Spiritual Growth

7 Surprising Things I Learned About Prayer

1. Prayer Doesn’t Always “Work”

If God is like Santa Claus, and prayer is a way of asking for things, then you’re going to experience a roller-coaster ride of emotions as your expectations are met and missed. Prayer isn’t a slot machine, it’s a journey of faith and expectation and action.

2. You Have to Speak Up

I’ve heard countless sermons on prayer. I’ve read dozens of books about prayer. I’ve studied prayer and discussed the concept of prayer for hours. But I rarely prayed. If you want to learn how to pray, it’s really simple: Pray. Figure out a form that works for you, and then do it. As Max Lucado says “Don’t be so concerned about wrapping the gift that you never give it.”

3. You Have to Shut Up

A conversation where only one person speaks is called a monologue. I visited a hilltop prayer community three hours east of Paris, called Taize, where we prayed 3 times per day, and each prayer time started with 8 minutes of silence. “Maintain inner silence in all things so as to dwell with Christ,” Brother Roger, the founder, used to say. Prayer is a conversation – we need to be silent in order to hear the still, small voice of God.

4. Praying is Easy

You don’t need to use fancy words or long phrases, and you certainly don’t have to drone on for hours. When I visited Israel and Palestine, my constant prayer contained just one word – Shalom – a sense of peace, prosperity, blessing, wholeness, oneness. When I visited Mount Athos, the all-male ‘holy mountain’ in Greece, we used a five word prayer called the Jesus Prayer. Jesus Himself used a really simple prayer called the Lord’s Prayer. Keep it simple, like you’re talking to a friend.


5. Praying is Hard

George Muller prayed for a friend every single day… for sixty-three years and eight months. Somethings prayer isn’t “sexy”- it’s a difficult, enduring, long-term commitment to seeing spiritual revival in a physical reality.

6. It’s About Relationship, Not Religion

If you had breakfast with Bill Gates every morning, you’d probably get really good at managing your money. If you had lunch every day with the President, you’d probably get more political. If you had dinner every night with Steven Spielberg, you’d probably start to watch more movies. We become like the people with whom we spend time. When you spend time with Jesus in prayer, you become more like Him- humble, gracious, loving, accepting, caring, giving, selfless. Prayer changes the world, because prayer changes us.

7. It Doesn’t Have to be Boring

For me, prayer used to be a series of one-sentence prayers at mealtimes and bedtimes, not the rich prayer life that I wanted. It was routine- religion- and it was boring. It was something I did out of habit and guilt. Now, after going on a 37,000-mile prayer pilgrimage around the world, it’s an exciting adventure. Every day, I try to connect with God and become more like Him. As He changes me, I get to share that love with others.  With a mission this big, there’s never a dull moment.


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