Do you struggle to pray for an extended period of time without getting distracted, running out of things to say, or falling asleep? You are not alone! During Christ’s intense prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, His disciples fell asleep. He then said to them, “What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” (Matthew 26:40). Even Christ’s disciples struggled that night to pray.
Many find it difficult to spend an hour in prayer. Even though they love God and long to spend time with Him, an hour seems so long! However, a simple prayer guide can help your time to be productive when you meet with the Lord. Try the suggested plan below during your next prayer time. Spend at least five minutes on each topic, but allow the Holy Spirit to extend each or any of the segments you are praying.
1. Praise (5 minutes)
Praise is different from thanksgiving. Praise acknowledges Who God is, not what He has done. It is adoring Him, recognizing Him, and giving Him glory for His character, or the essence of His nature. You can begin by naming the names of God, thinking about His attributes, praising Him, and delighting in Him and His work. “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalm 100:4). “I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works” (Psalm 9:1).
2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)
The Bible is God’s Word and revealed will for us, and the primary way the Lord speaks to us. We can also quote, pray, or sing His Word back to Him in prayer. The Psalms are a great place to start! They are filled with praises to God, cries for His help and protection, recollections of His power and works, majesty, and mercy. Ask God to give you understanding as you read His Word. Let the Scriptures fill your mind and impact your heart. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (II Timothy 3:16–17).
3. Meditate on God’s Word (5 minutes)
Take time to memorize a verse or a passage and to meditate on the Scripture you have just read or on other passages that come to mind. Meditation carries the idea of a “chewing on” a passage to get as much out of it as you can. Personalizing the verses can help you make them applicable to your life. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. . . . I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways” (Psalm 119:11, 15).
4. Confess (5 minutes)
Confession is agreeing with God about your sin. As you come before His throne of grace, evaluate specific, sinful attitudes, thoughts, words, and actions that the Holy Spirit brings to your mind. When you confess these sins to God and humbly ask for His forgiveness and cleansing, you will find freedom. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).
5. Intercede (5 minutes)
Beseeching the Lord on behalf of others is called intercession. Who or whose needs might you pray for? You can also pray for revival in the hearts of believers. You can pray for the salvation of lost friends and relatives. Pray for missionaries around the world who are evangelizing and discipling those to whom they minister. Pray diligently for the needs that come to mind as you bring your requests before God in this time. “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men” (I Timothy 2:1).
6. Listen (5 minutes)
Prayer is not only talking to God; it is also hearing from God. Quiet your heart, be still, and wait before God in worshipful silence. Ask Him to speak to you through His Word. Then, “rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7). Listen. “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. . . . The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty” (Psalm 29:2, 4).
7. Sing (5 minutes)
You not only can speak a prayer, but you can also sing your prayers to the Lord. The Apostle Paul encouraged the believers in Ephesus to sing and make melody in their hearts to the Lord (see Ephesians 5:19). You can sing hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs. You can put Scripture to a known or new tune. Sometimes you may find the Holy Spirit puts a “new song” in your heart to sing before the Lord. “I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being” (Psalm 104:33).
8. Petition for daily needs (5 minutes)
Bring your personal requests to God. Thank Him for His goodness and trust Him in advance for however He chooses to answer. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7).
9. Pray for your family (5 minutes)
Families are the essential building block of churches, communities, and nations, and Satan loves to divide the families. They are a chief target of the enemy as he seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. Pray for the needs of your family. Pray that families in general would be centered on Christ and His Word. Ask the Lord to strengthen marriages and uphold harmony in family relationships. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).
10. Pray for the Church (5 minutes)
As the Church is to be the salt of the earth, pray for the unity and purity of each believer. Pray for your church community, for your church leadership, and for the universal Body of Christ. Bring before God any who have strayed away from the fellowship, encouragement, and accountability of the local church. Pray for those believers around the world who are persecuted for their faith in Christ. “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. . . . Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (I Corinthians 12:12, 27). “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it” (I Thessalonians 5:23–24).
11. Pray for government leaders (5 minutes)
Our government leaders are ordained by God and are meant to be God’s ministers unto us for good (see Romans 13:1, 4). You can pray that God will give your leaders wisdom and understanding. Pray for local, national, and international concerns. “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (I Timothy 2:1–2).
12. Give thanks (5 minutes)
All we have comes from the Lord’s good hand. Think about the blessings God has given you and take a moment to express your gratitude for His loving care and abundant provision. Thank God for all that He has done and for all that He will do. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thessalonians 5:18). “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:1–5).
Make it Personal
The categories listed above are not exhaustive, but simply suggestions to help you have more focused prayer times in five-minute segments. You may choose to create your own categories, a different order, or varied time increments. For another sample guide, also divided into twelve sections which focus on different areas of prayer, we offer this downloadable “Prayer Wheel.” The goal is to have prayer targets throughout the hour to minimize distractions and maximize your fellowship with the Lord.
Deciding upon a regular time and place each day to communicate with the Lord will help you to maintain this essential spiritual discipline. In this special hour, not only will you be able to pour out your heart unto your Heavenly Father, but you will also begin to hear His voice speaking to you through His Word and sometimes through a “still, small voice” of prompting by the Holy Spirit. This hour will become a special time of communion with your Heavenly Father, your Savior Jesus Christ, and your Encourager, the Holy Spirit. God is always ready for your presence; you just need to commit to come to Him in prayer.