How to Pray When Prayer Seems Unremarkable

How to Pray When Prayer Seems Unremarkable

As a small child, I remember saying my nighttime prayers with my mom each night before I went to bed. When I became a little older, the words became more personal. Yet, for years, I would end each prayer with a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. For the longest time, my prayer life sounded more like a one-sided telephone conversation. Thank you God for today…thank you for my family…Thank you for…etc. I might throw in some confessions. I would then pray for other people’s needs. My prayer life was rote and ritualistic for years.

Then I read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 and the thought of praying continually seemed exhausting. I realized I must be missing something in my prayer life.

Jesus and prayer

Prayer was vital to Jesus’ ministry while he was on earth. The Gospels show how Jesus prioritized prayer throughout his ministry. He prayed before making important decisions and before many miracles (Mark 7:32-37; Luke 5:16, 6:12-13, John 6:11, 11:41-42). He utilized prayer to understand the will of the Father Jesus also prayed to God in thanksgiving as well as on behalf of others (Mark 8:6; Matthew 19:13).

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  • 1. Learn to retreat to prayer.

    Luke 5:16 states that Jesus would withdraw to lonely places to pray. This shows intentionality to reconnect with the Father after the crowds had come to witness his miracles and teaching. We often lead busy lives. When we take time to meet with God and be still, we can hear what he is trying to tell us. The location may be in a coffee house, your back porch, or maybe in your shower. The importance is that you take away the distractions and regularly commune with the Lord.

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  • 2. Express your heart to God.

    One of the most beautiful expressions of Jesus’ heart is found in John 17, the night of his arrest. In his prayer, he speaks the truth of the Father back to the Father. He then takes time to pray for his disciples as well as future believers. Even throughout his petition, most of his prayer is a declaration of God’s promises. During Jesus’ largest crisis on earth, his mind was on God’s faithfulness. I have found keeping a prayer journal helpful to help me better communicate to God exactly what I am feeling. We see examples of written prayers to God in Scripture through the prayers of King David.

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  • 3. Confess our sin to God.

    King David is known to be a man after God’s own heart. His prayers recorded in Psalms express his intimate relationship. Part of this intimacy comes from his ability to confess his wrongdoings. The New Testament teaches about the importance of confessing our sins before God (1 John 1:9). It brings us humbly before God’s throne of grace and allows him to receive us back into proper fellowship. Try to allow God to search your heart daily or even in quiet moments throughout the day. Learning to confess our sins as soon as we feel convicted of them helps us stay in fellowship with God. 

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  • 4. Forgive your offenders.

    One of the few saying of Jesus on the cross was his petition to the Father to forgive those who while they were persecuting him (Luke 23:34). They had not asked for forgiveness, yet he extended it through prayer. To deepen our own relationship with the Father, forgiveness of others is necessary (Matthew 6:14-15).

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  • 5. Surrender your heart to God’s will.

    The Gospel of John records Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. In his prayer, Jesus requests that if it is possible for the cup to be taken from him, then let it be, but may God’s will be done. Through this prayer, we see Jesus surrender his will into the Father’s hand. He petitions three times, showing persistence in his request. Jesus sweats droplets of blood which is an indication of extreme stress. Yet, at the end of the night, Jesus rises and submits to his fate. Because Jesus knew the heart of the Father, he could surrender to God’s will for his life (John 10:30). When we spend time with God, we develop our relationship with him and understand that his plan for our lives is greater than the plan we have for ourselves.

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  • 6. Meditate on God’s word in prayer.

    The psalmist in Psalm 1 reveals the importance of meditating on God’s word both day and night. This reflection helped the writer refrain from temptation and live in a way that was pleasing to God. In our prayer life, when we reflect on God’s word, it enables us to remember his promises and his truth. This truth will set us free in times of doubt and temptation (John 8:32).

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  • 7. Commit yourself to God with unwavering trust.

    With Jesus’ final breaths, He expressed his unwavering trust in the Father’s care. His cry was not of surrender and defeat, but rather a testimony of his abiding commitment to completing God’s will for his life on earth. Our prayers should reflect that same level of commitment and trust. When we spend time alone with God, expressing our true heart to him, surrendering our lives to his plan, confessing our sin, forgiving others, and meditating on his word, it allows us to grow in our love relationship with the Lord. This growth becomes noticeable to the world because we are forever changed. 

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    Cortney Whiting is a wife and mother of two wonderfully energetic children. She received her Masters of Theology Degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. After serving in the church for nearly 15 years, Cortney currently serves as a lay-leader and writes for various Christian ministries. You can find her at www.unveilinggraces.blogspot.com.