"The sheep are never so safe from the wolf as when they are near the shepherd." - Charles Spurgeon

Among those who pray:

95% express gratitude to God
76% ask God to forgive particular sins
61% make specific requests of God
12% pray in tongues
- National & International Religion Report

How is your prayer life? If you are like most of us, it has seasons, and sometimes lacks consistency. I cannot think of anything more important than intimacy with our Heavenly Father. "It is good to be near God." (Psalm 73:28) Nearly fourteen hundred verses in the Bible talk about prayer. A rich and fulfilling prayer life is essential to our spiritual growth.

This is not a "how to" on prayer. These are simply some ideas that have benefitted me in my time with God. I encourage you to give them a try to see which ones work for you.

1. Find Your Ideal Time. Are you a morning person or a night person? When are you most alert? "Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray." (1 Peter 4:7) Identify your "optimal prayer time." How many times have you fallen asleep while praying? For me, morning works out best. It is a great way to start the day. I get up earlier now than I ever imagined, and I am not even a morning person! Make it a regular part of your schedule - and stick with it! "Be faithful in prayer." (Romans 12:12) Pencil it in your planner if you must. Why is it when we get busy our time with God is often the first thing to go? Make it a priority! Even a few minutes each day is better than none at all. It will hardly affect your schedule, and it's easy. I started with just a few minutes, and I now have a powerful extended prayer time every day. If you are not a consistent pray-er, here is an experiment: For thirty days, set aside a few minutes each day for a regular time with God. Give it a try and see what happens. It will make a difference!

2. Isolate Yourself Somewhere Private, Quiet and without Distractions. "But when you pray go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father." (Matthew 6:6) This will be your "refuge," your place of retreat. Stay out of the bed! This is not nap time. I have a desk set up specifically for this purpose, so I am always ready. I turn off the furnace or air conditioner, and close the door to get it really quiet. How else will you hear that "still, small voice?" Naturally, you can pray anywhere, such as in the car, at work or around the house. However, true "quiet time" is the key to a powerful, effective prayer life.

3. Be Quiet and Listen. "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10) Contemplate His presence. Take a moment to realize that Almighty God, the Creator of the universe, is waiting to hear from you! "God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer." (Psalm 66:19) Anyone who knows me will tell you I like to talk, especially about God. So you can imagine what it is like when I talk to God. He patiently listens to my prayers, and waits for His chance to speak. Finally, as I wind down my prayer time, He gets ready to share some wisdom or guidance with me (which I just requested). Then I say "Amen," and I am done. "Jim," He says to Himself, "I have so much to share with you, if you would only listen." Let God speak to you. While you are praying, pause, be quiet and allow Him to respond. Many times you will not get an answer, but sometimes you will. You must learn to discern His voice. It may be a thought or a feeling, but you will sense His leading. "Listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God." (Exodus 15:26)

4. Talk with Your Best Friend. Be yourself. Remember you are relating to a real Person. Do not be formal or ritualistic. A friend once explained how she talks with God in a casual, friendly way, and encouraged me to try it. I had always prayed something like "Thanks Lord, forgive me Lord, I want this and I want that." It was quick, and always the same, except my wish list at the end. Having a casual conversation with God was foreign to me. It was awkward at first, but it quickly became natural and rewarding. I just realize Jesus is there with me and talk to Him. This has had a tremendous impact on my spiritual growth. It has given me an incredible intimacy with God, and I am much more aware of His presence. He is your best friend. You can share anything with Him! Are you angry? Tell Him. If you do not feel close to Him, say so. Laugh, cry or scream if you need to; He is there for you.

5. Talk with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. When you pray, to whom are you praying? Speak to all three members of the Trinity. Tell God you want to be His man. Tell Jesus you want to be more like Him. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with God's power. Ask Him to open your spiritual eyes to see and your spiritual ears to hear what God is saying.

6. Pray with A.C.T.S. - A.C.T.S. is an easy way to remember key elements of prayer. My prayer time has improved dramatically since I started using it. It's simply prayer in four parts:

Adoration - "Praise be to God!" (Psalm 68:35) Tell God how much you appreciate Him. Express your love for Him. Praise His power and majesty. This is a great way to begin your prayer time. Sometimes I watch the sun rise, and praise God for the beauty of His creation. You should never run out of praise. "How awesome are your deeds!" (Psalm 66:3)

Confession - "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9) Tell Him where you have fallen short. Be specific. I thank Him for the forgiveness I have in Christ, and ask for help and strength to turn away from future temptations.

Thanksgiving - Always "glorify him with thanksgiving" (Psalm 69:30) You have plenty of reasons to be thankful. Thank God for His love, His faithfulness, His patience and a million other things. Express gratitude for what He's doing in your life. Thank Jesus for dying on the cross for you. Thank the Holy Spirit for indwelling you, and never leaving. Thank Him for being your conscience, your counselor and that "still small voice."

Supplication - "Make your requests known to God." (Philippians 4:7) Tell God what you want, no matter how small it seems to you. Do you really think any of your requests are big to God the Creator? You should have lots of intercessory prayer here. Remember: As a Promise Keeper, you are committed to pray for your pastor and your church every day.

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