Here are some helps for making your prayer life pleasing to God. Remember, prayer is ultimately for His benefit. Do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Some will consider these suggestions very basic, but others who don't yet have the basics down - will benefit from the reminders.
1. Pray regularly. Plan times to pray on a regular basis. If you pray only when it comes to mind you may find yourself rarely praying. Plan a regular time to pray. Of course, you should pray at other times, spontaneously, too as you have opportunity.
2. Have a plan for your prayer time. Planning is part of discipline. The Apostle Paul told Timothy, "Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness." - 1 Timothy 4.7b
3. Pray when you are awake and alert. Ask God to help you stay awake. If you have a hard time staying awake when you pray, do some exercise before hand. Maybe you should pray after you take a shower, or maybe you need to plan your main prayer time for a certain time during the day when you find it easier to stay alert. Maybe you should pray at a desk or in a chair as opposed to praying in bed or when lying down.
4. Make sure your prayers are balanced. Pray for both yourself and others. Confess your sin and praise God for His blessings. Praise God for Who He is and what He has done.
5. Look for answers to prayer. If we pray earnestly, it only makes sense that we would look for God’s answer. In other words, we should pray expectantly. It is nearly impossible to do this without keeping a list of requests that you bring before God. The list helps you to remember to pray, and it helps you to see when God has answered your request. "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit." - James 5.16b-18
6. Pray specifically. Mention people’s names, specific circumstances, thoughts that you have had, events, and blessings. There are many reasons to be specific about these things: (1) It helps you to love other people when you pray specifically for them (because you are practicing love by doing this for them). (2) It helps you to encourage other people as you tell them that you have prayed for them specifically. (3) It helps you to look for answers to prayer. (4) It helps you to be diligent in your prayer life, not lazy. (5) It helps you to apply biblical principles to specific areas of your life. For example, as you pray that God will help you respond rightly to your friend Suzy that is gossiping about you, you are forced to ask the question, “How does God want me to respond to what Suzy is saying about me?” (6) It helps you to take action when you should. If you want to overcome your fear of what people will think as you give the gospel to your neighbor, pray that God will help you overcome it. Praying about it will help you be motivated and give you power to follow through with your plans. (7) It helps you to carefully notice how God is blessing your life. Sometimes we forget the blessings of God even though we say in our prayers, “Thank you, God, for all your many blessings.” Instead, we should thank Him for each thing. (8) Since God blesses you with specific things, you should thank Him for specific things. Since you need God’s help with specific things, you should ask God’s help for specific things. Since you sin in specific ways, you should ask God’s forgiveness for specific things.
7. Pray carefully. It is awesome to know that we can be honest with God when we pray. We know that He won't misunderstand like other people sometimes do. We know that even if we cannot adequately explain something to God, God understands. What a wonderful privilege it is to pray! However, we should not seek to take advantage of these great assurances. Some Christians have mistakenly assumed that because God is gracious and loving that He will "undersand it" if we pray things that are selfish and sinful. But, understand this: we are not allowed to say sinful things to God in prayer. God is holy! He does not say it is okay to say whatever we want when we pray. Some Christians think that it is okay to get angry with God. Some think it is okay to blame Him for some problem in their lives. These Christians may say something to the effect of, “He is a big God; He can handle it.” Of course, if we do sin when we pray, we certainly can ask God to forgive us because He promises to forgive us if we are sincere (see 1 John 1:9). But, that does not mean that we are permitted by God to say whatever we want (Romans 6:1-2)!
“When we become too glib in prayer we are most surely talking to ourselves.” -A.W. Tozer from Born After Midnight (p. 87)
We should pray carefully because prayer is an expression of our trust in God. We pray because we know that we need help. We cannot make life work by ourselves. We need God. Our trust in God is expressed in brokenness and neediness, as we admit that we are nothing and He is everything! When we confess our sins in prayer, we are admitting that He is our Master, that we have disobeyed Him, that we have broken His commandments, and that we are at His mercy. When we praise God, we are acknowledging that He does everything right. We are acknowledging that He is our only hope. When we make requests for ourselves and for others, we are admitting that He alone has the power to answer. We are admitting that we can’t make it on our own.
“It is futile to beg God to act contrary to His revealed purposes. To pray with confidence, the petitioner must be certain that his request falls within the broad will of God for His people.” -A.W. Tozer from Man: The Dwelling Place of God (p.86)
We should not think that we could - at the same time - trust God (expressed through praying) and sin against Him (by carelessly saying whatever we want in prayer). When we sin against God, we are declaring by our wrong actions (or thoughts, words, etc.) that we think we can do whatever we want. When we sin, we are breaking His commandments. When we sin, we are making ourselves the King – we do as we please. Praying and sinning are opposites. True prayer is true humility before God. Sinning is a demonstration of pride. It should be obvious then, that God does not allow us to pray any way we want (we cannot say sinful things).
8. Pray Scripturally. If we want to make sure that our prayers are pleasing to God, we should pray according to Scripture. We should pray the way that Christ prayed. We should pray the way that the Apostle Paul prayed. If you do not know how they prayed or desire to grow in your understanding of how to pray, it would be good for you to do a study in your time with God of those scriptural passages that provide actual prayers.
Try to have a time of prayer after you have spent some time reading and studying the Word. This will help you to pray Scripturally because the Word will be on your mind.
9. Pray for important things. Pray for those things that are truly important - important by God’s standards. We are to pray that God’s will is done, not just that our will is done. So, we need to ask ourselves these questions: “What does God want done?” “What does God want me to do today?” “What might God be trying to teach me in this difficulty?” “How does God want me to change and grow?’ “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” - Luke 22.42 Do not just pray for the things that are important to you. Pray about what God says is important. For example, don’t only pray for someone to be healed or to find a job. Pray for that person’s heart too. Pray that the person will please God in his specific trial or circumstance. When you do this, you will learn what is important. You will teach yourself to have a desire for those things that God says are important.
10. Pray Intimately. Remember that you have a relationship with God. You aren’t putting in an order at McDonald’s. Pray that God will help you to get to know Him more. Thank Him for already revealing Himself to you. Remember that He communicates with you through the Word, and you communicate to Him through prayer. Enjoy your time with God!