Mar 11, 2020 08:00am
7 Characteristics of a Mature Prayer

Most Christians agree with what Ray Ortlund wrote about prayer:

“There’s one prime, basic, all-important place in your life where the rubber really meets the road. At this place, my friend, you win or lose – you make it or you don’t. The place I’m talking about is where you go down on your knees, where you shut out all the rest of the world, and you and God, just the two of you, get together. It has to be honest between you and Him. It has to be regular, at least once a day. And it has to be fought for, clawed and scratched for – or it will never happen.”

And yet how little we pray. It’s OK to be honest here. The person most proud of his or her prayer life is likely delusional! All of us grieve how self-reliant we’ve become.

Still, we’re called to do it. Commanded. Privileged. Starting today, let’s double down on prayer. It’s where “the rubber really meets the road.” 

The following are 7 characteristics of what a mature prayer looks like:


As you pray, be passionate and warm, actually interested in what you’re praying about. Resist lukewarm, careless prayers – how little is God honored by those.


Crack open the Psalms and you’ll find the full range of human emotion. If you’re angry, bring it (respectfully) to God! If you’re numb and don’t feel like praying, bring it to God anyway. If you’re elated, bring it to God! 

Be real, be yourself, talk normal, talk out aloud.


It would do more bad than good to prescribe “the perfect formula” for when you should pray. So I won’t. You must pick your own times. 

Jesus often prayed early in the morning, sometimes through the night.

As a general rule, it’s probably a good idea to speak with God in the morning before you interact with the world and to speak with God after you’ve interacted with the world. 

Prioritize this and you’ll never regret it.


It’s easy to be motivated now, reading an article. But once you start this discipline, persist in it. “Praying without ceasing” doesn’t mean quit your job and become a monk. 

Rather, it is silently, consistently praying those 3-second prayers as you go throughout the day. Make a semi-schedule of when you’ll pray and protect it with your life. 

There is nothing more important in your day than communing with the triune God!


I love my kids’ stubbornness. Most of the time. God likes ours, too – at least the right sort of stubbornness! 

When you pray, cultivate a stubbornness where you expect that prayer to be answered. Knock and keep knocking. 

Obviously, God isn’t a cosmic vending machine, where if you put enough “coins” in you’ll finally get what you want. But if you’re faithfully praying as best you can with a Bible open and within his will, you should actually care about getting a “Yes” from Him! Keep begging. Keep knocking. 

And if you get a clear “No” settle back down and trust his judgment.


Vaguely asking the Lord, “Please forgive me of my sin,” has the air of inauthenticity to it. 

Like you’re subtly hiding what you actually did from him – even though you know He knows! Instead, tell it like it is: “Lord, I purposefully shamed my wife tonight at Community Group . . . just to get a laugh.” 

Or, “God, I lied to my family about my work load just so I could sneak onto the driving range for an hour before returning home.” 

Vague requests are worthless requests. Paul prayed specifically about his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) multiple times – not merely, “a problem I’m having.”


As unnatural as prayer is for humans, intercessory prayer is even more alien! Our selfish tendencies leave us praying only for us. 

While that’s not evil, it’s not the full picture. It doesn’t access one of the Christian’s highest privileges. Just like Jesus intercedes for us, we can go before the throne and intercede for someone else! 

As J.C. Ryle wrote, 

“He loves me best who loves me in his prayers.”

It is our high privilege to pray. Not sure why I don’t believe that most days. But today is as good a day as any to dive in and actually enjoy communing with God at his throne of grace.

Copyright © 2020 by Justin Talbert/ @ Used with permission. No part of this article may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from