Some things come easily for me, but prayer is not one of them. Maybe you struggle with prayer, too. If so, these thoughts on prayer might be helpful to you.
Let me start with one observation that has helped improve my own prayer life: Prayer is harder when it’s rambling. It’s harder for the person praying, and it’s harder for those listening during group prayer.
One of my frustrations when praying with others is that Christians often don’t pray intelligibly. We lace our prayers with contrived Christian mumbo jumbo (some have called it “Christian psycho-babble”). We insert useless words like “just” in virtually every phrase. Then we use the words “Lord,” “Father,” and “Jesus” as if they were punctuation marks. In short, we talk to God in ways we wouldn’t think of addressing any other intelligent individual.
This habit is hard to break. I know from personal experience. But I have a solution that has helped me trim down the nonsense. I have instructed our staff at STR that when we meet for prayer, we pray according to the acronym SIP: specifically, intelligibly, and persuasively.
I take this cue from the prayers in the Bible—Daniel 9:3–19, for example. Biblical prayers have content, clarity, and power. There is no spiritual blather. In many cases, they include reasons why God should act, as if the person praying were persuading him of something he wouldn’t do apart from their entreaty. Sometimes the reasons are based on the need. Other times they are based on God’s character or what might happen to his reputation if he ignored the request—a move Moses used frequently.
These are the things you would normally—and quite naturally—include if you were speaking to someone of importance, making a request for help or provision. You’d explain your need, why you need it, and why your request should be granted.
We can do the same with God. We should pray intelligibly, in full sentences, with complete thoughts. Our prayers should include clear, specific requests and straightforward, genuine expressions of feeling and gratitude. We should also give reasons why God ought to respond to our appeals.
And if you have spiritual leadership responsibilities of any sort—with your family, your church, or your study group—you may want to do two things in response to what I’ve said here.