I've noticed it's the same for my children as I listen to their prayers. It's human nature to fall into the habit of just saying a prayer and not really being aware of the words you are saying. On the other hand, The Maestro is a wonderful example of how to pray thoughtfully and I love to listen to his prayers because he truly communicates with our Father in Heaven.
I've come up with a few things that I hope will begin to make my own prayers more meaningful and help me avoid the trap of mindless repetition.
5 Ways to Make Your Prayers More Meaningful
1. Keep a prayer journal
I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), and this isn't something we're necessarily taught to do. I've seen the idea via other Christian denominations and I think it's a really good one.
The point is to have a small notebook in which you can jot down things you'd like to pray about, people you want to pray for, and things you'd like to thank God for. I think it's an excellent way to remember the things that you want to include in your prayers. I know that sometimes I tell someone I will pray for them for a specific reason, but then I forget. But if I had written it down in a prayer notebook, I could look at the things I know I want to pray about before I pray and I would be much less likely to forget.
A prayer journal is also a great place to record the answers you receive to your prayers. Overall, I think it's an excellent way to put more thought into the prayers you say and pay more attention to how they're answered.
2. Don't forget gratitude
Another prayer trap is only praying for the things you need or want, and forgetting to be grateful for the things you already have. Making it a point to thank God for all He has done for you is so important!
Be as specific as you possibly can in your gratitudes. My daughter Chloe is a pro at listing gratitudes in her prayers. She usually lists 5 or 6 seemingly random things that she is grateful for, and sometimes she gets a bit of flak from her sisters for the way that she prays. I love it, though. She reminds me that I should be thanking my Heavenly Father for the carpet, forks, snow days, my favorite shirt, and toothpaste.
Related: 4 Ways to Practice More Gratitude
3. Pray for others
Sometimes our prayers become pretty selfish. As I mentioned above, it's easy to think of prayer as simply a vehicle to ask for our own desires. One way to make our prayers more meaningful is to stop looking inward and begin looking outward. We can all think of people who are in need of the Lord's help in one way or another. Write them down in your prayer journal and remember to send prayers up in their behalf.
Not only will this add more meaning to your prayers, it will also help you to start being an instrument in the Lord's hands. As you pray for others, He will often answer those prayers by helping you to know how to best serve those you include in your prayers.
Related: 5 Simple Ways to Serve Others
4. Pray vocally
Prayer is a very private thing for me, and after I got married I fell into the habit of saying my personal prayers in my head because I did not want to pray out loud in front of my husband. While I certainly think it's fine to say some prayers silently (sometimes that is the only choice!), I find that I am much more easily distracted and more likely to fall asleep or forget that I was praying when I don't pray out loud.
In the past year, I've made more of a point to find places where I feel comfortable pouring my heart out to the Lord out loud. My two favorite places to pray vocally are in the shower and while taking a walk by myself in the woods or another quiet area. Praying out loud really does help me to focus on what I'm saying and put more thought into my prayers.
5. Schedule your prayers
If you're anything like me, sometimes prayer gets buried under all the other stuff on your list for the day. Adding prayer as a concrete part of your daily routine will help you to remember to say them. You can't have meaningful prayers if you're not saying them at all! You can write it in your planner to help you remember or make yourself a checklist.
Part of creating habits is having a trigger for your new habits. For prayer, getting out of bed could be the trigger. In other words, whenever you get out of bed you will be reminded to pray. Or, whenever you sit down to eat a meal, you will be reminded to pray. Or, whenever you put your pajamas on, you will be reminded to pray. I'll bet you already have a few solid prayer triggers set up, and if you do, the challenge is now to make those prayers even more meaningful than they already are.
Small Habit: Daily prayer.
Big Difference: Become more like Christ, align your will with God's, become more grateful, increase happiness, reduce stress.
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