Small steps to increase prayerfulness


[‘encouragement’, ‘exhortation’, for life and ministry]

February 2024

Peter Adam

‘Devote yourselves to prayer …’ [Paul’s instructions to believers][1].

‘We will devote ourselves to prayer …’ [The apostles’ decision][2].

Habits save time and energy in decision-making. But unhelpful habits may mean that we don’t pray as we would like. We need to adopt helpful prayer habits to override the unhelpful habits [as in Ephes 4:28], and grow in prayerfulness.

Here are some small steps to adopt prayerful habits. Do so by gradually and persistently putting them into practice: imprint them in your muscle-memory!

  • Don’t be daunted by a long list! Chose the ones that suit you.
  • Make sure that one is in place before you tackle another one!
  • The order does not matter. Begin with the one which would help you best.
  • Tell others what small steps you are beginning to take, and encourage them to do the same. This will bless them, and increase your accountability!

The first step: Ask God to help you to pray, to draw you to pray, to make you a prayerful person. [And also ask several friends to pray this for you]. Keep praying this prayer!

And now!

  • Whenever you pray for someone, or for a church or a ministry, thank God for that person, church, or ministry before you ask [Paul does this, e.g. 1 Thess 1:2].
  • Whenever you contact someone, tell them that you are praying for them, also tell them that you thanking God for them [Paul does this! See above].
  • Whenever you meditate on the Bible on your own, or with a group, turn the message of the Bible passage into a prayer which expresses your desire to do what God has told you he wants you to do in the Bible passage. You may find it helpful to use words or phrases from the Bible passage in your prayer. [If you don’t know what to pray, then you won’t know what to do!]
  • To expand and enrich your prayers, use some of Paul’s prayers for his churches in his letters. You can use them to pray for churches, and, with a few changes you can use them to pray for yourself, or for other believers [e.g. Col 1:9-14].
  • If you find your mind has started worrying about something or someone, then turn that worry into a prayer. As Martin Luther said to his wife Katy, ‘Pray, and let God worry!’
  • Trust and entrust. Learn to say to God, ‘I trust you about this issue or person, and I entrust them to you.’
  • If you go for a walk, pray as you walk. Here are some possibilities for those prayers: people who are on your mind; your family or your friends; the people who live in the houses you walk past; missionaries you support; praise God for the beauty of the world, the sky, the clouds, the trees; pray that everyone you see will become a Christian, etc.
  • When you drive, don’t turn on the radio, pray as you drive.
  • When you drive with other people in the car, turn it into a mobile prayer meeting!
  • If you want to pray aloud in public without being ostentatious, use a mobile phone as a cover!
  • If you have lots of people and ministries to pray for, make a list of different people or ministries to pray for each day. Or if you don’t like lists, put names on pieces of paper into one pot, pull names out at random, and when you have prayed for them, put the piece of paper into another pot.
  • Use to help you pray.
  • When you are spending time praying, keep a ‘to do’ notebook near you, so that you can jot down the tasks that come into your mind, and then get back to prayer.
  • Put time to pray into your calendar and daily planner. If you are calendar-driven, you will not pray unless you plan it!
  • Put time to pray into your work calendar. Praying is part of your ministry!
  • Set aside a longer time to pray once a week, and/or once a month.
  • When you pray, don’t just ask. Include praise, thanks, lament, confession, meditation on God’s words and works, and promises to trust, love, hope, and wait for God.
  • Get into the habit of praying short prayers frequently during the day: for the phone call you are about to make; the message you are about to write or have written; the person you are about to talk with or have just talked with; the meeting you are about to take part in or which has just finished; the people who will hear your sermon or Bible study or who have just heard it; etc.
  • When you feel unwilling or unprepared to pray, ask the Holy Spirit to prompt your turning to your heavenly Father, and to make up for the deficiencies of your prayers [Romans 8:16, 26,27].
  • When you have a significant conversation with someone, ask at the end if you might pray out loud with them [and, if appropriate, invite that person to pray as well]. Do this in ministry situations, with members of your family, and with friends! Plan to do this, unless you think at the time that that it might not be appropriate.
  • When you sin, immediately repent and ask God to forgive you, claim his promise of forgiveness by the blood of Christ, and ask his help you to change the way you live.
  • At the end of each day, thank God for three gifts that he has given you this day, and ask him to make you aware of three gifts he will give you tomorrow!
  • Praise God that Christ died to enable you to pray! [Heb 10:19-22].
  • At the end of each day, remind yourself of who God is, and praise him.
  • At the end of each day, reflect on the significant acts of ministry you have done, thank God for the privilege of ministry, thank God for his enabling power at work in you and through you, and pray that he would use what you have done in the lives of the people you have served, and for his glory.
  • Each day, praise God for his generous creation gifts such as water, food, air, sight, hearing, words, people you meet, your digestion, the beating of your heart, shelter, electricity, an effective sewerage system, good pavements and roads, music, affordable transport, farmers, banks, stable government, etc [A couple of these a day is sufficient! But think widely each week!].
  • When you hear bad world news, praise and thank God for his providential care and rule of this world, and ask him to act.
  • When you doubt that your prayers are getting higher than the ceiling, remember that, in Calvin’s words, ‘God our Father hears our prayers from the lips of his Son’.[3]
  • As often as you can, stop and tell God that you trust him, love him, wait on him, hope in him, desire him, thank him, and praise him. You cannot do this too many times a day!
  • Start praying ‘whatever it takes’ prayers. ‘Gracious God, please do whatever it takes to conform me to the image of Christ’. ‘Dear God, do whatever it takes to raise up more gospel workers; to reform and revive this church; to bring the message of Christ to our nation.’
  • Our life and ministry are often directed towards our own satisfaction or the benefit of others, and not to God. If you live this way, prayer is more difficult. Offer yourself and your ministry to God every day. ‘Offer your body as a living sacrifice …’ ‘Offer yourself to God as a worker…’[4]. This will help you to pray, help you to depend on God, help you to see God’s work in you and through, and help you to serve God better! A God-ward life helps us in God-ward prayers!
  • When you are talking to fellow-workers about the ministry you share, when you are with them to plan the ministry, pray together. Pray and plan, don’t just plan!
  • On your own or with fellow-workers, pray systematically through the list of people you serve in your ministry: the members the youth-group; congregation members; the people in the Aged-Care facility; the current list of enquirers.
  • At meetings of a church council or committee, don’t just pray for the meeting, pray for the ministry, and pray for the people who do and receive the ministry! On a church council, pray for church members, Sunday services, youth and children, for those who serve in these ministries. [You could ask individuals to prepare to pray for each ministry.]
  • If some in a small group find spontaneous praying difficult, invite everyone to write a one-sentence prayer, and then ask each person around the circle to pray their prayer aloud. They then know what they will pray, and when they should pray it!
  • Praise God every day for Christ and for all the gospel blessings we have in him!
  • Learn to pray for ministry you feel confident about doing, not only ministry which feels a challenge. You need God’s help in both! Pray that God will work in you and through you in all your ministry, and all your life.
  • When preparing a sermon, also prepare a prayer in response to the Bible passage, using the words of the passage. Then put it on the screen, and ask people to pray it with you. Here is an example of a prayer after a sermon on Romans 6:

Jesus Christ, our saviour and Lord, we praise you and thank you, for you were delivered over to death for our sins, and raised to life for our justification

We also praise and thank you that we all died with you in your death, and we were all raised with you in your resurrection.

We reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in you.

We will not let sin reign in our bodies, or obey its desires.

We will not offer any part of our bodies to sin to serve unrighteousness.

We are alive from the dead in you: we offer ourselves, and every part of ourselves, to God, to serve him in righteousness. In your name, and for your glory. Amen.

You could put this prayer in your News-sheet or on your website, and encourage people to pray the prayer each day in the coming week.

You could get a Bible study group to do the same, and then pray the prayer together.

May our gracious heavenly Father help us all to devote ourselves to prayer, and to encourage others to devote themselves to prayer. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


  1. Col 4:2.

  2. Acts 6:4.

  3. Calvin’s Catechism, Q 252.

  4. Rom 12:1, 2 Tim 2:15.

    Image by Caroline Herhandez