Five Ways I Am Eliminating Perfunctory Prayer in My Life

I struggle with my prayer life.

I am inconsistent too much. And even when I am consistent with a prayer time, I find myself distracted often. 

One of the bigger struggles I’ve had with my prayer is perfunctory prayer. For me perfunctory prayer is a minimal effort to connect with God. At best, I am going through the motions. At worst, I tell someone I will pray for them, but I don’t.

Recently, I made five changes that have moved me toward a more robust prayer life. Yes, I still have a long way to go. Still, these five changes give me hope that my prayer life will be more meaningful and less perfunctory.

1. When I tell someone I will pray for them, I really pray for them. I am ashamed to think of the number of times I told someone I will pray for them, but I don’t follow through. I am lying to the person I promised, and I am lying to God. I’ve asked God to give me a greater awareness of this sin in my life, so I don’t repeat it.

2. I have stopped using “prayer” in my greetings and other incidental conversations. Here is what I mean. I’ve written emails where I say something like, “I pray your year is going well.” Sadly, I did not really pray for that person to have a great year. I used prayer as a figure of speech. Such words on my part minimize and trivialize prayer. 

3. When someone asks me to pray for them, I do so on the spot if possible. Instead of merely affirming I will pray for someone who requests prayer from me, I do so on the spot. Again, I am ashamed to think how many times I responded affirmatively to prayer requests but forgot about them. 

4. I use a prayer app. So that I truly remember to pray for people, I enter the prayer need on a prayer app. Now, when I have my prayer time, I am able to see those prayer requests one by one. I am also able to see all the answers to my prayers. There are several prayer apps available. I use Echo Prayer.

5. I will not talk about my prayer life to make me look more spiritual. My prayer life has a long way to go. If I hint in any way that I am some super saint with an unmatched prayer life, I am lying. I still struggle with prayer. I just want to struggle less.

For years I used the ACTS acronym to guide my prayer life: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication. Several years ago, I moved confession to the beginning of my prayer time. It was my own conviction that I needed to confess my sins first before I could get into other areas of prayer. So now my order of prayer is confession, adoration, thanksgiving, intercession (for others), and supplication (for me). I admit, though, that CATIS is not a very memorable acronym.

I would love to hear from you about your prayer life. I learn so much when I listen to other believers to hear how God is working in their lives.


Posted on December 12, 2022

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Greg Smith says on

    Mr. Rainer, your article on “5 ways I’m eliminating perfunctory prayer in my life” was written with me in mind. You have described my prayer life to a tee. I too am embarrassed and ashamed of how ineffective an haphazard my prayer life is. Thank you for the article, your encouragement I plan on using your suggestions to help me with a Spirit inspired prayer life. Thanks again, your brother in Christ.

  • Thanks for sharing this. I also want to invite more people to come to church. We have a small church up in Canada of about 50 people. Good challenge for prayer.

  • John Appleby says on

    Using a prayer journal has been very useful to me.

  • Our small church has a prayer chain of twenty people that are part of a thread. Prayer requests, particularly urgent ones are posted there. We can stop and pray immediately for the request and add them to our individual prayer time later. We’ve seen many answers and praises.

  • Larry Webb says on

    I have recently started using echo prayer when I heard you mention it. I tell people I will pray and then I forget. I have always struggled with prayer and witnessing. I have embarked on a new course to change all this. I have received great inspiration from Church Answers and I am praying every day for needs. I prayed for 5 visitors to come to church and 10 came. I confess, I was shocked and so were the people in my small church. I have renewed zeal for what God calls me to do. I listen to and read everything you guys put out. I complained no one is doing anything to help our church and I heard Sam say it starts with you! So I am knocking on doors. You said if you invite they will come. They are! Thank You Church Answers!

    • Thom Rainer says on

      I am incredibly excited about your email, Larry. I will quote it in an upcoming article. Can I use your name or would you prefer to be anonymous?

      • Larry Webb says on

        I am humbled, please use my name and story . I am trying to decide which certification training to take. I also am excited about the hope initiative. This post may be a repeat, not sure if I sent it or not.

  • Phil Morgan says on

    The book “Praying the Bible” by Donald Whitney has helped me more than anything else. I highly recommend it.

  • One thing I have tried and challenged our church to do in recent years is what I call the 3 minute prayer challenge.
    The key is passionate prayer, preferably aloud and if physically able on your knees.
    Minute one – Thanksgiving & Praise
    Minute two – Confession
    Minute three – Requests

    The key is passion and focus. That’s why aloud and preferably on your knees. Hopefully the prayer will often go much longer than three minutes, but everyone can take three minutes. It’s been helpful more my focus and hopefully for others as well.

  • Mr. Rainer,
    With your permission,I plan to use your ACTS acronym in my Bible study and in my prayer group.
    The only difference would be in my definition of C for confession. Will be to confess God’s promises.
    Thank you for what you do and what you write.
    George Gomez

  • I have used the “ACTS” prayer approach for almost 25 years. I decided long ago to keep “Adoration” first, mainly because Jesus taught in the Lord’s prayer to hallow the Name of the Father first. It also helps me focus on how great God is, how much Jesus Christ sacrificed for my sins, and what exceedingly precious promises he’s given me. Then, when I confess my sins, I can focus on the fact that I am forgiven and on my desire and need to obey Him. Thanks for sharing your insights on prayer, the second offensive weapon in our spiritual armor along with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God!


  • Robin G Jordan says on

    Among the practices that I have adopted over the years are praying throughout the day whatever I am doing, rather than having a set time to pray during the day; offering a short prayer when I see first responders responding to an emergency; praying immediately for an individual for whom prayer is asked; keeping a small notebook in which I jot down prayer requests, prayer concerns, prayer needs, and answered prayers; praying before and during church services; offering spontaneous praise and thanksgiving during church services; praying when I see someone and I feel the urge to pray for them; praying for someone when I wake up in the night, thinking about them; taking long walks and praying while I am walking; sharing thoughts and feelings of the moment with God; praying for a person on the spot after offering to pray for them; posting prayers on Facebook in response to requests for prayer rather than say something like “I’m praying for you, etc.;” and posting prayers on Facebook so others can join in the prayer and add their “Amen.” Since unconfessed sins and wrongdoings can interfere with our prayer, I think that it is a good idea to start with confession. I also pray with my eyes open. When we are praying in a group, one of the things that we miss when we pray with closed eyes is the visible movement of the Holy Spirit. We cannot see the Holy Spirit himself but we can see signs of him working in members of the group. I have participated in a number of small groups over the years and during the prayer time I have experienced the prompting of the Holy Spirit to pray for a certain matter. When I have hesitated, the Holy Spirit has prompted someone else to pray for that concern or need. I also place one or both hands on people for whom I am praying, first obtaining their permission to do so. I have also found it helpful at times to write down a prayer before praying it. I keep in mind the words of the 19th century Anglican bishop of Liverpool, J. C. Ryle, a leading British evangelical of his day, that having conversations with someone is essential to having a relationship with them. Prayer is a two-way conversation with God. We listen as well as talk.

  • Barry Carroll says on

    Good for you.
    Good for me too.

  • Thank you for this transparency! So many pastors/ministers deal with this issue. None of us “have it all together.”

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