Start with the “when.” If you were to inject fifteen minutes of prayer into your day, when would be the best time to schedule it? How about setting your alarm clock a quarter of an hour earlier and using that time to pray (after you’ve shaved or had a cup of coffee or done whatever it takes to wake you up)? Or maybe you have drive time on the way to work that could be spent in prayer. If you want to include the rest of the family in the venture, perhaps you’ll want the fifteen minutes to be scheduled right after dinner.

Some people like to wrap up their day by kneeling for prayer at the side of their bed.

What time works best for you? As basic as this decision sounds, I believe it’s so critical that I would encourage you to stop reading for a moment and lock in a daily prayer time. Actually put it on your calendar or Day-Timer or PDA or wherever you schedule important activities.

Now that that’s settled, where will you pray? It needs to be a distraction-free environment. And it helps to develop the habit if the location is the same each day. At the desk in your study? In the park near your home? By the side of your bed? In the parking lot where you work?

I always make my way, first thing in the morning, to my reading chair in the living room. Just sitting down in that familiar spot, cup of chai tea in hand, reminds me what I’m there for. God and I have a regularly scheduled appointment. Prayer happens because I’ve planned for it to take place.

No Praise

I like to think of praise as the spice of my prayers. Without praise my praying becomes bland. There is a sameness about it, which causes me to lose interest in it.

I recently made an appointment with an ENT specialist due to a problem with my throat. I was periodically losing my voice—not a good thing to happen to a preacher. The doctor numbed my sinuses and ran a scope through them in order to get a look at my larynx. (It gave new meaning to the old taunt, “up your nose with a rubber hose.”) The good news was that there were no nodules on my voice box. But the bad news was that my throat was scarred by acid reflux.

The doctor gave me four steps for correcting the situation. First, he asked me to start on a certain medication. “I can do that,” I told him. Next, he told me to put the head of my bed on wooden blocks so that I am slightly inclined at night. “I can do that,” I responded. (My wife just loves sleeping downhill!)

Third, he instructed me to eat my dinner earlier so that my food is digested before I go to bed. “I can do that,” I assured him. Finally, he asked me to stay away from spicy foods. “I can’t do that!” I objected. No way am I going to give up Mexican, Indian, Szechwan, and Thai food. Spice is what makes eating enjoyable.

And the spice of praise is what gives flavor to our praying. No wonder the psalmist encourages us to begin our prayers in this way. “Enter his [the Lord’s] gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise,” we are instructed in Psalm 100:4. This is how we’re to come before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. With praise on our lips.

Interestingly, I regularly hear from believers that praise is the most stilted aspect of their prayer lives. Confession may be difficult for us to do, but at least we don’t have any trouble knowing what to say in this regard. Thanksgiving is often lacking from our prayers, but when we finally get around to it we can usually come up with a long list of things to express gratitude for. Petition (sometimes referred to as “gimme” prayers) flows quite easily from our lips.

But praise is a different matter. All it takes is a sentence or two before we run out of words. Why is that? Why do we find it so difficult to go on and on in praise of our awesome God? I believe that our biggest problem in this regard is our limited vocabulary. There are a handful of God’s attributes that immediately come to our minds (he is holy, gracious, faithful, powerful), but after we have exhausted this short list we are stuck.