Prayer is simultaneously simple and profound, speaking with a dear friend and coming before the Holy creator of the universe. We have in the Bible the Lord's prayer, the Lord praying for us (John 17) and a great variety of ways in which people have spoken to God, in praise and petition. We're commanded to pray without ceasing, but also encouraged not to babble on in vain repetition. Prayer is the lifeblood of our relationship with God.
In considering spiritual disciplines, bible reading and prayer are always at the top of the list, as they are both the most commonly practiced as well as key agents of transformation for both mind and heart . Of course, it would be pretty poor if either of these were merely treated as a discipline, something we had to do. Dallas Willard in "The Spirit of the Disciplines" comments "Prayer is conversing, communicating with God. When we pray we talk to God, aloud or within our thoughts... It would of course be a rather low-voltage spiritual life in which prayer was chiefly undertaken as a discipline, rather than as a way of co-laboring with God to accomplish good things and advance His Kingdom purposes."
Several forms of prayer are practiced as spiritual disciplines. Adele Calhoun describes 14 in her "Spiritual Disciplines Handbook," including: breath prayer, centering prayer, contemplative prayer, conversational prayer, fasting, fixed-hour prayer, inner-healing prayer, intercessory prayer, labyrinth prayer, liturgical prayer, prayer partners, praying Scripture, prayer of Recollection and prayer walking.
I can't even scratch the surface of the subject, but here I just wanted to share one of the earliest ideas I learned about a balanced and disciplined prayer life, the simple acronym - "ACTS". When we pray, there should be the following elements (whether one after the other, or spread out over time) -
Adoration - to worship and praise God, simply for who He is
Confession - honestly confess our wrongdoings and seek forgiveness
Thanksgiving - be grateful for what God has done, even in rough times
Supplication - personal petition and intercessory prayer for others, asking for help
We're encouraged to turn to God to supply all our needs, and to come to Him to ask for his provision, but if they only time we ever talk to God is when we want something, that's not good.
I find myself still today using 'ACTS'. In fact, can I share a part of my routine that may sound silly? In the morning I'm a slow riser - it's not my best time. I hit the snooze button at least 4-5 times. But these days instead of rolling over or worrying about what I have to do that day, I pray through ACTS. One per snooze alarm hit. When I finally drag myself out of bed to face the day, I've been praising and worshiping Him, have confessed any sins from the previous day, and have lifted up several people in prayer. Don't worry, it's not the only way I pray - He gets some quality time when I'm awake too, but for me, this is a great way to start the day :)