1. Get Rid of Barriers
What does it say about our relationship with God if we never pray? If we never communicate with the Creator of the universe—if we never come to Him in Jesus’ name, accepted and changed through our relationship with Christ—might the Father have the right to say, “Hmmm. Do I know you?”
Jesus said to His disciples as part of the Sermon on the Mount, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom…then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me….’” (Matthew 7:21-23).
Jesus says we can recognize true believers by their fruits (Matthew 7:16-20). Doesn’t it make sense that one fruit of our salvation is a desire to communicate with our Savior?
So first, we need to examine ourselves to see whether we are truly in the faith or are strangers to God (2 Corinthians 3:5). Actually, the Bible calls us “enemies” of God before salvation (Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:21). And if we are believers and yet not communing with God, it might be wise to get to the root of the problem—the barriers that separate us (Isaiah 59:2). We need to confess our sins and not be a stranger in prayer (1 John 1:8-9).
2. Search the Scripture
One of the reasons some Christians don’t pray is because God is still like a new acquaintance. Perhaps it’s truly a matter of being a new child in the kingdom family and not yet knowing what or how to pray. We can barely blurt out, “I’m a sinner. Save me!” Then, in the prayer of faith and repentance, our relationship with God is established.
But that doesn’t mean we instantly become “prayer warriors.” When we first meet someone, there is still sometimes awkwardness until we get to know each other better. We need to take time to learn about each other.
To ramp up your prayer level, search the Scriptures because that is how you’ll get to know your great God. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible “testifies” about God and how He works among His people (John 5:39). From the beginning, God has told us about Himself (Romans 1:19-20), and the true Christian will desire to know God better (Psalm 25:4-5). We get to know the living God through the word of God (Romans 10:17; 1 Peter 2:2-3).
3. Be Transparent
With a casual friendship, there may be some warm feelings, but we still keep our friend at arm’s-length. Maybe we’re even a “fair weather” friend. A casual relationship indicates part-time fellowship.
Worse, in a casual relationship, we might not be transparent or honest. We don’t want people to get too close because we’re afraid they might see who we really are.
Sometimes we do this with the Lord. Though He is present everywhere (Psalm 33:13-14; Psalm 139:7-12), can see everything, and knows all things (1 John 3:20), we somehow think we can camouflage our true hearts. Our hiding is laughable (Psalm 139:11-12), and our prayers can become empty or even hypocritical.
Though we might have other ideas, God will never be satisfied with a standoffish relationship. He continually draws us with love and unfailing kindness (Jeremiah 31:3). He urges us to move beyond the level of casual prayer to something deeper. To ramp up your prayer level, get honest.
4. Draw Closer
Just as previous generations sang “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” many modern worship songs also call us to be closer to the Lord. One example is “Closer” by Steffany Gretzinger (Bethel Music). She sings, “… pull me a little closer. Take me a little deeper. I want to know your heart.”
As our relationship with God grows closer, we experience more familiarity, togetherness, and affection. We are moved more often to the prayer closet and begin to learn more of God’s ways. The Holy Spirit is our teacher (1 Corinthians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 2:14), and He prays for us “through wordless groans” when our longing for God grows deeper, but we don’t know what to say (Romans 8:26).
Close friends discuss specific goals; when we draw closer to God in prayer, we’ll want to know His will. To ramp up your prayer level, pray, “Show me how you work, God; school me in your ways” (Psalm 25:4). Ask for discernment and the desire to walk in His light (1 John 1:5; 1 John 1:7).
5. Choose to Walk with God
When we develop a companion-level friendship, there is substantial affinity, rapport, attachment, and confidentiality involved in the relationship. To ramp up your prayer life, aim for constant companionship with the Lord.
A companion is someone we spend a lot of time with—more like a partner or ally. Just as rubbing shoulders with and encouraging other Christians helps us thrive in the fellowship of the saints (Hebrews 10:25), we need to “rub shoulders” with Jesus every day if we want to abide in fellowship with Him and experience His wisdom and blessings (John 15:4-7).
Companionship demands intentionality—the everyday choice to walk alongside someone in agreement with them. The Lord called Abraham His “friend,” because Abraham obeyed God and kept His commandments (Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23). But the Lord also confided in the old Patriarch (Genesis 18:17-19). There was a sense of mutual loyalty in their friendship. Abraham was faithful to God, and God was faithful to Abraham. Jesus similarly told His disciples He had a desire to open up and confide in them too—to reveal God’s will to them (John 15:15).
6. Desire God First
When our deepest desire is intimacy with the Lord, our prayer life will reflect this passion and urgency. Yet our desire for God is nothing compared to His desire for us. Just as He delighted in Zion, He takes delight in all His children, rejoicing over them with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).
Our prayers regarding Jesus will be on a different level when we realize His great mercy toward us. Author and blogger John Piper says, “God wants intimacy with you. Christ has done all the hard work in the cross to make it possible.” In His sacrifice on the cross, Jesus showed His deep desire to befriend and save us. He is truly the biblical example of a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24)—willing even to lay down His life for us (John 15:13).
There is a great sense of intimacy in the prayer language of the “deep desire.” We gratefully and humbly pray and sing,“The more I seek you, the more I find you…This love is so deep, it’s more than I can stand.”
The heart prayer that indicates we have moved from level to level in our friendship and arrived at a deep place of intimacy is this: “Lord, keep me here until we are one.”
“But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” (1 Corinthians 6:17)