10 Principles to Strengthen Your Prayer Life
Is your prayer life everything it needs to be? When you are in crisis, do your prayers make a difference? What have you accomplished lately in prayer? Jesus is our example in prayer. His life was a life of prayer that teaches us. We can see from Jesus example the prayer principles he used and the occasions on which he found it necessary to pray.
When did Jesus pray?
When he made important decisions
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles. (Luke 6:12-13)
He found a place to be alone and dedicated himself to an extended time of prayer with his Father. The decision to choose twelve men for the special work he had for them was huge. He needed guidance from the Father. I imagine they spent the night sifting through all the names of his many disciples and agreed on the twelve that are listed in this passage.
We have all rushed into important decisions without giving it much prayer. How foolish we have all been! Disaster has followed many of these decisions, hasn’t it?
When he was thankful
And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. (Matthew 14:19)
There was a crowd of over 5000 who had listened to Jesus teach them all day. Now, he wanted to feed them before he dismissed them. What did they have? Five small loaves of bread and a couple of fish. This is ridiculous when you think about it. What did Jesus do? He gave thanks! What do we do when we are under-resourced? We cry out in anguish and plead with God for more! What would happen if we would give thanks for not only our plenty but for our lack? Maybe God would respond to such faith just as Jesus experienced!
After great victories
After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. (Matthew 14:23)
This takes us to the same event where the 5000 were fed. The crowd was so worked up and excited by what they heard and saw that they thought it was time to declare Jesus the king of a new Israel. But Jesus dismissed the crowd and went to seek the Father’s guidance. He knew that in the moments following great victory there is great vulnerability.
When you have experienced a spiritual high, that is the time to plunge into extra prayer. You are vulnerable at that moment. We have a tendency to bask in the glory and forget the one who made the glory possible! This is a prime time for us to experience temptation, so it is a prime time for us to head the prayer room to get alone with God.
For daily guidance
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35)
Jesus had just begun his ministry when he did this. He’d had a productive day of ministry and before the next day, he looked for direction from his Father. Notice he went to a place where he could be alone. It was early in the morning, when he could be pretty sure he wouldn’t be disturbed.
It is so important that we start our day in prayer. For some people that seems very difficult. Some people find it easier to pray in the evening. However, before deciding to pray in the evening – when there are lots of potential interruptions, try honestly and diligently to establish a morning prayer time. We all need that daily guidance from God and the morning is the best time to get it.
As a matter of lifestyle
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16)
We’ve already seen how Jesus spent a night in prayer on a couple of occasions and how he got up early to pray. In this verse, we see that Jesus prayer life was one that often prompted prayer retreats! He would get away to pray.
This lifestyle of prayer is something we can emulate. We might not be able to always get away to pray but there are plenty of opportunities for the occasional prayer retreat. Every year, I get away for a prayer retreat. It is a time of refreshing and renewal. There are organized prayer retreats all across the planet! Try it sometime!
In order to teach
In Luke 9:18 and again in Luke 11:1, the Bible tells us that Jesus was praying with his disciples and from that prayer, he began to teach them. First about who he was and then about how to pray.
Sometimes when we pray, God reveals things to us that we are meant to share with others in order to encourage or instruct them. We must learn to be sensitive to God’s voice so we can respond as we should.
To point to the Father
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” (John 11:41-42)
This event takes place moments prior to Jesus calling Lazarus out of the tomb. Jesus wanted to ensure that the crowd realized it was God doing this great work and that he was working out his plan through Jesus.
Have you ever heard this: “It’s not about you.” When we follow Jesus that is the exact truth! It is all about him. It is all about God. Our lives revolve around his will for our lives. From time to time we need that reminder. Our prayer lives should be crafted so they focus on the Father. What does he want and how does he want to work?
To glorify the Father
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. (John 12:27-29)
As Jesus was finishing his ministry on earth, he wanted to ensure God got all the glory. So he asked simply that at cost God would be glorified.
Jesus would pay a high cost for the glory of the Father. Are we willing to pay a high cost to glorify the Father? We live in a culture that is addicted to comfort. Are we willing to give up our comfort at God’s call in order to glorify him?
At his point of deepest concern
As the hour approached for his crucifixion, Jesus again prayed. This prayer is recorded in John 17. In this prayer, he prayed he would complete his mission and glorify God. He passionately prayed for his disciples that they would be protected and sanctified. Then he prayed for all who would believe – for you and for me – that we would be one. He prayed that we would experience and share his love and would join him one day in heaven.
Jesus prayed not for his own comfort or ease but for what was truly important. When it came to this time of total abandonment to the will of his Father, he poured out his heart for all his followers!
We experience times of great concern in our lives as well. At those times, do our prayers reflect a concern for others or ease for ourselves?
When he faced his greatest crisis
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:39-44)
This famous prayer of Jesus needs little commentary. Jesus was so close to the cross here. His prayer was for his Father’s will to be done.
When we are facing a crisis, we must be willing to submit to the Father. Jesus’ prayer gripped his entire body. It was powerful and emotional and physical. Our prayer during crisis may effect us in the same way. To pray for God’s will in those situations is the prayer that changes the world. Are you willing to pray that way?
These 10 prayer principles can enrich and empower your prayer life as you employ them each day. Jesus life was a life of prayer. Considering the fact that Jesus prayed so much, how much more do we need To pray?
I want to leave you with four short reminders on the nature of prayer.
Prayer is conversation. When you pray you should not only speak but take time to listen. God still wants you to hear his voice. Take the time to be quiet.
Prayer is diverse. Here are seven ways you can pray:
Prayer is formal. Take the time to get to that quiet place!
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:6)
Prayer is informal. Pray all the time! When you eat, when you go to bed, when you wake in the middle of the night, throughout the day – share all your life with Jesus!
Pray continually. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)