Prayer is a discipline, much like fasting, meditation, and confession. But in our multitasking, instant-gratification world, how can you focus on and make time for the discipline of prayer? Consider these seven steps to help you develop a more consistent, disciplined prayer life.

Accept your need to pray

Consider how much Jesus depended on prayer. Jesus prayed not only to set an example but also to teach us that even the Son of God needed to be connected through prayer to God. It was obvious that unless He had spent time with the Father, He could not be effective in ministry.

Admit your need to learn

Even the apostles asked Jesus to teach them to pray (Luke 11). Prayer is not a formula or a code, but one heart talking to another, expressing our sincere desire to know the heart of God. One of the best ways to learn is just to do it. T. W. Hunt's In God's Presence is one of the best books to help you get into the practice of praying.

Align yourself with God

Jesus never prayed, "If this is Your will, Father." He knew God's will because He prayed and listened to Him. God lets us know His will when we spend time with Him, whether through prayer, Bible study, worship, or conversation with others who also seek God's will. Prayer is listening as well as speaking, feeling as well as pleading.

Attune to others' needs

The much-maligned political phrase, "I feel your pain" has significance for a Christian. Anytime we feel the pain of another person, our immediate response should be that God has revealed a prayer opportunity. Hearing, feeling, sensing, and seeking the needs of others reflects God's work in and through us. Ask God to help you see others' needs as He sees them and to quicken your heart to stop and pray.

Adapt to focus on God

The difference between you and God's greatest prayer warriors is your time and focus. God has given all of us the same amount of time and the same instruction: Seek Him and invest ourselves in prayer for others. Whether we do this or not depends on our willingness and desire.

Accept God's help

The Bible tells us that our prayers are not efforts to inform God of needs or concerns. He already knows them. Our prayers help us acknowledge our trust in and dependence on Him to handle our prayers, seek His encouragement and strength, and trust Him with the results. God is more interested in our trusting Him completely than He is in whether we fully understand everything.

Adopt a plan

Certainly prayer should not be mechanical, but it should be disciplined. In fact, that's one reason we suggest that prayer is a Christian discipline - we should practice and make prayer a habit. Adding structure, such as having a place, a time, a pattern, or a partner, encourages consistency and growth.

I gave certain family members and friends a unique Christmas gift one year. I promised to pray for each individual for at least five minutes each day for one year. I spent 20 to 30 minutes each way during my work commute, and decided to spend that time praying rather than listening to the radio. That time in prayer helped me get closer to God and to each person for whom I prayed.

Start praying today, not merely blessing the food and covering the world with a blanket prayer, but focusing on Him and others in every opportunity.