Today's blog is by Jessica Longino, the Freshley Prayer director at Wesley. Here's her advice on growing in your personal prayer life with God!


Things to know as you jump into this: I believe prayer can and should be one of the most life-giving, joyous, fun-filled aspects of our relationship with God. Below are little things I have learned along the way to help me remember and embrace that my personal prayer life is a real relationship with the living God and not a task to check off my list because I’m a Christian. Hope it’s helpful!


One of the best things we can do for our prayer lives is to stop saying what we think we are “supposed” to say in prayer and start being real. God already knows who we are. God already knows where we are. We don’t have to be all-star-prayer-warriors that sit in our closets all day crying out to God and writing novels for journals. God is not interested in perfect prayers. He is interested in our hearts. He wants us. He wants you. Prayer is one of His chosen ways to connect with you. If you’re sad – tell him. If you’re excited – tell him. If you’re not sure he is real – tell him. If you don’t know what to say – tell him. You can’t scare him. You can’t intimidate him. If you offer what’s real, then He can respond with what’s real.


With the idea of being real comes the idea of freely being who you were made to be. God made each one of us uniquely, so naturally we each connect with Him in our own unique ways. For some people journaling is the place where they find deep connection with God. For others, journaling is frustrating and boring. For some people sitting in a quiet place and being still puts them in the perfect place to meet with God. For others, running in the woods and listening to music is what most connects them with God. There is no right or wrong way to do it. He made you the way you are on purpose! It’s just important to take the time to learn how you were made to connect with God and then embrace it!


If we are going to connect with God in prayer, then that means we have to know and trust Him. We have to believe that He wants to talk to us and that He is good to us before we are going to be real and open with Him. Two of the easiest ways to do that are reading the word and looking at Jesus. If we take what we see in the Bible and in Jesus and apply it, we find that God is our good Father that loves us more than life itself. We learn how much God loves us, how deeply he longs to be with us, how faithful and attentive he is to every detail of who we are, how nothing can change the way he sees us, and more.  The more we learn the truth about who He is and fight to believe it, the easier it is to come to Him in prayer and trust him personally. 
(PRACTICAL TIP: Start in the Psalms or in the one of the Gospels. The Psalms say a lot about who God is and what He does. The Gospels tell us about Jesus and the life he lived. See what stands out to you as you read and then talk to God about it afterwards. The trick is not to just learn about who God is, but to apply what you learn to be true to your relationship with God.)


Our God is a God that speaks. Furthermore, He speaks to us! If that’s a hard thing for you to grasp or if it’s a new concept for you, stop reading this for a minute and go listen to the Wesley podcast called “Ears To Hear”. Bob does an amazing job of explaining how to hear God’s voice and the role that His voice has in our lives. For now I will just say this: All of us hear God’s voice. He actually intentionally created you to be able to hear Him. We simply have to learn to recognize His voice when He is speaking. The more you ask him questions and wait for His answer, the more you will learn to recognize when His still small voice within you is speaking. Then, the more you recognize His voice the more your prayer life is transformed from something that can seem pointless and fruitless into a real conversation and real point of connection between you and God.

(DISCLAIMER: It usually takes time to learn this so don’t be frustrated if you don’t know how or where to start. It’s good to start by telling God that you want to know His voice. Listen to the podcast mentioned above. Talk to your small group leader or discipler about helping you learn to recognize His voice in your own life. And be patient! You’ll hear Him before you know it!)


Prayer can be like exercising or eating healthy: it’s easy to talk about it, to admit that you need to do it, to say that you want to do it, but then to never actually do it. If we want to grow in our personal prayer lives then one of the best things we can do isstart praying. Even if you have no idea what you are doing, just start taking steps. Set aside time each day to be with God (remember that will look different for everyone). Be real. Be you. Get to know who He really is through the Word. Learn to listen. Give a little space every day to these things and you will be surprised what happens

- Jessica Longino