Do you ever realize, getting into bed, that you can’t remember what you prayed for two seconds ago? This happens to me with an unfortunate frequency. I want my prayers to be both regular and meaningful, but I struggle to figure out what works for me. I don’t want my only earnest prayers to be in times of hardship. As time has gone on, however, I’ve picked up a few tips to help me make my prayers more meaningful.
- Pray out loud: I don’t usually remember to pray out loud, but it makes a big difference when I do. Studies show that talking out loud often helps people focus and remember what they were thinking about. If it helps me learn, why can’t the same principle help me pray? I have discovered that when I pray vocally, my prayers are more focused, and I feel like I’m talking to God directly.
- Sit comfortably: As a teenager, I started praying cross-legged to spare my bad knees. It made a huge difference in my prayers. Maybe that’s blasphemous, but I hope not, because it really helps me focus. When I kneel to pray my body is ready to jump up like a runner at the starting block; I want to move on to the next thing on my schedule. By sitting down in a more permanent position I tell my body that I’m in for a good conversation—no need to hurry. I imagine I am talking to God the way I would talk to a friend who is right there in front of me. Sitting comfortably lets me feel closer to God, have deeper conversations with Him, and take the time to really ponder as I wait for his answers.
- Make a list: When each day seems busier than the one before, it is easy to forget what we wanted to pray about. You might say a quick prayer in the car, but forget about it when you pray that evening. Keeping a sticky note for prayers (or an electronic equivalent) can help you remember what happened that day and what you want to discuss with God.
- Pray for those you love: Sometimes I choose a person to pray for specifically. This not only gives my prayer more direction, but it helps me love that person better and know how I can help them. If you aren’t sure who to pray for, ask God. He knows far better who is in need of your love and attention.
- Pray for those you need to love: Some people are harder to love than others. I know God loves all His children, but that doesn’t mean all of them make it easy. I frequently pray for my eight-year-olds from Sunday school by name. Not only do they benefit from the extra prayers, but I have an opportunity to learn more about them and to love them more—even when some of them drive me up the wall. These prayers make me a better teacher, but they have also made me a loving one.
- Give thanks: God has blessed us with far more than we can name. It doesn’t hurt us or Him to show that we notice His hand in our life. By showing gratitude we can nurture a more positive attitude while improving our relationship with God.
- Find a quiet space: When I was a freshman in college, my roommate liked to spend her evenings blasting rock music. These circumstances made it difficult for me to pray, let alone receive inspiration. I was too uncomfortable to ask her to turn it down temporarily, let alone pray in front of her. My solution: the furnace room. Every night I sat on a bucket in the furnace room and poured out my heart to God. The situation may have been a bit odd, but I found the peace and privacy I needed to connect with Him.
What helps one person pray may not help another. If you are struggling to make your prayers more meaningful, keep trying. Even better, ask God what you need to do to have that relationship with Him. He is there. When you ask, He will answer.
Camille Ward is a student of English Education at BYU. She loves to spend time with her family and is not to be trusted in bookstores or bakeries.