Most people have some sort of prayer life, whether it be a daily time of communicating with God, crying out to him only in times of great distress, or anywhere in between.  No matter where you are at on this continuum, you can likely use some encouragement to keep working on praying, or maybe to get back to it.

I remember quite vividly my first prayer as a follower of Christ when I was a 19-year-old college freshman.  It was the one where I confessed to God what he already knew (that I was a sinner) and then prayed for forgiveness based on the shed blood of Jesus Christ. It was not very profound.  I didn’t confess a lot of specific sins because I thought they were too many name, although over time I certainly dealt with a lot of things in my past through prayer.  In that same prayer I vowed to be a better person and to only focus on God, specifically as opposed to desiring to date anyone that might be interested in me.  That lasted almost 2 months, until I started dating my now husband!  I knew nothing of what God expected of me.  I simply believed and wanted to know more of God.

I don’t recall anyone teaching me how to pray.  I took a class on Christian Spirituality that did help me focus more on praying, which was good.  The Christians on our campus also would meet regularly and pray, so I figured it was something I should do on my own as well. 

At that time, my prayers consisted mostly of praying for what I wanted. God does care about such things, but it would be quite awhile before I realized that mostly he cares about me being conformed to the image of Christ.  Prayer would play a big part in that!

After college we went to Minneapolis so that my husband to go to seminary and I could attend grad school.  The church we attended taught me much about prayer!  Instead of prayers that went something like, “Dear God, Will you please…” I started learning the importance of praising God, confessing my sin, and thanking him before I started in on asking God for things.  Spending time praising God for who he is was truly transformational!  It really got the focus off myself, and whatever I thought was wrong at the time, and put it on God, which is where ALL of my prayers should be anyway.  I also watched as people experienced trials.  I saw how they turned to God in prayer and how he answered. 

Then came the kids. My prayer life took a big hit!  Many days my prayers consisted of comments to God throughout my day.  Not that this is a bad thing, but it really was not desirable to have it be the only time I prayed.  Being a new mom was hard, and struggles with depression were very real.  There were times when my prayer life was okay, but most of the time it was pretty lame.

Fast forward to October 23, 2008.  God woke me up to the need to depend on him in every way by hitting me on the side of the head.  My husband had a seizure that morning that sent us on a journey I would not wish for anyone to have to take.  It is a very long story, but there were many days that he could have died, and all I could do was lean on God.  I spent hours in the hospital, and many long nights sleeping alone.  And you better believe I prayed!  I prayed that God would spare my husband’s life.  I prayed that God we be with my kids who were 4 hours away and scared.  I prayed that I would be able to make all the right decisions by myself.  But I also prayed much bigger, and ultimately much more significant, prayers.  I prayed that God would keep us all strong in our faith in him.  I prayed that we would all trust him as the good and loving father that he is.  I prayed that we would be able to testify of wonderful works God did on our behalf.  I prayed that through it all God would be glorified, whether that be by death or by life.  This time led me to a dependence on God that has been greater that ever before and continues to sustain me to this day.

My latest favorite personal prayer help is a app on my phone called PrayerMate.  It helps me keep track of what I want to be praying for in many areas, such as my family, my church, and missions.  It also reminds me to pray for things that are hard for me to pray about, like praying for people who have hurt me.  If it’s on a list, I won’t leave it out, even if I want to!  I told one friend about it and she said that’s what she had been doing for years in a notebook.  I tried that once and it didn’t work for me, but this does.

I have also started praying scripture much more.  I can’t go wrong if I am praying the word of God!  It keeps me in line with what God cares about, helps me to focus on things of eternal importance, and gets me away from my selfish desires.

I am guessing that something here has resonated with you.  If you are currently struggling to pray regularly, be encouraged!  This journey has taken place over the past 33 years!  If your prayer life is great, thank God and keep at it.  Wherever you are, take time during this season of preparing for Christmas to spend time with the one whose incarnation we will celebrate.   I will be praying that God meets you and encourages your heart as you communicate with the one who created you and loves you enough to be born as a baby so that would be able to live eternally with him!

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Karla Evans has been the wife of Mike for almost 30 years, and is the mother of 5 children, ages 10 to 24.  God has used the circumstances in her life to give her a heart to minister to others, especially women in hard circumstances. Karla serves on the Good News For All Prayer Team.