The Key to Praying Effectively

Most of us never experience this.  Our lives get busy, and we start "dumping fuel" at any possible moment, just trying to keep our heads above water.  Prayer becomes a luxury.  It is something we do in the midst of our frenetic actions that we call life.

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Man praying in the grassy field

When I pray with my kids, I can tell their minds are somewhere else.  They might have their eyes closed, but talking to God is the very last thing on their minds.  I guess for us adults, some things never change.

Years ago I read a quote by Mother Teresa.  When asked what she says when she prays she answered, “I listen”.  When asked what God says, she responded, “He listens”.

All too often, I look at prayer only as presenting my requests before God.  After all, that is exactly what He asks me to do.  By viewing prayer solely through this lens, though, I miss out on so much that prayer is.  Can prayer really be a conversation?

Most of us never experience this.  Our lives get busy, and we start “dumping fuel” at any possible moment, just trying to keep our heads above water.  Prayer becomes a luxury.  It is something we do in the midst of our frenetic actions that we call life.

When we consider the health of our prayer life, I think there is a simple key that would take it from being on life support to being intimate, real and replenishing.

People pray effectively when they create space and a place to pray.  When I get busy, I somehow get this God complex, thinking that sleep is more important than connecting with God.  But when I believe I am weak and crave time with my Father, I enjoy time in a chair in my den with a good cup of coffee and my Bible.

In his book, Spiritual Direction, Henri Nouwen describes a threefold process of prayer this way:  “We first cry out to God with all our needs and requests.  Then we turn our unceasing thoughts into continual conversation with God.  Finally, we learn to listen to God in our hearts through a daily discipline of meditation and contemplative practice.”

The results of our prayers are far out of our control.  What is in our control, however, is the time that is set apart to pray.  Instead of focusing on the results, it is freeing to think of just making myself available.

I have been reminded again that time early in the morning for me is something I desperately crave.  Augustine says, “My soul is restless until it rests in you, O God.”  The same is true for me.

Somewhere between 6 and 7am, I’ll be in my chair in my den, trying to focus my heart on Jesus.  Yes, my mind will be distracted.  It will wander.  But I believe over a period of time, God will continue to show me how to listen.  I’ll be eager to hear what He says. Maybe it’s time for you to create the space and designate the place to let your heart and mind dwell on the richness of God.  Don’t worry about the distractions.  Don’t focus on the results.  Be still, and know that He is God. What is your prayer life like?

Kevin East
President, Boys & Girls Clubs of East Texas
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ABOUT KEVIN Hi, I’m Kevin East. I am the President of The Mentoring Alliance – a ministry dedicated to mobilizing godly people into the lives of kids and families, to provide tangible help and eternal hope. I’m part of the speaker team for Family Matters, and have been writing articles for this blog, Following to Lead, since 2011. MY FAMILY Years ago I realized it couldn’t get any better than the girl I was currently dating. I was able to quickly snatch her up to be my wife. More than ten years later, Stephanie and I have 5 kids. Out of a deep desire to care for the fatherless, we still foster and mentor kids as well. We currently live in the piney woods of East Texas, near Tyler. My wife and I find ourselves chasing the kids around most of the time when I’m not at work – but when given the chance – we love to sit on our front porch rocking chairs together at night to unwind. Being a godly husband and great father is of utmost importance to me.