The power of prayer is one of the most interesting practices in faith traditions. Talking to God, learning to listen to the Holy Spirit, and forming relationship habits. This is often done in tandem with the daily reading of the Bible as the basics of Christian formation. Prayer can be a powerful way to cope with anxiety, stress, and depression. Finding ways to incorporate prayer into your daily life can be a source of comfort and joy.
Prioritize your time.
If you want to incorporate a habit of prayer, then you need to determine how to fit it into your life. Take a look at your daily and weekly schedules. Do you do things that distract you from prayer? Do you do activities that may not be necessary?
In the digital and information age there is a plethora of distractions on screens. Perhaps your screen is too readily available in the morning or before bed. Consider moving your phone to another room, and using an actual alarm clock. How you start and end your day is an important element to consider when thinking about prioritizing a practice of prayer and Bible reading.
Figure out your personality and preferences for Bible reading.
There is an abundance of personality quizzes online that may provide some insight into the ways that you need to focus on your prayer and Bible reading. Some people like to be vocal, reading aloud. Others like having a journal to capture thoughts as they come.
Setting the mood with contemplative or uplifting music could be helpful for you. You may require a little more accountability, or perhaps you are highly self-motivated. Self-awareness will help you be more consistent in the practices you choose to use in your daily life.
Use Bible reading tools that work for you, not someone else.
There are many options for Bible studies and prayer tools. Not all of them will be a good fit for your life and personality. It may sound exciting to participate in a group Bible study, but perhaps you can’t commit to the time the group meets.
Some people are night owls, others are morning types. There are also seasons of life. When parents have young children, it can be more challenging to create periods of quiet. Those who are single or empty nesters may be more able to spend more time in prayer and Bible study. Set your expectations according to your season of life.
While some people love to use a guided prayer book, others may find it stiff. Certain people are drawn to contemplative styles of meditation, and others prefer active ways of engaging in prayer, walking, or journaling. While giving many of the options a try is good, don’t feel that you have to duplicate someone else’s habits and routines to have a rich relationship with God.
Some may love to engage the Bible in audio and musical form. Some of you may pair an image with your chosen Scripture to help you visualize the story. Engaging your personality will help you draw closer to God in the wonderful way He made you.
Don’t feel guilt or shame for missing days.
There is so much enthusiasm when starting a new Bible reading plan. Yet there is the inevitable missed day. That can leave you discouraged and that feeling can quickly compound into missing more things. Allow yourself grace.
If you miss a day, simply continue. It may be helpful not to commit to a year-long reading plan that will make you feel pressured to do too much. You are building a holy habit, and you need God’s grace to grow in holiness.
Try a Bible reading plan for a set time before deciding if it is for you.
While much of the above advice is not to try things that might not work and not to pressure yourself, you should also give things a good chance. Forming any habit, particularly a habit for spiritual growth, takes time.
James Clear, who wrote the bestseller Atomic Habits, says this:
“On average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic – 66 days to be exact. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. In Lally’s study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit.
“In other words, if you want to set your expectations appropriately, the truth is that it will probably take you anywhere from two months to eight months to build a new behavior into your life – not 21 days. Interestingly, the researchers also found that “missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process.” In other words, it doesn’t matter if you mess up every now and then. Building better habits is not an all-or-nothing process.”
Scriptures that encourage a relationship with God.
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. – Isaiah 55:6, NIV
Having a practice of prayer during life’s normal ebb and flow will make it easier to lean on that practice for strength during more difficult seasons of life.
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. – Lamentations 3:25-26, NIV
Throughout the Bible, there is the encouragement to seek the Lord. Prayer is a way that you can talk to God and reading the Bible is a way to hear from God. When you make time for prayer and Bible reading you are seeking the Lord.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer. – Romans 12:2, NIV
Prayer is not just about getting results from God. Prayer is the basis of building a relationship with Him. By faithfully committing to a practice of prayer you are focusing not on what you can get from God, but on developing a relationship with Him.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. – Ephesians 6:18, NIV
Prayer is not just about your relationship with God, it is about helping with your relationships in your family and community. Pray when you are having difficulty in relationships. Pray when you know the needs of your friends. Pray for strangers. This keeps you alert to the ways that God is at work in your life and the lives of others.
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. – Mark 1:35, NIV
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray and spent the night praying to God. – Luke 6:12, NIV
Jesus not only taught words to pray, Our Father, but he also led by example. He prioritized prayer for himself and led his disciples in prayer. Staying in a relationship with God gave him the strength to handle temptation and go through the trials of the cross.
Talk with your counselor.
When you meet with a Christian counselor, they can have insight into how to set up good prayer habits. You can talk about ideas that work for you, and if there are specific plans that they would suggest for you. As your counselor helps you with stress, anxiety, or other issues, they may encourage you to build habits that support your mental and spiritual health.
“Fervent Prayer”, Courtesy of Fa Barboza, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Woman in a Field”, Courtesy of Jasmin Ne, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Prayer”, Courtesy of Jametlene Reskp, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Pray”, Courtesy of Chris Liu, Unsplash.com, CC0 License