that can change the world for the better in powerful ways.
Shift your prayers. Get out of the rut of praying for the same old subjects over and over again. As you go through each day, deliberately shift from one topic to another so you can touch on a wide variety of subjects, like: family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, the government, the war on terror, people of other religions, your church, your small group, your city or county, your children’s teachers and classmates, your upcoming vacation, moral issues, upcoming legislation, and the criminal justice system. Be creative, exploring new ground as you pray.
Make lists. Use lists of various topics to pray about, such as: a list you write of your personal needs, prayer lists you receive from your church or charities or missionaries that detail their current needs, and Bible verses you want to pray. Consider praying through your lists while taking a leisurely walk. After you pray through your lists, keep them for a while to remind you of what you’ve been praying and notice how God has answered.
Use your downtime. Make the most of the downtime you have each day, by praying in situations like: standing in line, waiting in a doctor’s or dentist’s office, sitting in traffic, waiting to be served in a restaurant, cleaning up after a meal, mowing the lawn or working in the garden, listening to music, trying to fall asleep, taking a bath or shower, sitting at the computer, watching your kids play, taking a walk, or watching television. View every moment of downtime you experience as an opportunity to pray.
Pray about whatever comes at you. Whenever life throws circumstances at you for which you’re not prepared, make prayer your first response to them. Instead of letting yourself become overwhelmed, wasting time and energy worrying, or trying to solve problems in your own limited strength, pray when you first encounter challenges to release God’s power into those situations right away.
Ask, seek, and knock. If you’re asking God about something, frame your request in terms of biblical principles to make sure you’re asking according to His will. Seek the answer to your prayer by taking action after you ask. For example, if you’ve asked God to help you become more physically fit (which aligns with the biblical principle of taking care of the body He gave you), seek the answer to your prayer by exercising regularly. Don’t just wait around for God to magically drop the answer in your lap without you doing anything that will move you closer to your goal. Keep knocking on God’s door persistently while you wait for Him to answer your prayers; don’t give up.
Pray the Scriptures. Read the Bible often and meditate on the passages that speak the most powerfully to you. Memorize them, so the Holy Spirit will remind you of them whenever you need to apply their truths. When you pray, do so on the basis of what God has already promised or commanded in the Bible, since that will make your prayers line up with God’s will. Don’t limit yourself just to the Scripture passages you’ve memorized; whenever you read some verses that speak to something you’re currently dealing with, turn that passage into a prayer by personalizing it. Realize that the better you know the Bible, the more specific, wide-ranging, and fervent your prayers can become.
Create a prayer file. Write down various prayer requests on index cards, using one card per request and noting: the nature of the request, the date, and where the request came from. File each request in the appropriate section of your file: things you intend to pray about daily, weekly, and monthly (divide the monthly section into 30 slots so you can pray about a different request each day of the month). Whenever you discover how God has answered a certain prayer request, record the answer on the corresponding card and move the card to a new file – one for answered prayers.
Pray about small things as well as large things. Remember that nothing is too small to pray about; everything is significant to God because it’s a part of your life and He loves you deeply. So go ahead and pray about whatever thoughts and feelings occur to you and whatever experiences you have. Don’t hold back. Make a habit of connecting to God through prayer constantly.
Expect God to answer. Understand that God will eventually answer all of your prayers, but sometimes not in the ways you predict. Be prepared for surprises. Trust God to hear and respond to each prayer – no matter how brief – in the absolute best ways for you and all concerned. Look forward to what God will do!
Adapted from The Ten-Second Prayer Principle: Praying Powerfully as You Go, copyright 2007 by Mark Littleon. Published by Howard Publishing (a division of Simon & Schuster), West Monroe, La., www.howardpublishing.com.
Mark Littleton is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and a former pastor and youth pastor. He has authored more than 70 books, which have collectively sold more than one million copies.