I have been a follower of Jesus for more than 30 years. Throughout most of that time I have regarded prayer as vital to my Christian life. However, recognising something is important and giving it a priority place are two different things.

I identify with Richard Foster in his book Prayer, when he wrote: We believe prayer is something we should do, even something we want to do; but it seems as if a chasm stands between us and actually praying.” So, here I share practices that I have found helpful as I have grown in intimacy with Jesus – practices that have helped shape me as a believer and kept me in the presence of God as I go about my life.

1. Being relational

Sometimes I talk too much. I have been married for more than 30 years to a woman of great patience. One of the things I have learned over these years is that it pays to make space to listen, to put my own concerns aside for a while and listen for the thoughts, feelings and passions of my wife. I believe it can be the same with our prayer lives. Sometimes we talk way too much. 


Then, when we have gone through our list of concerns, we say a quick amen’ and get on with our lives. That is no way to build a deep and meaningful relationship. Of course, we need to share our hearts, but we would do well to also embrace silence, waiting and listening. How else will we find out what is on God’s heart if we never give the space to hear Him? So, I always pray with a Bible and a notebook and ask God, what are you saying?

2. Being full of praise

When we begin to focus on the character and work of God through Jesus, we can be filled with praise and adoration, because He is a holy, mighty gracious and loving God, who lavishes love upon us. As we set our hearts and minds towards Him, we can be overwhelmed with adoration. I do not believe we can separate praise and prayer. I also believe praise touches the heart of God. 

I love this image, again from Foster: Our God is not made of stone; His heart is sensitive and tender of all…a cup of cold water is enough to put tears in the eyes of God. Like a proud mother who is thrilled to receive a wilted bouquet of dandelions from her child, so God celebrates our feeble expressions of gratitude.” We cannot praise too much – it is our destiny to be a people of praise. So, even when things are going terribly, I always start any time of prayer with praise and adoration – it is the context for life.

3. Being honest

From early in my Christian life I attended prayer meetings. They have been some of the sweetest times with Jesus, but on other occasions they have left me so frustrated. I used to think I had to pretend that everything was going great, even when it wasn’t, and that I had to learn a whole different language of big religious words to pray properly. I sometimes carried that mindset into my wider prayer life.

Then I realised that what God wanted was for me to be real before Him. I mess up. I get impatient. I am passionate about lots of things. I have been known to moan about stuff. I sin. And the list goes on, and yet God loves me. His Spirit is changing me, but He meets me as I am in Christ, and He is interested in every detail of my life. Isn’t that so amazing? The God of glory is interested in every detail of my life, success and failure – high and low. So, I keep it real so that I can live each day in the blessed relationship that Jesus died to give me.

4. Being biblical

I use the Bible in my prayer life regularly. There are some amazing prayers to read and reflect on. I use and meditate on the Psalms a lot. I also sometimes just try and think through the prayers of Nehemiah, Paul and so many others. Every emotion, pain and joy are contained in the words of the Bible. Times of deep despair and doubt alongside moments of revelation and victory.

A way to deepen our prayer life, so that we become more aware of the presence of God in our day-to-day life, is to open our hearts to the word of God, reflect upon it, use it, imagine the situations – get soaked in scripture. So, I allow God to speak through His word by using it in my prayers.

5. Being bold

When Jesus taught on prayer, He said that we should pray that the kingdom should come and the will of God should be done on earth as it is in heaven. That is a prayer of faith. It is a bold statement that the rule of the King would come. It is clearly missional, that the justice, mercy, love and power of King Jesus may advance.

I know that in my community and in my nation, Scotland, there is brokenness. Despair haunts the streets and the gods of this world hold many captives. Therefore, my prayer has to be big and bold, because it is in the name of a big and bold God. So, I pray as I drive through my neighbourhood, as I sit in a café. I pray for my neighbours and for my church. I pray for our world and the injustice in it, and for all who are persecuted, broken and homeless. I pray with as much faith as I have because I believe God is able.

I ask God to do what only He can do and snap the chains of oppression and bring His
healing,His redemptive love. Prayer is the oxygen of our faith. It is the heartbeat of our
journey with Jesus. We don’t always get it right, but as we spend time in the presence of Jesus, we grow in deeper intimacy with Him, building a relationship of love that sees miracles happen. So, I pray boldly.