Just Show Up
One of the things that I think that a lot of people struggle with, both inside the church and outside of it, is that we simply do not know how to pray. This isn't an isolated problem. This is a question that I have been asked numerous times as a pastor. People ask things like: “How do I engage in the spirit of intercession?”, “What does it mean to travail in prayer?”, “How do I become devoted to prayer?” or, the most common question concerning prayer, “How do I prayer for more than just a few minutesat a time?”.
First, we should know that we are never supposed to stop growing in our pursuit of greater heights and depths in prayer. You will never exhaust the limits of the knowledge of prayer. Paul tells us in Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
This verse lets us know that there's a level of the Holy Spirit assisting our feeble prayers so that they're acceptable unto God. Therefore, in one sense we are perfectly justified in not knowing how to pray. And due to the weakness of our flesh this will never change. If we are in these temporal bodies, we will need the aid of the Holy Spirit in our prayer life. But this isn’t the primary reason that people approach me asking how to pray. There are many other factors and reasons, that cause many to find themselves not knowing how to pray effectively. For example, things like personal holiness, treatment of spouses and obedience all can affect your ability to pray. But there is one reason that seems to be the most common among believers.
Many of us don't know how to pray because we haven't really tried. We haven't exercised our prayer muscles, as it were. Of all the tips, methods, strategies, etc. that you might find to increase your ability to pray; none will be more effective than simply beginning to pray. Just start praying. Set a timer. Five minutes a day. Don’t worry about praying hours on end. At least not to start out with. That will never last. It isn’t sustainable. It is like strengthening muscles. It requires progressive development. Do you know why so many New Year’s resolutions fail? It is because they try to perfect something that doesn’t exist yet.
Those that most often find success are those that simply show up. They don’t necessarily get caught up in the strategy or the appearance. They just show up and get started. They get to work and kind of figure it out as they go. They bring optimization in after they have gotten into the habit of showing up. I am not denying the importance of planning and scheduling. What I am saying is that often we allow schedule to become an enabler to our procrastination. Don’t continue to put off praying as you search for the “perfect” method or strategy. Just start praying now. Imperfect though it may be. Commune with God. Don’t attempt to join the metaphorical Olympics before you even start working out. Just start small. Start simple. Devote five minutes a day to prayer and watch expectantly for it to revolutionize your life.