I am not about to attempt to give an entire discourse on prayer. There are oodles of books written on the subject. What I will do, however, is give you a set of very practical exercises to break past your mental blocks and barriers when you attempt to pray. I've recommended these steps to many people who have found these highly successful in developing close and personal relationships with God and Jesus Christ.
Problem: Hard To Pray To Someone I Can't See
A main problem for many people in praying is talking to someone who isn't in the room with them. Of course, if we already have have a close walk with God, we know that God is with us and that God hears us, but at times, some people may find this concept difficult to emotionally accept. Have you ever tried to talk to someone who wasn't there? You feel foolish and quickly lose your train of thought. You wonder why you were saying anything at all.
I see this problem with a lot of young Christians. When you haven't become close to God yet, then when you pray to Him, you feel somewhat foolish and insecure. You feel your prayers are doing nothing.
To break past this mental barrier, do this instead: write a letter to God. Yep, you read that right. It is still prayer to write a letter to God.
You see, we are all used to writing a letter to someone who isn't in the room with us. So when you write this letter to Jesus, you will feel much more comfortable and focused in your word usage and in what you want to say. You will quickly punch through this mental barrier you have about prayer.
Prayer isn't spooky. It is merely conversation with your God. Writing a letter is sufficient to focus your prayer. Write to Him about your concerns with prayer, write about your feelings and emotions, and write to Jesus about your fears. Here is a possible way to write your letter:
I read an article recently on prayer, and the author suggested something that sounded rather strange at first. He suggested that I write You a letter. Well, here it is. A letter. I have no real idea what I'm doing, but I really do want to get close to You. I really want to know if my prayers are being heard and if You're taking an interest in my life. Jesus, I hope this letter makes sense to You. I really do. I guess You can read as easily as You listen. But could You show me something today that will help me know You listened to my heart or read this letter?
Thank You for reading!
This is merely a sample. There is no right or wrong way to write it. Write it as if you were conversing with God! After you are finished, read it out loud. Thank God verbally, and either destroy the letter, or file it away for later reference. Perhaps you may want to use a journal. But if you confessed some of your sins, or mentioned something extremely personal, you may want to destroy the letter. Don't worry, God not only read it, but stored a spiritual copy of it in His mind. No doubt He is excited about your prayer.
Problem: I Can't Stay Focused While Praying
Another mental barrier is lack of focus. Ever fall asleep while praying? Ever have your thoughts drift to something you have to do later in the day? Ever been distracted by noises or family members? These are very common obstacles to deeper prayer. It is easy to lose focus while praying, and this mental barrier can be hard to overcome.
You can try the letter-writing method above, of course, but another option is to start your prayer by writing a list of things you want to pray for—be specific, not vague. For example, if you are praying for Mike to come back to church, write down:
Mike: Sever his friendship with James, because James is the primary reason why Mike isn't coming to church.
Make this a brand new list each day. Take a minute or two and write down everything that comes to mind that you think you'd like to pray for. Then once you have this list, get two chairs. In one chair, place your open Bible. Sit in the other. Then—and this may sound silly—talk to your Bible aloud as you would if God or Jesus was sitting physically in the chair. Go through the list and talk to God about each item on the list—be specific.
Having objects to focus on—both the list and the Bible—as I pray has helped me say what I want to say in prayer. There is no magic formula. There is no certain way you must share your thoughts. And this talk is private, between you and God. So, talk. Tell Him everything!
Soon, you'll break down this mental barrier in prayer and have a vibrant walk with God. Soon, you'll be talking to Him anywhere and everywhere and feeling His presence.
Problem: I Don't Know What to Pray For
This too is a very common mental barrier in prayer. In fact, the Bible says we don't really know what we are supposed to pray for (Romans 8:26). Some people feel that praying for oneself is both foolish and selfish. Some feel that God already knows what needs to happen so why pray at all. Perhaps some feel that God has never answered their prayer before, so there must be some magic formula that has eluded them. Some feel that what they want to pray for is somehow wrong or insignificant.
First, prayer isn't like rubbing a genie's lamp. Prayer isn't so you can get what you want; it isn't treating God like some sort of candy dispenser. The main reason why you pray is to spend time with God, to spend time with Jesus. When you get that straight, what you should pray for becomes much more obvious.
The Bible says that anything we pray about in Jesus' name will be answered (John 14:13-14; John 15:16; John 16:23-26). The problem, too often, is that we are actually praying in our own name instead of His name. The idea of praying in the name of Jesus means we are praying on His behalf. We are asking God to do something for Jesus' sake.
So think. What is it that Jesus wants? What is it that God wants? Think... what it is in your life that Jesus would like to see happen? Put yourself, as best as you can, in His shoes. What would Jesus like to see changed, done, or started? Is it someone's salvation? Is it an expansion of your ministry? Or is it health so that you can serve Him? Is it funds to meet a need at church? Is it for you to be a better spouse or parent?
Once you have in mind what you believe Jesus would want, be very specific about the details. You'll have plenty to pray about and will easily overcome this mental barrier in prayer.
– Greg S. Baker pastored a church for thirteen years. He now works as the single's pastor at a local church while writing books to help expand the Kingdom of God within the kingdom of man. His books cover topics that include Christian living, manhood, and the end times. He also writes Christian fiction, believing that fiction is a major avenue for sharing the truth of God's Word. To learn more about Greg and his work, visit http://thedivineingredient.com.