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How to Pray - Part II Conversation v. Obligation

Updated on October 19, 2013
This is a vision I had at a low point in my life that encouraged me to know God had me in his hands.
This is a vision I had at a low point in my life that encouraged me to know God had me in his hands. | Source

Prayer - Turn on the Light!

Follow Josie on Facebook for daily inspiration.
Follow Josie on Facebook for daily inspiration. | Source

When and How do you pray?

For years I struggled with my prayer life. Trying to develop a prayer life out of teaching about how to pray that I have been taught over the years made me feel like a failure. I think most people would be able to relate to this poem I wrote about it:

Here I sit down to pray,

My bible's handy lets start to say,

But what's that spot over there,

Hang on until I get a comfy chair.

What was I going to say?

That's right, that you are how I'm starting this day.

My needs and wants now here's my list,

Are you getting this?

Hang on I'm being distracted yet again,

By the mess the kids made with a pen.

What was I saying? Where am I at?

Are you happy enough with that?

Oh Look at my watch, only 5 minutes in!

Time to try to list all my sin.

That will take at least 5 minutes more.

Are you happy with me?

Are we having fun Lord?

Trying to establish a morning prayer routine for me was really difficult. I couldn't concentrate. I've followed lists before too, but then it feels like if you miss something on the list, the list becomes like law. The bible makes it clear that "your Father knows what you need before you ask him" (Matthew 6:8) - so do we really need to go into details everyday?

I was set free of this need to pray out of obligation following a time in my life when I was involved in a prayer group where there was spiritual abuse. When it had finished I really struggled to pray because we had been doing some really weird things that I associated praying with. I would still try my hardest to at least say little prayers, and one day I realised I hadn't prayed that day, so I closed my eyes. The Holy Spirit stopped me, and God spoke into my soul and told me that He didn't want me to pray like that.

Ever since then I have been set free from praying out of obligation, and started to learn about having a personalised prayer life. Also, the importance of praying through the day and inviting God into every aspect of your life.

How to Pray

We Are All Unique In Our Prayer Life

We are all different, so our prayer life should not be based on reproducing someone elses routine. For some people, to get up in the morning and spend hours in prayer with God is a way they have developed over time that is suited to their own personal relationship with Jesus. I tried and tried but to have a formal bible study and prayer when I just wake up was almost impossible, I just couldn't concentrate. We all have our own different personalities and ways of communicating. This has to be taken into account when teaching on prayer.

A habit of prayer will naturally stem from your relationship with God. Don't you long to speak with your loved ones? Well God is there all the time to have a conversation with. How would you feel if someone was having a conversation with you that they felt forced to? Or if they were looking at their watch all the time wondering if they have spoken enough to you?

If you are praying out of obligation from what you have been taught you must do, stop. Let's look at the bible and see what is actually taught on prayer.

The Bible Doesn't Prescribe Morning Prayer

There are no scriptures prescribing prayer as a morning ritual. That's right. I've read the bible, trust me. There are two scriptures which speak of a person praying in the morning, and hundreds about people praying as a response to particular situations at all times of the day or night.

Let's start with Jesus. There is one scripture about him praying in the morning, Mark 1:35 and heaps about him praying at all times of the day and even through the night. If you read Jesus' life as a whole picture regarding his prayer life you will see that He prayed at different times, usually taking himself off in private. His life was one of continuous fellowship with God. Jesus does not say anything like "you must speak to me in the morning." The other scripture about morning prayer is Psalm 88:13. Just because his prayer came to him in the mornings does not mean that if yours doesn't there is something wrong with you.

Don't get me wrong, if you pray in the morning and you love it and it works for you that is great. But if it is not natural, and you are struggling, stop forcing yourself. God wants you to be set free from this teaching, and bring some balance in this area. Just start speaking and spending time with Jesus when you are moved.

Conversation with God

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 and Ephesians 6:18 the Apostle Paul gives us instructions to pray on all occasions, continuously. This is the prayer life I ended up with when I stopped forcing it. There are some mornings when before I even get out of bed I have a conversation with God, or I read some of my bible. The scripture above in Ephesians speaks of praying in the spirit which takes your prayer life to a whole new level of rest; I will discuss this aspect of prayer in Part III.

I urge you to stop what you are doing if you feel in any way under obligation, and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you in your prayer life. Let a loving relationship form and your prayer life will blossom. The Holy Spirit may move you to pray in the mornings, but in that case it will just be a matter of cooperating with God, and won't feel forced and unnatural.

It's Time - Original Song by Josie Burness


In order to have a fullfilling prayer life, remember that prayer is about a conversation. The teaching on praying first thing in the morning is not backed by the majority of scripture, which actually points to a prayer life of constant communion with God.

Jesus spent his days between teaching and praying. The apostle Paul instructs us to pray through the day. I urge you to search the bible yourself on prayer and see how the great people of faith prayed as they were moved. The only ritualised prayer was that of the Pharisees and Sadducee' and Teachers of the Law of whom we don't look to as an example.

Don't stress yourself out anymore if your prayer life isn't working.

In the next part I am going to outline the work of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues in your private prayer life, and listening to God's voice. After all a conversation goes two ways!

God bless you!


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