I recently mined these gems on prayer from William Law’s, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life. You can find a free copy online here. He set forth some very practical helps when it comes to our times of prayer. Two in particular struck me that I’d like to share with you:
1. Use a form of prayer and deviate from it to follow the “fervours” of one’s heart.
Thus much, I believe, is certain, that the generality of Christians ought to use forms of prayer, at all the regular times of prayer. It seems right for every one to begin with a form of prayer; and if in the midst of his devotions, he finds his heart ready to break forth in to new and higher strains of devotion, he should leave his form for a while, and follow those fervours of his heart, till it again wants the assistance of his usual petitions.
This seems to be the true liberty of private devotion; it should be under the direction of some form; but not so ty’d down to it, but that it may be free to take such new expressions, as its present fervours happen to furnish it with; which sometimes are more affecting, and carry the soul more powerfully to God, than any expressions that were ever used before.
All people that have ever made any reflections upon what passes in their own hearts, must know that they are mighty changeable in regard to devotion. Sometimes our hearts are so awakened, have such strong apprehensions of the divine Presence, are so full of deep compunction for our sins, that we cannot confess them in any language, but that of tears.
2. Set aside a specific, sanctified area for prayer. While this may not be feasible, it is a practice worth giving thoughtful consideration.
To proceed; if you was to use yourself (as far as you can) to pray always in the same place; if you was to reserve that place for devotion, and not allow yourself to do any thing common in it; if you was never to be there yourself, but in times of devotion; if any little room, (or if that cannot be) if any particular part of a room was thus used, this kind of consecration of it, as a place holy unto God, would have an effect upon your mind, and dispose you to such tempers, as would very much assist your devotion. For by having a place thus sacred in your room, it would in some measure resemble a chapel, or house of God. This would dispose you to be always in the spirit of religion, when you was there; and fill you with wise and holy thoughts, when you was by yourself. Your own apartment would raise in your mind such sentiments, as you have, when you stand near an altar; and you would be afraid of thinking or doing anything that was foolish near that place, which is the place of prayer, and holy intercourse with God.
Any Christian who sincerely desires sweet and vibrant communion with God cries out in his heart “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Perhaps these recommnedations from an 18th century English divine may aid us in this pursuit.