Say that you want to pray. Say that you want to make prayer the center of your life rather than just an aid to it. Say that you want to take up prayer as an end in itself. Say that you understand prayer to be the formal practice of submitting your will to God’s. And say that you think prayer should be at least as much about listening as talking. How long should you pray?
With respect to duration, you have three choices when it comes to the formal practice of prayer: (1) you can pray for less than twenty minutes at a time, (2) you can pray for twenty minutes at a time, or (3) you can pray for more than twenty minutes a time.
More than twenty uninterrupted minutes per day is excellent and definitely do-able, but is probably not the best place to start.
Less than twenty minutes is fine – anything at all is good – but if you don’t pray for at least ten minutes or so, you’ll probably have a hard time settling down enough to actually listen.
As a place to start, I think twenty minutes is about right. It’s enough time to say a few things, let your pulse rate drop, and let your thoughts settle. It’s also just enough time to feel like you’re making a genuine effort to make prayer central to your life.
Try not to make your prayer content-driven. I previously recommended a 10-1 ratio of listening to talking. Do what you’d like, but I don’t think it’s wild to claim that what God has to say is at least as important as what you have to say.
God can talk to you in lots of ways – through the scriptures, through other people, etc. But he can also just plain talk to you. Don’t be afraid of this.
Try to give God at least half the time. It’s important to express your will (by talking), but it’s at least as important to submit your will (by listening).
Try to make this a daily practice. Be serious and don’t skip. It may only take a handful of days to begin to hear again that stillness in God’s famously still small voice.
God may say something specific or he may not. Either way, to hear your smallness echoed in his stillness is to hear his voice.
Don’t stop with just a couple days. That stillness is a bottomless ocean, a well of life, and there is a lot to see and hear.