No one has a perfect prayer life. But starting or restarting your prayer life is desirable when you consider how eager God is to share a loving relationship with you. Like most new endeavors - such as an exercise program - it is most helpful to keep prayer simple and practical. It's helpful if you set some prayer goals to connect with God that are well within your reach.
Five steps to get started - or restarted - in prayer:
Decide where and when you will pray. While it is possible to pray anywhere at any time, it's best to schedule a specific time and place to pray. Start with five or 10 minutes with God - and only with God - as your main prayer time. Choose a relatively quiet place where you can be alone and are unlikely to be interrupted. Think of this prayer time as the main meal you are going to have with God. Obviously, you can have many spontaneous meals or snacks throughout the day or week, but your main prayer meals are the ones you reserve.
Get into a relaxed yet alert prayer posture. Just as you pay attention to your posture during a job interview or when applying for a bank loan, we sometimes forget to do so when we are praying. Let your body befriend you in prayer. Try one of these: sit up with your back straight and your feet flat on the floor. Rest your open hand on your thighs or loosely fold your hands in your lap. Or you may try lying on your bed or kneeling on the floor.
Spend some time slowing and quieting down in preparation for prayer. Let your mind empty of all the busyness of your schedule. This is not easy to do, but with practice you will be get better at it. One way to do this is to take 10 or more calming and cleansing breaths. Your goal is not to become thought-less but to lessen the distractions of so many thoughts.
Pray a prayer of intention. Tell God that you intend to spend the next five or 10 minutes in prayerful friendship. Loving God, the next five minutes are yours. I want to be with you yet I am so restless and easily distracted. Help me pray. In time you will probably have the desire to increase your prayer time and find that as you make it a priority in your life you will carve out the time for longer prayer periods.
Pray in any way you want. You might just want to repeat your prayer phrase over and over and enjoy your peaceful time with God. Or you could pray the contents of your day and the plans you have for tomorrow. You might want to express gratitude, ask for forgiveness, or seek God's help with a problem or difficult relationship. You could choose a prayer you know by heart, such as the Lord's Prayer or the Twenty-third Psalm. You could pray for someone else or just be with God in silent love. Trust the Spirit of God to be with you and to help you pray in the ways that work best for you and the Father. Make sure that you allot time to listen to God's part of the conversation.
Reprinted by permission from The Pocket Guide to Prayer by Gary Egeberg, copyright (c) 1999 Augsburg Fortress. (ISBN 0-8006-3958-X)
Gary Egeberg facilitates local and national workshops on prayer, spirituality, and emotional health and is the author of From Self-Care to Prayer: 31 Refreshing Spiritual Tips, My Feelings Are Like Wild Animals! How Do I Tame Them?, and Deal with Painful Emotions.