How often should I pray? This is a simple enough question. The Bible has a very specific answer in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 - pray without ceasing. The verses before and after this are worth reading and I suggest you take some time to read them, but we are talking about how often you should pray. To understand what it means to pray all the time, we need to first understand what it means to pray. Prayer is talking with God and listening to what He has to say.
From that definition, it makes sense that we should always be asking Him for guidance and direction, then listening to what He has to say and do it. You may be thinking that He will tell you not to do something fun and you will get stuck in a boring life full of restrictions. This common misconception is simply not true. God directs our life because He knows what is best for us; at the same time, He wants what is best for us. If your mother tells you not to touch the hot stove, is it because she wants to withhold the fun experience from you or is it because she wants what is best for you and knows better? The problem with this simple analogy is that life is way more complicated. God can see infinite steps ahead. You may be disappointed that you didn’t get a job that you wanted and from your perspective is perfect, but God knows that if you got the job events would unfold that would be devastating.
If we are to pray constantly and about God directing our life, how do you go about doing that? If you think about prayer as an open line of communication between you and God, knowing He hears everything you say, short constant prayers are helpful. A one line prayer is still a prayer and just as valuable as an hour-long prayer session. As you walk into a store and see someone you know needs prayer, ask God to bless them in whatever their needs are. While you are sitting in traffic, you can pray a prayer for those in your life that come to mind. The same is true for a long walk or bike ride. As I am approaching someone for a difficult conversation, I ask God to bless my words and speak through me. These are examples of short prayers that can keep you in constant contact with God, just don’t forget to listen.
You may be thinking, if I pray short prayers all day long, why would I need to engage in a prayer session where I set time aside and focus on the prayers I am offering? Relationships take work. If you think about short prayers in terms of Facebook, it is like going to your friend’s page and clicking like on every post and mentioning them every so often, but never spending time in person with them. You may have had a strong connection years ago and feel like you know them, but when you get together after a few years, it might be awkward because you don’t really know them like you thought you did. Spending time with God that is intentional is a blessing and should be done regularly. I wish I could say that I do it every day, but I honestly do it 2-5 times a week depending on the week. This is why relying completely on dedicated prayer time is not a good idea either. Time can pass and you realize you have not prayed at all in weeks.
How often should you pray? Constantly. Just make sure you are listening, setting aside intentional time, and praying all day in between. For many of us, this is a huge change. 5 years ago, I did short prayers based on the situation and long prayer sessions every few weeks or months. God still loved me and connected with me, but I realize now as I have grown to appreciate prayer that the benefits of knowing Him better and listening to Him have been amazing. The real question for me has been, how well do you really want to know God?