Prayer needs to become a habit of our lives, that is, something we do every day, very consistently. It grows deeper, and more fervent, as we learn to know God's presence more intimately. Over the long term, we learn to treasure time with Him, more than with anyone else, and wonder why we wasted so much time on temporal things. We need both to pray at set times each day, and to cultivate an "attitude" of continual prayer, throughout the day. But, it starts with a small commitment, and grows. Here are some practical steps to help you get started :
1) Commit yourself to start praying for at least ten minutes, every day. This may seem hard, at first, but, as your communion with God grows, you will certainly find yourself spending more time, just because the Lord is SO good, and His love for us is greater than we can ever imagine. [John 3:16], [Eph 3:19], [1Jn 3:1], [Jer 31:3], [1Jn 4:16], [1Pe 1:8], [Rom 5:5-8], [Eph 2:4-7], [Rom 8:38-39] Certainly, ANY amount of time spent in God's presence is better than none, so start with ten minutes. Use a clock to track your prayer time. I highly recommend using the ACTS method, with your bible open to Ephesians chapter six. Spend at least one minute on Adoration, and one minute on Confession. Then at Thanksgiving, spend a little time truly considering each part of the Armor of God, from Ephesians 6:14-17. Then ask God for two things in particular, 1) To fill you with His Holy Spirit, and 2) To help you maintain an attitude of continual prayerfulness, all day long. Then let your requests be made known to God. Then, look at the clock...now, aren't there just a few more things you might pray about ? ( Can you tell I've been here ? ) Pray for your pastor, your elders, your rulers (President, Congressmen, Governor, Mayor, Local Police Department, Fire Department, all our Military), and any Missionaries you know of (if you don't know any, try this Gospel For Asia link). Lastly, make sure you pray for each immediate family member that doesn't know Jesus personally. That should at least be close to ten minutes. When ten minutes becomes comfortable, add five minutes more. Just add another minute to each of the first three ACTS stages, then, add more petitions to the Supplication stage. There are SO many needs in this world to pray for, that this won't be hard :
"Scripture calls us to pray for many things: for all saints; for all men; for kings and all rulers; for all who are in adversity; for the sending forth of laborers; for those who labor in the gospel; for all converts; for believers who have fallen into sin; for one another in our immediate circles" -- Andrew Murray.
Ask God to bring to mind those particular petitions He would have you pray about. When 15 minutes feels natural, add more time, more petitions Jesus asked His disciples about spending one hour with Him [Matt 26:40]; that's my personal goal, one hour a day ; and, by starting with just ten minutes, several months ago, I'm now getting very close to an hour. So close, that I'm actually looking forward to setting a new goal for two hours, once I find myself consistently spending an hour with God! Careful Note : It is not so much the amount of time we are concerned about here, so much as definitely starting on our way toward a wonderful, Godly, eternally rewarding, life-time commitment to pray.
2) Commit yourself to pray at the same time, same place, every day. This is how to develop a habit. Psychologists say it takes about 90 days to burn a habit into our brains, deep enough to make it stick.
"A habit has been defined as an act repeated so often it becomes involuntary. There is no new decision of mind each time the act is performed. Jesus prayed. He loved to pray. Often praying was His way of resting. He prayed so often it became part of His life. It was to Him like breathing -- involuntary." -- Dick Eastman
"Without set times of prayer, the spirit of prayer will be dull and feeble. Without the continual prayerfulness, the set times will not avail." -- Andrew Murray
3) Eliminate all distractions. Distractions cause our minds to wander from focus on God Himself, to something else. Everybody finds their mind wandering at first. That's OK, because we're just learning to pray. (As soon as you realize that your mind has wandered, just get back on track, by starting just where you left off. If you are following the "ACTS" method, this won't be hard.) But, the vast majority of this tendency to mentally wander can be eliminated, by simply finding a quiet, solitary place to pray. Jesus often found such a place to pray. [Mat 14:23], [Mark 1:35], [Mark 6:46], [Luke 5:16] I'll conjecture that Jesus once even suggested a closet. [Matt 6:6] Though certainly this wasn't the main point of the context, once you find how hard it is to keep from wandering, you'll perfectly understand my liberty with this text. MANY things can become distractions, when we are trying to pray. Distractions, such as noise (background conversation, radios, traffic, etc.), fast moving objects (such as cars, airplanes, or even flying insects, etc), fluctuating environmental conditions (wind, cold, heat, etc), generally do not occur in a closet, do they ? Brethren, whatever it takes, eliminate distractions.
4) If possible, pray immediately after reading the Bible. God's Word does not return void, but, accomplishes the work He intends for it to do. [Is 55:11] [Ps 19:7] The Word of God is "faith-feeding". [Rom 10:17] By meditating on God's Word, our tendency to mentally wander is drastically reduced. By renewing our minds in His Word, our thoughts get aligned with His, and it becomes much easier to discern His voice [Rom 12:2] [Ps 19:14]. I like to read until He definitely has shown me something special, just for me, just for the day, and then I start praying about that very issue. Also, since the Psalms are about 80% prayer, they make great pre-prayer meditations. Getting into His Word gives God a chance to get our attention, focus our thoughts on Him, and then praying is a lot easier. (URGENT NOTE : If you are not reading the Bible every day, you are likely to encounter great difficulty developing a deeper prayer life. God's Word needs to guide our thoughts in prayer, always. Jesus defeated the devil in the wilderness by knowing the Word of God [Matt 4:1-11] If this where you are spiritually, I urge you to start sincerely asking God to give you a burning desire for His Word, and then commit yourself to read one chapter a day. [Jer 15:16], [Ps 119:9-11], [2Tim 2:15], [Matt 4:4] I recommend starting in Luke chapter one, and then go chapter by chapter, all the way through to Revelation ...in time, it will naturally become two chapters a day, because that's how effective God's Word is, and most of all, that's how good He is.)
5) Commit yourself to pray with other Christians once a week. When we can agree in prayer over requests to God, He promises to fulfill them. [Matt 18:19,20] You might start by confiding with close brethren (perhaps your spouse, elders, pastors), that you would like prayer for "a better prayer life", and then agree together in prayer about it. Jesus will be there in your midst, to produce results beyond what you might ask, or even think. [Eph 3:20] Praying with other Christians is an essential element of the Christian life. [1Ti 2:1], [James 5:16], [Acts 2:42] One of the most effective corporate prayer methods, is the pre-service prayer meeting. If your church doesn't hold one, just show up to a church service at least 20 minutes early, and ask whoever is standing around idle, to agree with you in prayer. Quickly find a quiet corner, vacant Sunday School classroom, backstage broom closet, or whatever, and pray for the pastor who is about to speak at the service. Pray that he might be a willing, prepared vessel, in the loving hand of God, and speak as the Spirit leads. Pray that the congregation will be open to the Lord's Word, instruction, exhortation, encouragement, edification, and direction, through his address. Pray for the song leader and worship team, that they would be sensitive to the Lord's leading, on how He would be worshipped. You will be surprised at how much MORE you will get out the service, from the Lord, by doing this. You will even notice that you will feel closer in Christian love, toward the person who agreed with you in prayer. Jesus prayed in John 17, that the Father would make us all one, as He and the Father are one, that the world would know that the Father sent Jesus. [John 17:21-23] I believe that Great Revival is the result of the church becoming of one mind, one heart, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and I believe this happens primarily through praying together. I believe that is precisely why Jesus tells us to "agree" over prayer requests ; It forces us to pray together. Instructing us to "pray one for another" [James 5:16], is one way the Lord builds the body together in love.