So you heard a great sermon on prayer and committed to praying for 30 minutes a day. We've all been there. As your alarm sounded the next morning, you leapt from your bed to your Keurig like a gazelle on the Serengeti. You set your iPhone timer to 30 minutes and thus began the greatest moment of personal revival since the Journey Reborn tour...
God please help me to be a good [mom/dad/husband/wife/child] today. Help me to be a good witness at work. We're struggling with [insert financial situation here]..... Um.... Help all the starving children in Africa... And also help the thunder in the 4th quarter.
Pretending not to look, you glance at your phone... 29 minutes 14 seconds to go. Crap.
This is one of the easiest ways to hate prayer that I know of:
Center Your Prayer Life Around Petitions
The problem with the above approach is it's centered on prayer as a medium for supplication (asking God for stuff.) This is not bad, in fact, it's biblical. However, making this the primary task of prayer doesn't end well. Focusing solely on petition is the fastest way I know of, for you to view prayer, and ultimately God, as boring.
Why? because requests are inherently "me" centered. And no one approaches the God of the universe to spend the whole time talking about themselves (we've all been on a date with THAT person.) In any moment, prayer or otherwise, that we have the opportunity to focus on Jesus or ourselves we should always, always, choose the former.
In contrast, the giants of prayer in the scriptures and in history, seem to be fascinated with the beauty and nature of Jesus, not their finite problems.
Let's look at David...
One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple ~Psalms 27:4
Dude had one request - to pray every day his whole life, and stare at the beauty of Jesus.
Let's look at 2 more:
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand. ~Psalms 16:11
They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. ~Psalms 36:8
Listen to the pathos in these texts. Pleasure, river of delights, beauty, happiness. Is this the kind of language that we use to describe our own times in the presence of God?
So how do we do this? The two easiest ways to center your prayer life around God are worship and listening, and then you can land on your requests. If you turn on your favorite worship song and sing the words TO him, its communicating with God... So it counts towards your 30 minutes! Listening is another topic we could spend a great deal of time on, but I'll defer at the moment.
I'm a big fan of praying about your prayer life like the disciples did - Jesus, teach us to pray - so the first thing I would do with these truths, is go to the One who promised "I will give them Joy in my house of prayer", and cling to that. Go over some of these texts with him, ask him for insight... When we look at the God that we see in the scriptures, and then look at our own experience of him, it's healthy to wrestle with the tension that lies in between. If you don't know how to do that, that's fine... Just pray about it.