The All-Time 10 Best Tips on Prayer

for Beginners That I Have Ever Heard

 

by Rev. Jim Stephens

 

Copyright December, 1999

 

mailto: jimstephens5@compuserve.com

 

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INTRODUCTION

 

Thank you for your interest in prayer. I'm going to introduce you to

the 10 Best Tips that I have ever run across which have helped me

immensely in my prayer life. My hope is that you'll relax, have some

fun with this, and find one or two new ideas that will really be a

benefit to you. If that's successful, I encourage you to pass this

along to friends and family that could also gain from it. If just one

person gets closer to God, then, I believe, the whole world has been

improved.

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The All-Time 10 Best Tips on Prayer

for Beginners That I Have Ever Heard

 

1. Schedule a Prayer Time.

Make an appointment with God.

Make it a priority.

 

Setting aside TIME is the most important place to begin

developing your prayers. If you never take some time to pray, your

prayer life will never grow. It will never develop. Start with a

small amount that you are willing to commit to. If you are not

willing to commit some of your time to prayer, give up now.

 

MAKE AN APPOINTMENT WITH GOD

 

Make an appointment to meet with God just like any other

appointment. If it's not on your schedule, it will tend to be put off

easily. You would certainly remember an appointment that you have

today with the President of the United States, wouldn't you? Well,

isn't God more important to your life than the President.

 

MAKE IT A PRIORITY

 

If you have available time, great. But for most of you, finding

time to pray will mean that you have to SACRIFICE something else that

you are now doing instead. Probably you are enjoying that other thing

(TV, sleep, business, friends, kids, reading, etc.) or you wouldn't

be doing it. Prayer has to be moved up the list of daily priorities

so it is high enough to bump off something else that has heretofore

been considered more urgent and important. It has to become a strong

enough priority so that you can't go to bed until it is accomplished,

like brushing your teeth.

 

So start right now to find that activity that you can delete

from your life in order to be able to get more God in your life. Look

at a long range perspective. We know that good eating habits and

getting regular exercise are vital for long term good health.

Unfortunately, it's easy to bump them aside on a day to day basis in

favor of things that seem more urgent. But since they are essential,

we must learn to raise them to a priority level that takes precedent

over "urgent" matters. We need to learn to distinguish between

"urgent" and "important". In the same way, it's essential to raise

prayer to a high priority so that it becomes a daily habit inspite of

everything else that we have to do also.

 

Next decide how much time you are going schedule it in your day

to begin your new prayer life. Be reasonable with yourself, ten or

twelve minutes might be a good start. If you can't squeeze out ten or

twelve minutes somewhere, then you're not being serious.

 

When your best friend calls, you make time to talk to him or her

even if something else that is important too has to be sacrificed.

You may not know it yet, but God is your best friend and making some

time for Him every day is going to be the best long term investment

that you have ever made.

 

You may need some help with resetting your priorities to include

a daily prayer time. I believe a deeper understanding of the value of

prayer can really help. It can give you the necessary motivation to

pray. I have found quite a number of explanations of the value of

prayer that have really helped me. These can make a good reference

for you. I list all those and explain each one for you in detail in

my book "The 21 Greatest Tips on Prayer I Have Ever Heard or Read".

Look to the last page of this booklet for more information about that

book.

 

 

2. Just Get Started.

Night time prayer or morning prayer

Start small

Work up to longer prayers.

 

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

"Don't bite off more than you can chew." "Take it one step at a

time." "Keep your goal within reach." "Just do it!"

 

JUST GETTING STARTED is the way to begin. Don't spend to much

time thinking about it. Don't wait until you are "in the mood". Don't

look for the "right time" or "right place". Obstacles will always

come up that make for wonderful excuses why you should be distracted

from prayer or be delayed in starting your prayer. Ignore them and

focus on just getting a start, even if it's a very small one.

 

If the present time doesn't seem quite right to you, then maybe

just talk to God "along the way". Pretend He is your invisible friend

next to you as you drive or walk somewhere during your day. Be open

and honest as you get started. "I don't know if you're there right

now or not, but I hope you can hear this. I'm on my way to the store

and I don't have time to stop and pray, but it would be nice if you

come along with me and help make it a smooth trip."

 

Incidentally, I experience that there is a force that is very

real which actively attempts to prevent me from praying. I have to

overcome that force by making effort almost every time. I believe

that you will experience this force of opposition as well. So

therefore, if I were you, I'd expect it.

 

NIGHT TIME PRAYER OR MORNING PRAYER

 

Most of us decide to pray at the end of the day. This is good,

but usually by then I'm not only physically tired, but I'm

emotionally drained as well. Often it will seem that you haven't got

the spiritual energy and power to initiate a conversation with

anyone, let alone God. Who would want to invite the Almighty God to

visit them in such a state of mind?

 

Please realize that this is a deception. A recent experience

proves it to me. I was going to go to bed early because I felt

unusually tired. Several of the kids had been ill and I was feeling

it too. Then the phone rang. It was my best friend from 800 miles

away. We hadn't talked in a month and he was going to be coming this

way. When I hung up 15 minutes later, all traces of tiredness were

gone. I was emotionally and spiritually recharged. Why? The energy

that is generated from positive emotional give and take can revive

us. It's even better than sleep.

 

Prayer in the same way can revive and re-energize you if you are

tired. It can work like the energy from a loved one if you can

successfully make an emotional connection with God. Many times I have

had the experience of being energized from my prayers and then not

being able to go to sleep for a long time. Sometimes even I have

purposely avoided a "deep" prayer because I wanted to be able to go

right to sleep.

 

So when you get to the end of today, try not to plop down in

front of the television and watch whatever is on for an hour. I can

pretty much guarantee that it will NOT revive you spiritually or

emotionally. You might even be feeling worse after watching TV. So

end today differently than usual. Take time for an honest talk with

God.

 

Morning prayer is vital for starting your day so don't neglect

it. If you have to, even get up just 10 or 15 minutes earlier.

Morning prayer really helps prepare you for the various events and

circumstances that lie ahead. Think over the upcoming day as you

pray. Even review your schedule with God and look for His insights on

how to handle situations and responsibilities that you will

encounter. If you are going to be meeting a person that is difficult

for you to love, ask God for His perspective. New insights from

prayer, especially in loving difficult people, have been very

exciting for me.

 

START SMALL

 

Any new relationship with another person starts out with small

talk. It's the same with prayer. Even a meeting of old friends who

haven't seen each other for a long time starts with small talk. Take

time to get acquainted with God. Sometimes getting started is the

hardest part, so start with honest small talk about how things are

going.

 

If you are learning to pray, then you realize, of course, that

you are on unfamiliar ground. But remember that everyone started in

that same place. Even the greatest men of prayer throughout history

started where you are. They had doubts in the beginning. They had

their "ups and downs" in prayer. Take your baby steps and let go of

your pride. It will be over soon.

 

WORK UP TO LONGER PRAYERS

 

Start with three or four minutes at a time. Then, when you are

ready, try seven. Eventually you can reach twelve comfortably. Then

challenge up to 21 and 40 minutes a day. Finally you can attempt 60

minutes a day. This is probably the most spiritually satisfying if

you desire to go that far. The reason that I suggest these numbers

rather than others is because they are used in significant events in

the Bible and in God's creation. For example, Jesus was in the tomb 3

days and he had 3 main disciples. Jesus had 12 disciples. There are

12 months to the year. Jesus fasted 40 days and Noah was on the ark

40 days. There were 7 days in the creation. Jesus asked his disciples

to pray with him for 1 hour in the Garden of Gethsemane. You get the

idea.

 

 

3. Think of God's Point of View

Ask for insight

Understanding confession and repentance

 

One of the best pieces of advice that I ever read on prayer was

from a famous Chinese Christian, Watchman Nee. He taught that God

will not do His Will until we pray and ask Him to do it. Even though

God wants to do His Will very much, He will not violate our freedom

by interfering before we ask Him to. If God interfered, then that

would violate our freedom and thus destroy our ability to give and

receive true love which requires that we be free.

 

If we don't ask, then God cannot interfere with the workings of

our hearts. If He did, then He would be controlling us against our

will. This would destroy our freedom and simultaneously destroy true

love. Without freedom there cannot be true love because we would be

like robots.

 

God is a parent who truly loves His children but He also

respects their creativity and responsibility. He would never choose

to force them to love Him. That's a contradiction to the nature of

true love. God chooses to wait until His children are ready to

respond and then give them what was actually His Will all along.

 

ASK FOR INSIGHT

 

So then, just what is God's point of view? I find it very

helpful to meditate for a few minutes on this subject - what God must

be feeling. I send a silent thought to God, "Help me see from Your

point of view, Heavenly Father, and if there is anything that I can

pray for that will help You, then send that thought into my mind."

 

UNDERSTANDING CONFESSION AND REPENTANCE

 

Sometimes I have found myself in deep repentance after better

understanding God's perspective. Because of what we humans are doing

to each other and to our world, we are giving great pain to our

loving parent, God! Often I see more clearly where I have not devoted

enough time and thought to God and have allowed worldly concerns to

occupy too much of my time. Through this exercise, I find it much

more natural to repent and feel very cleansed.

 

Once you offer to God your apology for not seeing His

perspective and understanding His heart better, then you'll receive a

deep His genuine forgiveness. Then a new closeness comes over you.

Whenever we are building a relationship with another person and we

can make a connection to the other person's feelings and perspective,

then we feel much closer to that person. It's even nicer when it's

with God.

 

Confession and repentance are sometimes very misunderstood

concepts. Their purpose is NOT to paint yourself as a terrible sinner

and eternal reprobate. The purpose of repentance is to apologize to

God for your mistakes so that you can receive forgiveness and then

end up CLOSER to God. The net result of repentance should be a

feeling of joy and forgiveness. If you are repenting and then feeling

depressed at the end, you're doing something wrong. God wants you to

move forward and move closer to Him. The conclusion of that is a deep

inner joy.

 

Be careful to note whether you feel joy after you have confessed

or repented. If not, then you must be farther away from God, not

closer. Obviously, that's not the desired result that you want and

especially not the result that God wanted. Therefore, check up on the

results of your prayers. Are they making you happier.

 

 

4. Be specific.

Making a prayer list.

 

The success of your prayer in connnecting to God depends a lot

on the actual content of what you are praying for. Praying for "peace

on earth" is good, but it's very hard to relate to it with your

emotions, especially for a beginner. Probably a person like Mother

Teresa had a close heartistic connection to praying for "peace on

earth" because she was emotionally connected to so many people in

need and felt deeply that each one was a child of God.

 

But most of us cannot emotionally relate to the large, more

abstract concepts at first. For a better prayer, try to be able to

conceive clearly what you are praying for. This means to be specific.

 

If a child goes to his/her parent and says, "I need help!" or a

student goes to the teacher and says, "Can you help me?", then the

immediate response is "What kind of help do you need?" If the child

or student never answers that question, then it's hard to give the

help needed. I believe this analogy is also true in prayer.

 

Here's a hint if you can't think of anything specific to ask

for. The first thing you might want to pray for is "Help me know what

to specifically pray for."

 

Many people believe that "God already knows what I need." so why

should I have to tell him? That is true, God does knows. But God in

His wisdom won't give it to us until we are ready and willing to

receive it. As The Bible says, we have to "ask before we can

receive". By demonstrating our maturity to God, we actually free Him

to answer our prayers more easily. A parent does not want to spoil a

child. The parent's primary concern is that the child is growing up

virtuously.

 

The most wonderful ability that God created in us is the ability

to love and create, but that nature inherently requires our

independent response out of our free will. We are creating ourselves

as we grow and develop and we must develop our consciousness of

ourselves as reflections of God. The three major aspects of the human

spirit are the intellect, the emotion, and the will. All three of

these grow and develop over time according to our own effort. Without

our participation and willing effort, our spirit doesn't grow. God

has placed our spiritual growth under our own dominion. We are

responsible for how well or how poorly it grows. Since we have an

eternal spirit, then our intellect, emotion, and will continue

forever to grow and develop. This allows us to draw closer and closer

to God in a never ending relationship that is always getting deeper

and deeper.

 

God has the parental wisdom for giving us not only what we want

but how much of it we are ready to receive. When a five year old

child asks, "What's sex?", you don't give them the whole complete

truth. You have more wisdom than that. So remember to be specific in

your prayers.

 

MAKING A PRAYER LIST

 

Making a "Prayer List" is very helpful in being specific. Write

it down and have the list with you when you pray. Keep adding things

to the list and subtracting them all the time. This helps you clarify

exactly what you want to pray for and it serves as a reminder in case

you might run out of inspiration. The slight drawback of a list is

that it can tend to become rote and then boring. We naturally tend to

avoid things that are boring. So if you feel that your prayers are

starting to bore you, then stop using the list for a while.

 

In the world today there are many books being written and

seminars being held on the value of setting goals in your life. One

universal point that is always stressed is that goals must be

SPECIFIC if you ever want to reach them. This lesson applies equally

and very importantly to our prayer life as well. We must be specific.

 

The things that you are praying for should be clear and

detailed. They should be as specific as possible. No building was

ever built, no patent ever given, no masterpiece ever created without

specific and complete details. When you can clearly conceive in your

heart and mind the purpose in your prayer, then it can be realized on

earth by you and God together.

 

Visualize in as much detail as possible the results you want

from your prayers. Even write it down to help clarify it. This can

help substantialize your benefit from prayer and help you to see your

progress. Also, very importantly, if what you are praying for comes

true, thenyou can recognize God working in your life. Experiencing

God is essential to developing your prayer life and your faith.

 

 

5. Pray out loud.

Three hints.

Be creative.

 

This is a hard one. Although God will still hear your prayer if

you pray silently, I have found that my prayers are less than 50% as

effective if I pray silently.

 

Just as if I'm talking to my closest friend, when I speak the

words out loud, it forces me to clarify my thoughts. When the words

come out and I hear them expressed, then I can move along to the next

thought. If I keep the words in my mind, it's harder to keep going

and my prayers tend to taper off to nothing very quickly.

 

A common problem that beginners face in praying out loud is

embarrassment. Obviously, God is invisible so you may feel that you

are just talking to the wall. That's pretty embarrassing for your

ego. Suppose you found out later that God wasn't really listening and

you'd been talking to nothing all that time. You'd feel really

foolish then, wouldn't you? If someone passes by and sees you talking

to nothing, they might think you are crazy.

 

THREE HINTS

 

Here are three hints that I have found helpful to get you

started. First, find something or "someone" to talk to. If you have a

picture of Jesus, talk to his picture as if you were talking to him

in person. You might also want to try a picture of a person you know

who really loves you. Or you can choose a person that you really

respect and admire in history. Talk to that person as a

representative of God and have him or her relay your message to God.

 

A second idea is to use the "Dear Diary" approach. In other

words, write it down. Write a letter to God and express clearly your

feelings and desires. As you see them taking shape on the paper you

will naturally be praying for these things at the same time. After

they are written down, then you might also want to say them out loud.

 

A third hint is to tape record your prayer. This sounds pretty

radical but is very effective. It might seem that it would be very

embarrassing but it is an excellent way to train yourself for a life

of prayer and it especially prepares you to pray in public. When you

are praying and you come to a pause, then pause the tape recorder.

After you have recorded your prayer, then be sure to go back and

listen to it. Listening to your own prayers from an "outsider's"

point of view, you will be pleasantly surprised that you like them.

You will be able to improve them more quickly because of this new

perspective you will have. You can even imagine what God must be

thinking as He listens to your prayer.

 

BE CREATIVE

 

One of my "mental hobbies" is observing the obstacles and

inhibitions that come up inside myself that prevent me from praying.

I enjoy creating unique and fun ways to overcome my fears and

embarrassments. In my book "The 21 Greatest Tips on Prayer I Have

Ever Heard or Read" you'll find a lot more ideas to make and keep

your prayers enjoyable and stimulating.

 

Prayer should be varied just like any relationship. Sometimes it

should be light. Sometimes it should be fun. Sometimes it will be

deadly serious and tear-filled. However, it should always be

specific. Real prayer should not ever be thought of as "spacing out".

That is an unattractive relationship and leads people to give up

praying.

 

 

6. Pray with other people.

 

This is hard. It takes a committment and it requires us to

become vulnerable. It means that we are opening up our very personal

thoughts and desires in prayer to someone else. However, the rewards

are far, far greater than the price.

 

As two people each draw closer to God in prayer, they are

simultaneously growing closer to each other. Think of it as a

triangle with God at the top and those praying on opposite ends of

the base. As they each move closer to God, then they have in fact

moved closer to each other also.

 

One of the times that I feel the closest to my wife and children

is after we have been praying together. I'm not talking here about

the brief prayer that we have as a family every morning before school

or the bedtime prayer at night. For us, those are just short prayers

like saying grace before we eat. These we rotate every day. Everyone

takes his or her turn. The deep closeness I'm referring to are the

times when we pray together for a longer time or take the time to

share the more personal side of ourselves with each other.

 

You may have heard the saying "the family that prays together,

stays together." This is not just sloganism, but truth because you

will be intimately sharing your lives with each other.

 

When praying together, it is important that each person that is

present be a participant. No one should be left out. If only one

person prays, then there often isn't the "horizontal" give and take

that makes a base for everyone to experience God. In the Bible it

mentions that wherever two or more are gathered, then God can be

present. But in my experience this doesn't just mean two bodies in

the same location. It means that the spirits of two or more people

are participating together.

 

There are a number of ways you can do this. My wife and I have

an ongoing 12 minute prayer each day. We alternate who prays first

each day and say just a prayer from our hearts. The person who goes

first prays for a while and then stops. Then the other person prays.

If the 12 minutes is not up, then the first person prays again. This

continues until the time is up.

 

You don't have to set a time limit on it, but we feel personally

that we should give at least 12 minutes to our prayer and by the end

we feel good that we have accomplished something. If we prayed less

time, it might be one of those "hurry-up and get it over with

prayers" (if you know what I mean). Prayer brings us closer and often

we find ourselves sitting together afterwards and sharing our hearts

for quite a while. It's also a good time to talk about the children

or catch up on other important family business.

 

I recommend setting a time limit because you can feel a

completion and a sense of accomplishment and be able to measure your

progress a little better. If you really get into the prayer, there is

no reason to stop of course when you get to the time limit. (I didn't

really have to say that, did I?)

 

Another technique is that each person prays for one point or one

subject only. Then the next person prays for a different point. Then

back to the first person again. This works well if you are using a

prayer list or are in a larger group.

 

You could also try having each person just pray one sentence and

the next person pray a sentence. Let your creativity work a little.

If you have more than two people, then you can make a circle and do

the same things as above.

 

One more quick point on praying with others. This one is rather

obvious. Who should you choose to pray with? Naturally, pray with

your family members and loved ones. I also suggest that whenever

possible, find other people that are more experienced at prayer than

you are that you can pray with. Look for the opportunity to pray with

established groups. I have no doubt that they would welcome you,

especially if you make it known to them that you are a beginner and

want to learn. Not only will these people be a great support system

through rough times, but also you can learn about prayer more quickly

through "mentoring" than going it alone.

 

 

7. Pray for others.

Both of you will benefit.

 

Praying for others is very helpful, not only to the person that

you are praying for, but it's also helpful to YOU. This developes the

most important spiritual muscle that you have, namely your heart. We

know that to grow our brainpower we must read and study, but we often

fail to realize that to become a good compassionate person we must

also make a lot of effort and learn to have concern for others.

 

Babies are born as totally self-centered and self-absorbed

beings. In order to become a good parent they must make a huge

transition somehow into beings that will have an unconditional love

and concern for their children. This doesn't happen automatically

like the growth of our bodies. It's a process that requires education

and practice, practice and more practice.

 

Try to be as specific as possible as you pray for others. My

children many times pray, "Heavenly Father, please bless everyone."

We can safely assume that God is doing His darndest to bless

everyone. The best way we can help God, however, is particular,

specific, and unique concern and empathy for other individual people

and their circumstances. We can be "instruments" for helping God to

work in the lives of other individuals, but it's nearly impossible

for us to help God to take care of "everyone".

 

BOTH OF YOU WILL BENEFIT

 

We benefit at the same time because praying for others grows and

develops our own personality and heart to become more like God's. Our

prayer energy directed at a unique person and situation is much more

effective than the scattergun approach of "bless everyone".

 

It has been proven to me beyond all doubt that people can

communicate thoughts to each other across a room or across the

country without ever verbalizing those thoughts. Many times I know my

mother is about to call me because the thought keeps coming into my

mind to call her.

 

New research is showing that people in the hospital that are

being prayed for by total strangers have a higher cure rate than

those who are not prayed for.

 

Just as thoughts can be communicated, so too prayers are

communicated as well. In fact, prayers have even more influence

because they carry not only thoughts but an emotional power. Prayers

carry healing power and this doesn't only mean a healing of the body

but also a healing power for the spirit. Prayers can help other

people deal with depression, anxiety, anger, fear, resentment, and

hatred to name just a few.

 

Prayer for others also helps us to a new and deeper

understanding of the person we are praying for. It connects us to

God's feelings for that person. Later when you meet with that person

in the flesh, you will experience that you have new love and empathy

for him or her. Prayer helps us to learn patience. It helps us better

understand the things we can change and the things we can't. And

especially prayer helps teach us forgiveness.

 

As already mentioned, be as specific as possible in what you are

praying. Rather than just praying, "God, please bless Elizabeth", be

more specific. "God, please surround her with a feeling of joy."

"God, please put ideas into Mary's mind how to serve others."

"Heavenly Father, please melt the pain and resentment that are in

Bill's heart with your love."

 

As you pray for a person, try to reach out to them and

understand them with your own heart. This will help you to know what

to specifically pray for. It's a real joy when you can understand a

person better and love them more because of your prayers. You will

have a new and changed feeling toward them and that new empathy will

become manifest substantially in your relationship the next time you

meet the person.

 

 

8. Ask Questions

Listen for Answers from God

Review the answers

 

Jesus said in Matt. 7.7, "Ask and it will be given you; seek,

and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." Also in

Matt. 21.22, he said, "And, whatever you ask in prayer, you will

receive, if you have faith."

 

This is a very important point to remember about the dynamic of

our relationship with God. A parent is always interested in giving to

his or her children, however, the parent wants input from the child.

When I buy clothes or a new toy for my children, I always want to

know first what size, what color, etc. do they want.

 

God too wants to hear from us. Naturally, He prefers to hear us

express the needs of our hearts more than our needs for physical

possessions because that's where His primary concern for our

happiness lies. However, He does listen to our material needs as

well.

 

I have often found it helpful to write down a question and then

pray about it. Usually I write down the answer as I receive it and

this has been a wonderful experience. What I mean is that I write

down the thoughts that come into my mind in a "stream of

consciousness" manner. The answer can often be complicated and even

take several stages to develop so writing it down is really the only

way that I could practically receive the answer. Just as in a

conversation, one thought builds upon another. If I was just

listening, there wouldn't be enough substantial thought for me to

grasp the idea and hold it so I could follow step by step to the

whole understanding. If there are several ideas as part of the

answer, it's very hard to get it unless I write it down.

 

The value of writing may not make sense until you try it, but I

sincerely urge you to try this technique. I don't imagine it works

for everyone, but for me it has lead to some wonderful experiences.

After my initial prayer question, many thoughts start flowing into my

mind and may eventually go off in a totally different direction that

I never would have thought of. By writing it down, God leads me to a

deep, definite, and personal message that He had for me that I never

would have thought of on my own.

 

LISTEN ANSWERS FROM GOD

 

Give and take is essential in communication. In order to have a

satisfying prayer, you must feel not only that God is listening to

you but also you must feel that He is responding. How long would you

keep talking to someone on the telephone if they totally stopped

responding? You would quickly realize that you had been "cut off".

So, please think of prayer as a two way relationship. Not only are

you talking to God, but you are listening for His answers coming

back.

 

So then, how can a beginner recognize that God is responding to

him or her? God often speaks in that "still small voice" that you can

only hear with your inner heart. It's very easy to doubt what you

hear because we aren't accustomed to listening to it. The message is

often fleeting like a dream or yesterday's conversation so you may

doubt that you ever heard it at all. It may also be confusing as to

what it means in reality and how you should interpret it.

 

I once read a couple books on St. Francis of Assisi. He

misunderstood the message that he got from God. God told him to

"rebuild my church" so he went into the country and found a little

old broken down church in ruins and rebuilt it. Of course, now we

realize that God's message was for St. Francis to "rebuild" the

Catholic Church as a whole, not some building.

 

Again I suggest you take notes on the thoughts that come to you

during prayer. Write down what you feel is coming from God as you try

to listen. Many times our understanding of things is progressive. In

school you have to go to second grade before you can go to third. In

sports, in music, it's the same. So also it's like that with prayer

and you need to make progress through time and practice. So it's

important to see yourself in a process and making steps along your

way.

 

REVIEW THE ANSWERS

 

Another value of writing it down is that you can REVIEW it

later. This gives you the opportunity to analyze with both your

rational mind and your emotional heart whether the message is really

from God. If you have a good friend whose spiritual wisdom you trust,

I can suggest that you show it to him or her if you have doubts. It's

often advisable to be cautious with spiritual messages because they

can be deceiving.

 

The helpful messages that I attribute to God are the ones that

uplift me to a very high ideal for myself and hold me to a very high

standard of personal conduct. They are very forgiving and very

encouraging. They are very empowering, but they are also righteous.

The kind of messages that predict a certain event at a specific time,

in my experience, are not very reliable.

 

In time, as you pay attention and are looking for messages from

God, you'll find them. Each of us is unique and God will speak to us

uniquely, but you'll know it's a message from Him. The dream or

thought or experience will be qualitatively different from the usual.

It will endure longer and remain vivid whereas others fade quickly

with time.

 

 

9. Create a holy environment.

Gather inspirational reading materials.

Prepare your surroundings with pictures, music, flowers,

candles, etc.

 

Each one of us is definitely influenced by our environment.

Whole fields of college study are now investigating how color,

smells, sounds and even touch influence us in positive and negative

ways.

 

I encourage you to be absolutely serious about the environment

for your prayer. We all know that eating a lot of junk food will

gradually over time lead to a decline in our physical health. The

exact analogy applies to the health of our mind and spirit. The

current state of television, movies, some music and art can have a

seriously negative effect on your spirtual health.

 

I heard a wonderful example recently. A father was having the

usual argument with his children about some TV show or movie or music

or something. He didn't like it and they thought that it was OK. It

wasn't really "hurting" them although they knew there were immoral

and violent parts in it.

 

The next day he made their favorite brownies but before serving

it, he let them know that he had put a tiny speck of dog poop in it.

Certainly it was only a tiny bit and it wouldn't really be a problem.

But as you would expect, they wouldn't even touch it, even though it

was just a tiny speck of dog poop.

 

The analogy is obvious. We allow all kinds of "dog poop" in the

spiritual environment around us and totally disregard any effect it

might be having.

 

When my wife and I want to pray and the children have the

television on in the other room, I have to totally get out of earshot

in order to be able to pray. Almost every television show I know will

destroy my prayer environment. You can't have give and take with a

TV. It is totally the master and you are totally the object if you

enter a relationship on its terms. It will not respond or react to

anything you do so be careful not to become a "tube slave".

 

If you find a place in your house that is the most comfortable

for you to pray, then cultivate the atmosphere in that area. Each

time you pray there, you will be adding good energy to the place and

making it more suitable to better and better prayers. I believe that

inanimate objects absorb energy from the living things around them.

Then they reflect that energy back. As an example, my children say

they can feel closer to me when they are sitting in my favorite chair

or if they put on my favorite jacket. So cultivate your own "prayer

place" with your prayer energy.

 

GATHER INSPIRATIONAL READING MATERIALS

 

Not many of us are living our daily routine on an elevated

spiritual level like a saint, right? So it's to be expected that it

will be normally hard to get "into the mood" for prayer. This is

where a cultivated spiritual environment can really help support your

prayer life.

 

One way to cultivate your prayer environment is with materials

that move your emotions such as inspiring books. The experience of

prayer is qualitatively better when it's an experience of the heart

and emotions. Prayer is not satisfying if it's just an intellectual

conversation. So you may want to try "jump starting" your prayer with

something that can move your emotions like reading. A good tip is to

read something brief that is inspirational or emotional.

 

The main reason for reading something inspirational is to move

your heart so you can pray. The key point is that you want to get

into prayer, therefore keep whatever you read BRIEF. You don't want

to read a favorite book and get distracted and read on and on. You

don't want to fill up your mind with distracting thoughts. You just

want to move your heart of love and compassion.

 

There are a lot of books on the market such as the Chicken Soup

for the Soul series. These are collections of short stories that are

designed to move your heart and emotions. I suggest keeping several

different types of inspirational materials in the place that you

usually pray. As you prepare to pray, look over the various materials

and try to "feel" which one contains a "heavenly" inspiration that

would be right for you at this time. Usually one of my assorted

materials just seems to be more spiritually attractive when I ask for

guidance.

 

Some things that I suggest are The Bible, inspiring quotes and

sayings you've collected, poems or letters from loved ones, etc. But

don't be limited by written materials.

 

PREPARE YOUR SURROUNDINGS WITH PICTURES, MUSIC, FLOWERS, CANDLES,

ETC.

 

Some people are very emotionally moved by pictures of loved

ones, photos or paintings of nature. Maybe you like having some fresh

flowers. Many people find that a lighted candle really helps create a

mood. Throughout history most religions the world over have used

candles. For other people, music moves their hearts. Some people pray

over the articles in the daily newspaper, especially if there has

been a tragedy. Experiment for yourself. Just the act of preparing

the environment will help stimulate and cultivate your environment

for better prayers.

 

Just remember that your environment should ASSIST you to pray.

It should not be a distraction from your real purpose - connecting to

God.

 

 

10. Build your foundation step by step.

Have patience.

Prayers that God cannot answer.

Take irreversible steps.

It's all worth it. Never give up.

 

Life is full of ups and downs. Everyone without exception has

times of struggles. Expect them. And when they come, learn to be

consistant through them for as long as they last.

 

HAVE PATIENCE

 

If you pray for something once or twice and it doesn't come

true, what should you think? Should you conclude that God doesn't

exist? Should you decide that prayer doesn't work?

 

Maybe the answer seems obvious, that you didn't pray long enough

or give it enough time. But I have met people that came to those

conclusions after trying prayer for a few times. These type of people

are really looking for miracles. Prayer should not be like buying a

lottery ticket and leaving it all up to God to make you the winner.

 

Prayer is something that functions very much in the real world

and God is very much a God of natural laws. If you are going to build

a house or a business, or if you are going to raise your children to

maturity, then you have to put hours and hours of thought and

meditation into it.

 

Believe it or not, God created these natural laws so that we

could have more joy and more love. It wasn't to inhibit us. Joy and

love are attributes of the PROCESS and the relationship. They are

experienced through the give and take in the relationship and the

growing and developing of some new creation. As you grow your

business or build your house, there is joy and happiness at each step

along the way in the process as you see your creation taking shape.

As your children grow through your nurturing, there is joy and

happiness in the process and the relationship. Joy and happiness are

not some trophy that comes on some specific day when the job is

completed.

 

If you focus only on some certain end result, you will be

disappointed. Even if you obtain it, you won't experience long

lasting joy, but only a momentary feeling. Prayer should be thought

of more like breathing or eating. You have to do it every day for

good health. It's not like dialing 911 when you are in trouble and

expecting God to send an ambulance instantaneously.

 

One time I was asked to give a talk on the subject of growing

up. I was frustrated myself at the time with the slowness of my own

spiritual growth and I had to pray strongly to understand the

subject. The result was a great (and practical) answer from God. I

believed that God created all things to grow over time and that this

was GOOD. But I couldn't understand why things couldn't go faster.

 

Here's a paraphrase of the thoughts that answered my prayers.

"Suppose when I created everything, I made it so that a result would

instantaneously follow the cause without any time in between for

growing. Then what would the world be like? That would mean that if a

husband and wife made love at night and conceived a child, then poof,

the very next day the child would be born. How would that be? Would

that be the best for creating love? I don't think you'd like it. Love

is actually created only by effort through a give and take

relationship over time. All the parts are necessary. Parents who had

a child instantly would not be prepared to love that child. In fact,

the whole world would be chaos and confusion because everything in

your environment would be totally changed every new day."

 

I was satisfied. If you think about it this way, then time is

actually an expression of love also. As you grow in love and wisdom,

you also learn patience.

 

PRAYERS THAT GOD CANNOT ANSWER

 

Another reason that prayers may not be answered is that God may

not, in fact, be able to answer your prayer. Why is that? We often

say God is all powerful, but we forget that He has imposed

limitations on Himself in the interests of the greater good. The

greatest good of all is true love. For love to be true, both people

must freely choose that love. Therefore, God will not interfere with

force over anyone's heart. By God's design, He will not force us to

love Him. By His design I cannot force my children to love me. All I

can do is try to create a positive energy that can greatly support

the development of a love relationship, but nobody, not even God, can

guarantee specific results.

 

If God created us in such a way that some outside force, like

Himself, could make us change our love, then other outside forces

besides God could also make us change. Our hearts would be totally

vulnerable to outside forces that could change them. Then you'd have

the case where love would not be eternal. Then true love could not

exist. We'd be more like robots. Obviously, this is not what God

wanted, nor what we'd want.

 

Therefore, in affairs of the heart, you may have to pray for a

long, long time for some particular result to happen if many people

and events are involved. It takes time for circumstances to be moved

into the right sequences for any outcomes to take place.

 

Think about how hard it is to change yourself. You know it's

even harder than that to change another person. It's harder still to

change someone else when you are limited to thoughts and prayers and

can't use your physical voice or body. People have to change

themselves and most of us are only occasionaly open to change on any

given day at any given moment.

 

TAKE IRREVERSIBLE STEPS

 

As you have probably experienced during times of struggle, it's

easy to doubt everything - all the way back to whether God exists or

not. All the things that you learned and believed when times were

better are now open to doubt. Some people, in these moments, take

their feelings as "reality" and they are no longer sure that God

exists. Consequently, they fall totally out of any level of faith at

all. Now they'll have to start all over again at the bottom of the

ladder of faith. They end up losing all the progress they had made in

the better times. The struggles eventually pass, but they are left

without faith.

 

As you make progress in your life of prayer, mark definite and

irreversable steps for yourself so you don't have to start over when

you have a period of struggle and doubts.

 

For example, "God exists" is a basic step. When you have truly

experienced through your heart and your mind that God exists, then

you should mark off this step. You can say to yourself, "I have now

absolutely concluded that God exists. No matter what may happen in

the future or how much I struggle and doubt and no matter who-so-ever

might oppose me, I will never again doubt or question that God

exists." Make an affirmirmation that "Even if unbelievable tragedies

occur in my life so it seems impossible that a good God exists, still

I know He is real." "Even if a majority of the smartest people on

earth who ever lived claim there is no God, then they are all wrong."

"Even if my parents and brothers and sisters and all my friends

ridicule me and laugh at me, still I know there is God."

 

Once you come to this conclusion then you have taken a rock

solid step and don't need to waste time questioning this again. If

you don't take decisive steps like this in your life of faith, then

during times of struggle and doubt you may slip all the way down to

zero faith. Growing your faith is somewhat like going to school. Each

grade level builds on past levels and doesn't go back and question

them. That would be like "flunking" and having to repeat a grade

again and again. Spiritual truths also build on each other.

 

Here are some other suggestions for "steps" or conclusions that

you might want to make in your life of faith. The main point is that

when you are feeling spiritually high and connected to God and your

whole intellect and heart believe this statement is certain, then in

that moment you decide that you will never question this statement

again. No matter how low you feel or confused or how much others may

challenge you or how much circumstances seem to contradict that

statement, when you bump up against it, you say to yourself, "I'm not

going there, I've already decided that issue for good and I don't

need to waste time questioning it again."

 

* God knows me and loves me. God knows who I am. He knows me very

well. He sees everything I do. AND He loves the real me despite any

shortcomings I have.

* God wants the best and only the best for me at all times. God

wants to be actively involved in my life if I allow it.

* Jesus is my personal Messiah. Jesus' death was for me personally.

* Jesus loves me personally AND I can experience it.

* I can become like Jesus.

* My life has purpose, meaning and value which is given by God. AND

I can realize that to its fullest potential.

* I will live forever.

* God's purpose was to build His Kingdom on earth and He will

accomplish it.

 

IT'S ALL WORTH IT. NEVER GIVE UP.

 

Imagine you are at the end of your life reflecting back over all

the goals you ever had, all the things you did, all of your

accomplishments. Now rank those things with the following

accomplishment: "I developed a wonderful relationship with God."

 

It seems to me that a wonderful relationship with God would rank

#1 above all the others. Suppose you climbed Mt. Everest or were an

Olympic Gold Medalist or you made more money than Bill Gates. Suppose

you developed a cure for cancer or found a way to feed all the

starving people of the world or you brought an end to war forever.

Still inside you there would be an unfilled emptiness. Each of us has

a deep shaft within us that goes to the bottom of our hearts. That

shaft was meant to be filled by God. If He's not there, we're an

empty shell.

 

Stick to it. Don't expect instant gratification. This is a

lifelong effort. It's meant to be because you will be alive for

eternity. Develop a prayer habit that will last forever. Plan out how

much time a day or a week you want to use to develop your prayer

life. The experts on physical exercise are now recommending 30

minutes a day or at least an hour three times a week. A healthy

spiritual life needs that much time and effort - maybe more.

 

Don't give up. You can rest at times, but don't give up.

 

 

CONCLUSION

Take action right now!

 

You are now finished with this booklet and I hope it has been

helpful and inspirational. But now is the time to start the hard part

- putting it into practice.

 

The best way to benefit fully from new ideas is to put them into

action immediately. Do something right this minute. Make a decision

right now what your next step will be. Do it right now. Then follow

up more today. Before you set this booklet down, decide what you are

going to do next. What one thing are you going to do differently

today? It can be a small change, but definitely it should be done

TODAY and preferably right now.

 

For example, you could decide your "prayer place" at home and

that you are going to sit there tonight for at least 10 minutes and

think about prayer.

 

I wish you fantastic success. Getting closer to God, our

Heavenly Father, is a lifelong process, in fact, it's an eternal

process. Therefore this is not a sprint, it's a marathon. The

rewards, like in any worthwhile endeavor, far, far outweight any

effort that is required.

 

Please write me if you have any comments or suggestions. Share

this booklet with others. God is like the loving parent that has

called us on the phone, but we have put Him on "hold". He is there

waiting eternally for us to just pick up the receiver.

 

 

 

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