“In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”
–John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress
Last at bat, I introduced the idea of praying simple prayers (see post here). There’s no need to use a gazillion words in our prayers in an attempt to impress God or strong-arm Him into giving what we want. In this post, I’m going to lay out a few suggestions that might help as you begin to exercise simple praying in your life.
Recognize who you’re talking to.
First of all, we have to recognize who it is we’re praying to. We’re not talking to some random stranger we met today on the street. We’re talking to the God of the universe. We’re talking to the King of kings. And if we recognize that, I think we’d be a little more careful with what we say to the King. We don’t want to just burst through the doors and say anything we want. And so, let’s not rush right into our prayers. Spend a few moments recognizing who it is that you’re about to meet. You’re about to meet the King.
We don’t have to be pressured to be lengthy in your prayers because we think that doing so will make our prayers more effective. That’s certainly not the case. A short but honest prayer can be just as meaningful as a long one. Instead, I think we should learn to be specific with what we’re asking God for. As I pray for people, I try not to ramble on. I pray specific prayers for each individual. This is a great reason to routinely gather prayer request so that you can know how to specifically pray for each person. When I pray for people, I try to be as specific as I can and I usually end up saying a line or two for each one.
Write down your prayers.
It might be helpful for some people to write down their prayers. Writing my prayers helps me remain focused on the task at hand. This is especially helpful because I’m the type that gets distracted easily. Additionally, writing my prayers helps me be very specific with what I’m asking God for. And since I don’t want to write lengthily, I tend to be short and direct to the point (but still with reverence and respect). Before I write down a prayer on paper, I try to take a few moments to really think about what I want to ask God for this person.
Pray the Psalms.
There are times when I don’t know what to say to God in prayer. In times like those, I often crack open my Bible to the book of Psalms and read a Psalm or two to the Lord. A psalm may give you words that you may not have at the moment.
Note that I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with praying long prayers. In fact, it could be a good discipline in its own right. But the point is that we shouldn’t feel the need to be lengthy and complex. Instead, we can rest assured that short but honest prayers can be just as acceptable as long ones.