Pillar Journal

Take inventory of your prayer life

The great possibilities of prayer should awaken us to the meager realities of our own praying.

James 5:17 says that the prophet Elijah “prayed earnestly.” Literally, the text says that Elijah “prayed in his prayer” (KJV marginal note 1). James is using a Hebrew idiom intended to intensify the force of the verb. In other words, Elijah’s prayers were more than a formal exercise; he was pouring himself into his praying. Alexander Ross observes, “A man may pray with his lips and yet not pray with an intense desire of the soul.”1Alexander Ross, The Epistles of James and John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954), 102. You might call it “prayerful praying.”

Consider the tremendous potential of prayer. It is nothing less than communion with the living God. Thomas Brooks wrote, “Ah! How often, Christians, hath God kissed you at the beginning of prayer, and spoke peace to you in the midst of prayer, and filled you with joy and assurance, upon the close of prayer!”2The Works of Thomas Brooks, ed. Alexander B. Grosart (1861–1867; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2001), 2:369.

The great possibilities of prayer should awaken us to the meager realities of our own praying. Is prayer the means by which we storm the gates of heaven and take the kingdom by force? Is it a missile that crushes satanic powers, or is it like a harmless toy that Satan sleeps beside? Are we more concerned about what our human listeners think of our words than about our communion with God? How often do we truly experience prayerful passion for the presence of God?

Our prayer life may be “closed for repairs,” though little repair work seems to get done. Good intentions surface from time to time, but wishes and intentions are no substitute for repentance and the persevering implementation of better habits. The problem is that when our prayer life is boarded up, everything else begins to shut down. How can we live to God in public when we so seldom meet Him in private? Prayerless praying begins to cool long before reaching heaven and falls back on us as cold rain to chill the soul, while prayerful praying lifts us into the light of heaven and warms the soul. Thomas Adam frankly admitted, “I pray faintly, and with reserve, merely to quiet conscience, for present ease, almost wishing not to be heard…. Prayer and other spiritual exercises are often a weariness to me.”3Thomas Adam, Private Thoughts on Religion (Glasgow: Chalmers and Collins, 1824), 68, 73, 76. Is that the condition of your prayer life?

As Greg Nichols points out, a prayerless person is ungrateful because he does not thank God, self-righteous because he does not confess his sins to God, self-centered because he does not ask God to bless other people, presumptuous because he does not pray even for his daily needs, irreverent because he does not praise God nor pray for His kingdom to come, and unfriendly to God because his prayerlessness evidences that he does not enjoy being with God.4Greg Nichols, “Prayerlessness” (Grand Rapids: Truth for Eternity Ministries, n.d.), tapes GN-E 1–4. If your heart is absolutely prayerless, then you are not a child of God. Your first step toward cultivating a prayer life is the step from death to life. You must repent of your sins and trust in Christ alone for salvation.

What then of the true believer who has a praying heart but finds himself stumbling in his prayers? How can he improve? He must take hold of himself and take hold of God.

Excerpt from
How Can I Cultivate Private Prayer?
By Joel Beeke

How Can I Cultivate Private Prayer? – Cultivating Biblical Godliness Series (Beeke) (2406 in Stock)

MSRP: $4.00 $3.00


Prayer is a crucial part of the Christian life, and believers must give it careful attention and cultivation. As they pray, Christians exercise their faith in repentance, in submission to God’s will, and in praise to God. Believers in Christ, then, must grow in their prayer life—in their communion with God.

In this pamphlet, Joel R. Beeke gives readers helpful, practical ways to improve their prayer lives by first disciplining themselves, in dependence on the Holy Spirit, and by then taking hold of God. Learn what a blessing it is to pray!



Take Inventory of Your Prayer Life

Take Hold of Yourself

            Remember the Value of Prayer

            Maintain the Priority of Prayer

            Speak with Sincerity in Prayer

            Cultivate Continual Prayer

            Organize for Prayer

            Use the Bible as Your Guide for Prayer

            Refresh Your Prayers with Biblical Variety

Take Hold Of God

            Exercise Faith in Jesus Christ for Prayer

            Plead God’s Promises in Prayer

            Look to the Glorious Trinity in Prayer

            Believe That God Hears and Answers Prayer

            Seek the Glory of God in Prayer

            Develop a Right Heart toward God in Prayer

            Rest with Contentment in God’s All-Sufficiency in Prayer 


Series Description

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said that what the church needs to do most all is “to begin herself to live the Christian life. If she did that, men and women would be crowding into our buildings. They would say, ‘What is the secret of this?’” As Christians, one of our greatest needs is for the Spirit of God to cultivate biblical godliness in us in order to put the beauty of Christ on display through us, all to the glory of the triune God. With this goal in mind, this series of booklets treats matters vital to Christian experience at a basic level. Each booklet addresses a specific question in order to inform the mind, warm the affections, and transform the whole person by the Spirit’s grace, so that the church may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.



Joel R. Beeke (PhD, Westminster Seminary) is president and professor of systematic theology and homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary; a pastor of the Heritage Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan; editor of Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth; editorial director of Reformation Heritage Books; and a prolific author.



“Joel Beeke helps readers balance the biblical realities that, for believers in Jesus Christ, prayer is as simple and as natural as breathing, and yet a practice that must be learned and requires perseverance. No matter what your level of spiritual maturity, you’ll encounter helpful reminders in this booklet that will encourage you in your prayer life.” — Donald S. Whitney, professor of biblical spiritually, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and author of Praying the Bible