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Prayer is More Than a Monologue
What if your times of praying could become so much more than reciting some memorized words or listing requests from a prayer list? What if your prayers could transport you into a holy place of sensing God’s glorious presence in a very real way? What if you began having personal encounters with God every time you prayed? Do you think it would change your prayer life? Remember, our God invites each of us to experience intimate communion with Him every time we come to Him in prayer— yes, every time.
In our culture, you can pray before meals, pray for healing, pray for guidance, pray before you turn out the lights and tuck in your kids, you can fire off a quick prayer in a moment of distress, or pray out of religious duty in church on Sunday. You can even pray memorized, rote prayers out of habit rather than intentionally trying to connect with God. But biblical prayer is so much more than throwing some words toward heaven and hoping they stick. God designed prayer to be our lifeline of continual connection and communion with Him. And prayer is something you can do every day, as often as you desire, for as long as you want. The choice is always up to you. God does not require you to set up an appointment before coming to Him in prayer.
Steps to Encountering God in Prayer
So, if all of that is true, how can we experience God when we pray? How can we revolutionize our prayer life into something we’ve always dreamed it would be? Are there any tips or steps we can try that others who have been far more successful in prayer than we have used in the past? Is there anything we can do to connect with God when we pray?
And the answer, of course, is yes. There are some steps on how to pray that others have used for centuries that are proven to help you experience God when you pray. Let me list just five of these.
1. Preparing Our Hearts
Jesus said in Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Experiencing God’s presence starts with preparing our hearts before we rush in with our list of requests. We must come to Him with clean hands and pure hearts (Psalm 24:3-4), having first surrendered any known sin in confession (1 John 1:9). We must, for example, forgive others as He has forgiven us (Matt. 6:14-15, 18:21-35), which is often quite difficult— sometimes almost impossible. But as we daily present ourselves as living sacrifices to Him (Rom. 12:1-2), the Holy Spirit transforms us and renews our minds to align more fully with God’s heart and priorities. And when He does, the impossible becomes possible. Try it for yourself.
2. Entering His Presence
Next, as we come to God in prayer, we are to enter His presence by praising and worshipping Him (Psalm 100:4), focusing on His character, His mighty works, and His worthiness, no matter how uncomfortable this may make you feel. We are to proclaim back to Him the truths about Him from Scripture as we exalt His name. Then, we surrender control by getting our eyes off ourselves and onto Him. And as we wait in stillness before Him, opening our spiritual ears in expectation of what He wants to say (Psalm 46:10, 62:1), He makes us keenly aware of His presence in a way that fills us with peace (Phil. 4:6-7), joy (Psalm 16:11), and spiritual strength to carry on, no matter our circumstances (Isaiah 40:31). It’s like a breath of fresh air.
3. Two-Way Conversation
After this, prayer then becomes an amazing two-way conversation. We speak to Him, and we listen for His still, small voice in return (1 Kings 19:11-13)— although sometimes His voice is not so still and not so small. He can, after all, communicate with us in any way He desires (think fire and smoke on Mount Sinai).
So we make our requests known to Him as our loving Father (Matt. 6:8, 7:7-11), while honestly expressing our thoughts and emotions to Him without fear (Psalm 62:8). There is nothing we are going to tell God that He doesn’t already know, including how we feel at the moment. We can ask questions about His Word or will and receive answers by the Spirit (John 16:13-15). We wait patiently in His presence for impressions, revelations, scriptures, ideas, verbal words, or internal promptings as He speaks to our inner being about the concerns of our hearts in whatever way He chooses. We just have to be patient and wait for Him to speak. There is no rushing the Lord— He speaks when He is ready.
And then, when He does, we respond to what we’ve heard or sensed from Him, asking questions to make sure we understand fully, writing down what we never want to forget, and waiting again for more of His wisdom. This two-way communion fuels our love for Him, and we learn to recognize His voice the more we spend time in His presence. This experience with Him almost becomes addictive, which is not a bad thing.
4. Jesus-Centered Petitions
After aligning our own hearts with the Father in worship and two-way conversation, we’re now ready to intercede for others. As we lift people and circumstances by name, we base our petitions on Jesus’ finished work on the cross, and not on the worthiness, merit, or spiritual maturity of the ones we are praying for. We ask in faith according to His will (1 John 5:14-15), with complete confidence in His compassion and power to always do what is best in every circumstance (Rom. 8:28). We pray, knowing His Word always accomplishes His purposes (Isaiah 55:11), which allows us to come into agreement with what is on His heart for each person and situation (Matt. 18:19-20), rather than telling God what we think should happen and getting petty when it doesn’t work out the way we prayed. Finally, and with great joy, we release each one into His hands for His perfect will to unfold in His perfect time. We bring our concerns about others to Him, and leave them there. This is what it means to pray to a sovereign God.
5. Childlike Boldness
Jesus said He would answer prayers that were prayed, “in My name” (John 16:23-24). To pray in Jesus’ name means to come before God with the full authority given to us as children of God and to pray according to His will, or to pray what Jesus would have prayed if He was still walking with us on earth (John 5:14-15). Just as a child asks something of their loving father based on their relationship rather than on their merit, we can now boldly approach God’s throne of grace in full assurance of His love and acceptance as His children (Heb. 4:16), gaining confidence to ask Him for anything and everything on our hearts.
While God delights to give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4), He also gives us what He knows is best when our desires don’t align with His greater plans— which, unfortunately, often happens, at least with me. And as we learn to trust Him fully in childlike dependence, He fills us with supernatural peace and joy during every circumstance— whether it’s good, bad, or horrific.
Remember, God designed prayer for continual connection and communion with Him because He longs for an unbroken relationship with us, or for us to “abide” in Him (John 15:4). As we learn to pray with a clean heart, enter His presence in worship, listen for His voice in a two-way conversation, intercede in Jesus’ name for others, and come to Him with childlike boldness, we will experience His presence in ways that transform our everyday lives.
God promises when we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us (James 4:8). So why would we settle for anything less than experiencing His incredible presence whenever we pray? Why, like Esau, are we content with a bowl of stew when we have the inheritance of the firstborn? Determine today that you won’t just say distant prayers “about” God, but will earnestly seek Him through prayer until you encounter and experience Him personally. And as you taste and see His goodness (Psalm 34:8), you’ll agree that time spent experiencing Him in conversation is the best time of your day— hands down.
So don’t waste another prayer. Get started today.