3 Ways to Cultivate a Healthy Prayer Life

tin-can-phoneHealthy relationships are fueled by dialog—ongoing, honest, two-way conversation. Without open lines of communication, a relationship withers. Nowhere is this more true than in our relationship with God. He speaks to us through the Scriptures, the very words of God preserved for us over many centuries, and he invites us to speak to him through prayer. This is a remarkable invitation. The God of heaven and earth invites us to speak directly to him, and he promises to listen.

Despite all this, most believers seldom pray honestly. Most of us pray regularly, at least bowing our heads while the pastor prays, but it becomes much more difficult to speak honestly with God when no one else is listening.

A. W. Tozer puts it like this: “We cannot seem to get our minds into good working order, and the first thing we have to fight is wandering thoughts. The great battle in private prayer is overcoming this problem of our idle and wandering thinking. We have to learn to discipline our minds and concentrate on willful, deliberate prayer.”

Here are three steps you can take to cultivate a habit of prayer that is both consistent and genuine.

Keep a list

A prayer list will help you stay organized. If you have an affinity for lists, chances are you’re already doing this; if you don’t self-identify as a “list person,” consider keeping just this one. A written list, whether physical or digital, will keep you from making a flippant “I’ll pray for you” promise with intention of following through. We created the prayer widget to help you keep track of your prayer requests. Here’s an explanation of how to use it.

Avoid mimicking what you hear

If you grew up in church, you may be familiar with a particular style or cadence of prayer. There is nothing wrong with this kind of style, but it does miss the point. Prayer is one half of a conversation. It’s your chance to speak directly to God. Speak as yourself, not as someone else. Mimic what you hear others praying and you’ll quickly find yourself making rote prayers, built with snap-together phrases that, though they have a pious ring, have become devoid of meaning. If you hear the prayer of another whom you admire, mimic its spirit, but use your own words. Use words that you would use in conversation.

Write prayers out

This might also feel funny if you’ve never done it before, but writing (or typing) a prayer to God can help overcome many of the challenge that Tozer pointed out. Silent, private prayer can often degrade from prayer to thought, and thinking is not the same as praying. (Click to tweet) Let’s be honest: it’s also easy to get distracted or doze off. A pen or keyboard keeps your mind focused.

Beyond these three suggestions, how do you keep your prayer life vibrant and strong?


  1. John Benk says

    Right on, and God help and strengthen us in our devotion to be true and faithful as regards prayer and all our service herewith too… come on you Children of God, let us together Press into Him whom our Hearts we say does Love Most of all… Shalomzzz JJB :-)

  2. says

    These are excellent, practical, insightful approaches in communication with our heavenly Father through prayer. To pray, however, means you first need to establish a relationship. Prayer, whether oral or written (both are valuable) facilitates two conversationalists to get to know each other. As you learn about God (read about Him in His book), you discover an attraction to His beautiful demeanor, character and heart! The Psalmist gives another suggestion to your primary ones: "Be Still and Know." I think simply being quiet before the Lord is an essential part of communication. When we pray, we need to "Listen." Jeremiah 33:3; Psalm 91:1 may get my point across more effectively. Try it! You'll love it!

  3. Dave Mayer says

    I guess you don't pray the Our Father then because it is a rote Prayer. You show an obvious prejudice against rote prayers. If it becomes meaningless it is only if the person saying it makes it so. Rote prayer has an equal side with heart prayer(which you think is the only way to pray).By calling rote prayers mimicing you degrade your own pray life. Those who pray and love the psalms would see your comments as poorly chosen and so would those who pray scripture. The conversation with God rather heartfelt or rote only becomes meangful if we are praying in earnest to glorify God.You Forgot the second part of prayer which is siting in silence listening for the urging of the Spiirit in or lives Only talking and never listtening is not a conversatin nor a way to pray. So a healthy prayer life takes both.

  4. gary says

    I was once a born-again evangelical Christian who for years prayed for God to speak to me in my heart, as I had been promised he would. He never did. God never spoke to me in a still, small voice. God never “moved” me or “led” me. I finally blamed myself for God’s refusal to speak to me and left the Church. Now that I am older, I have had time to look at the evidence, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the problem wasn’t me…it was God.

    Here is the evidence I found:

    Disease and Illness: Christians have the same rates of disease and illness as non-Christians. Jesus doesn’t seem to answer prayers for healing. The percentage of non-Christians, including atheists, who recover from illness is the same as that of Christians. Christians who claim that they were healed due to prayer cannot prove that their healing was not due to some other factor, such as the medication that their doctor was giving them or pure coincidence. If Jesus really heals people due to prayer, Christians should have a much higher healing rate. They don’t.

    Death rates: The average life span of Christians is no better than that of non-Christians, including atheists.

    Accident rates: Christians have just as many accidents as non-Christians. There is no evidence that Jesus provides any better protection for Christians behind the wheel than non-Christians, including atheists. So asking Jesus to keep you and your family safe on your road trip doesn’t seem to be of any benefit.

    Job promotion: Is there any evidence that Christians are promoted in their jobs more often than non-Christians? I doubt it. Praying to Jesus to give you that promotion or that raise that your family really and truly needs doesn’t seem to work.

    Food poisoning: Most Christians pray before every meal for God to bless their food. However, no study I am aware of indicates that Christians have fewer incidences of food poisoning or that Christians are healthier than non-Christians. Jesus doesn’t seem to respond to prayers for “blessing” food.

    Child Safety: This is a big one for most Christian parents. We pray to Jesus to keep our children safe. Studies, however, demonstrate that the rate of accidents, injuries, disease, and death among the children of Christians is no different than the rates for the children of non-Christians. Praying to Jesus to keep your children safe is not effective.

    Now, maybe it isn’t God’s will for Christians to have lower disease rates, lower death rates, lower accident rates, lower food poisoning rates, lower child injury rates, and higher job promotion rates. But get this: Christians, and even evangelical Christians, have the same divorce rate as non-Christians! So either evangelical Christians are not praying to Jesus regarding their selection of a life partner (which I don’t believe for a second) or Jesus isn’t listening.

    Or just maybe…Jesus isn’t there.

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