How to Be Intentional in Prayer
In Jeremiah 29:12, the Lord says, “When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you.” That is an astounding promise, and yet many people, including Christians, do not truly take advantage of this opportunity to communicate with God. We all have room to grow in our prayer lives, so let’s reflect on the beauty of prayer and how we can pray with greater intentionality.
What Is the Right Way to Pray?
Some people may neglect to pray because they aren’t sure the best way to go about it, and some may even ask, “What is intentional Prayer?”. In many ways, we can overthink the issue, fearing we’ll say the wrong thing or not knowing where to start. Think of intentional prayer as a conversation with your Heavenly Father.
If you aren’t sure how to pray spontaneously, keep in mind that rote prayers are a key part of a healthy prayer life. Not all prayers need to be spontaneously formed. Prayers like the Lord’s Prayer, the Holy Rosary or the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi are prayers you can read or recite, either out loud or internally. As you say the words, reflect on their meaning so you truly feel what you’re praying. These prayers can help you deepen your understanding of God and strengthen your faith.
How to Pray Intentionally
Scripture tells us a lot about how to be heartfelt in prayer. Whether you are praying in your own words or you are reciting a prayer, there are certain attitudes or dispositions you should cultivate when praying intentionally. Strive to pray with the following:
Repeatedly throughout the Bible, we see the importance of faith. In Mark 11, Christ tells us that faith can move mountains and that we should have faith that God will answer our prayers, even if we don’t see or understand his answer. In Hebrews 10, we’re told to “hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy.” Faith is really about trusting God because he is worthy of that trust.
In Hebrews 10:22, we are told to approach God with “a sincere heart and in absolute trust.” Remember that God is all-knowing, so there is no need to put on a show for God or act like all is well when you really feel overwhelmed by a problem. To pray with sincerity, pour out your heart to God honestly and know that he is listening and he cares. Even when you’re reciting prayers, pray from the heart and mean what you say.
In Hebrews 10:22, the author also goes on to say, we should approach God, “with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.” In other places, Scripture tells us we should quickly confess our sins, let go of any resentment we’re harboring toward others and forgive them so our Heavenly Father will forgive us. When you pray, make a point to ask for this forgiveness.
In Philippians, Paul tells us that, rather than feeling anxious, we should “in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make [our] requests known to God,” and we’ll experience true peace. Psalms 100:4 says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.” Reflecting on what God has given us that we can be grateful for in prayer can help us enjoy a deeper relationship with him and be happier people overall.
In 2 Chronicles, God says, “if then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and heal their land.” Humility is understanding our sinfulness and need for God’s help. In Matthew, Christ tells his disciples to pray in secret rather than trying to attract attention with their prayers. This is another important way of remaining humble in prayer.
The Scriptures also tell us to be persistent in prayer. In Luke 18, Christ tells the parable of the persistent widow, which teaches us about the importance of praying repeatedly to God without becoming weary. First Thessalonians 5:17 says simply, “Pray without ceasing.” This doesn’t mean we must literally pray at every moment, but it does mean we should remain prayerful throughout our days and pray frequently.
Ways to Pray Intentionally
If you understand the right ways to pray but you’re struggling to experience a meaningful prayer life, try the following intentional prayer ideas. These practical tips for how to be intentional in prayer can help you make prayer a more central and meaningful fixture in your daily life.
1. Bookend Your Day With Prayer
Praying first thing in the morning can help you start your day with the right mindset. It also gives you an opportunity to ask God for help with the day ahead. You may want to have certain people or concerns you pray for each morning before you have a chance to forget. Keeping a calendar or using a reminder app on your phone can help you remember to pray for anyone you’ve said you would pray for.
When you’re ready to go to bed at night, spend some more time in prayer. A lot can come up during the day, but now is the time to refocus. Thank God for his blessings, and pray for needs that have arisen or anything that’s been on your mind. You can also take this opportunity to confess sin and ask for God’s forgiveness, which he is “faithful and just” to bestow.
2. Use Scripture to Help
We may have a tendency to compartmentalize Bible reading and prayer, but these are parts of the Christian life that should go hand in hand. First, we can use prayer to help us get more out of our reading. When you open your Bible, ask God to illuminate his truths.
Second, we can turn Scriptures into prayers. The Lord’s Prayer is a prominent example of this, but there are many passages throughout Scripture that we can read prayerfully. The Psalms are full of prayers that are likely to reflect what’s going on in your own heart. Read these passages and meditate on them prayerfully throughout your day.
3. Keep a Prayer Journal
If you feel you need some structure to help you be more intentional in prayer, try keeping a journal. Some people choose to write out their prayers to help them be more deliberate about praying for specific things. A prayer journal doesn’t need to contain written prayers, though.
Even if you jot down key phrases or a few notes each day while you’re praying or just after praying, a prayer journal can help you be more intentional about what you’re praying for and can help you recognize when answers to prayer come. Be sure to write these answers down so you can regularly go back and reflect on all God has done for you.
Let Us Pray for You at Catholic World Mission
Part of our mission at Catholic World Mission is praying for anyone who asks. No matter your faith, we will receive your requests for prayer for whatever is burdening your heart. We will take the time to honor that request and pray for your concern, asking God to pour out his blessings on you or your loved ones.
Prayer can be a powerful tool that can help us recognize our dependence on God for all things. Submit your prayer intention through our online form, and seek to make prayer a more central part of your life.
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Deacon Rick Medina is the Former Executive Director of Catholic World Mission and for years oversaw the management of all of Catholic World Mission's projects in over 35 countries. He was ordained a deacon of the archdiocese of Atlanta in 2013. He currently serves at All Saints Catholic Church in Dunwoody, Georgia, and is active in several ministries, including RCIA, baptism preparation, Life Teen, Altar Server group, Grief Share, and Adult Faith Formation.