Oh, prayer is a hard one. I had so many ups and downs with this. I still have so far to go. But I can look back and see that I've learned a few lessons, which I will share here.
The flesh does not like to pray, but the Spirit does. In order to pray effectively, I must be walking in the Spirit. Never mind what the flesh wants. It's supposed to die anyway.
The point is not to "say prayers," the point is to connect with God. Be still on Him and wait on Him until you have truly visited the throne room and conversed with the King of Kings.
One of my biggest hindrances to prayer was a line of reasoning something like this: "I'm not successful at prayer, so prayer doesn't do any good, so why bother to do it at all?" But this reasoning is first faithless, and second inaccurate. The Bible says our prayers DO do good. By the way, we are commanded to pray, so the "Why bother" comment is invalidated just by that alone.
Another big hindrance to prayer was this line of reasoning: "God is going to do whatever he wants. Things will be the same if I pray as they will be if I don't pray, so why bother?" God taught me big time that this is not true. Whenever I prayed, things happened! Whenever I didn't pray, things didn't happen. It was almost as if God was deliberately withholding the answer until I asked. An illustration of this helped me to understand. I work in a preschool, and it is important to teach the kids to use language, so if they point at something and go "uuuh," we know perfectly clearly what they are asking for, but we say, "Use your words," and wait to give it to them until they ask. Also--it's free to pray, and you just might get what you ask God for, so you really have nothing to lose if you pray; you can only stand to gain.
I learned that body position had a great deal to do with whether or not I would get very far in prayer. Lying in bed, it only took about 3 minutes of prayer to put me to sleep. Kneeling beside the bed, I got a little farther, but pretty soon my head would be pillowed peacefully on my arms and I would be asleep, only to wake up an hour later feeling very stiff and uncomfortable. Standing up--Ah! There's a sleep prevention technique! So at different times I have had to give myself a rule that I have to stand up and not so much as touch my bed. It wards off sleepiness, all right!
Probably my biggest hindrance to prayer was a wandering mind. If I "think" my prayers, it's only a minute before my mind is zinging all over the place into random thoughts that have nothing to do with prayer. Before two sentences are out, I have already forgotten I was praying. Then I catch myself five minutes later thinking about, say, a kayak going down a waterfall, and I realize, "Oops! I was praying! Let me get back to that. Where was I?" I resume my prayers, say a sentence or two, and again, my mind is off in another direction and I have forgotten I was even praying. Do you know how frustrating and prayer killing it is for this to happen over and over again, every two sentences, every day of your life? So two solutions have saved me. One is praying out loud. However, in our small house, it is difficult to have the privacy to do this, so I often take prayer walks, where I can pour out my heart to the Lord in verbalized prayer. Solution two: Write my prayers and enjoy the ability to have silent prayer AND instant focus. An hour of prayer suddenly becomes easy when I'm writing. Of course, I can write slower than I can think, so I can't say as much in an hour as I probably could if I was praying silently, but given that my silent prayer is interrupted by a million random intrusions and I give up after about five minutes, I know I'm getting a lot farther with the written version.
So prayer is coming along. Not perfect yet, but getting somewhere.
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