308 – Dallas Willard’s 3 Steps to Change Your Prayer Life

This Week on Soul Talks

Prayer makes it possible for us to live like Christ. Through prayer, we can shine the light of the risen Jesus — a warmth that we and those around us so desperately need!

In this episode of Soul Talks, Bill and Kristi unpack 3 of Dallas Willard’s paradigm-shifting insights on prayer. Listen in to learn how you can integrate prayer into every aspect of your life  and experience the great things God does in and through you when you pray!

Resources for this episode: 

3 Steps to Change Your Prayer Life Transcript

Bill & Kristi Gaultiere



Whatever your circle of influence is, Jesus says you are the light of the world. 

And so there is a God-warmth and God-colors coming from your life. 

And the people around you; in your home, your Instagram page, your circle of influence, the people that you work with, the people you talk with, they need that light. 

They need that warmth of God. 

They need those colors in their life. 

They need the shining that comes through our life of prayer. 

Today we want to talk about some of Dallas Willard’s teachings on prayer. 

We always get such great feedback when we do podcasts and blogs on things we’ve learned from our mentor, Dallas Willard. 

So, we thought we would talk some more about what we’ve learned from Dallas.


Yeah. There’s so much we are excited to talk about. 

Even as you were just talking about shining in the Kingdom and shining for Christ when we were in San Diego, I was remembering Dallas saying that in this life we’re told in 2 Corinthians 4:17 to be happy in these momentary afflictions.

Because they’re achieving a far greater glory. 

And when we try to deal with them on our own, it’s very hard to be happy about them. 

But if we take this attitude of trust in Jesus, our father in prayer, then Dallas says that we can say, “No, this is wonderful. We get to see what God is going to do!” 

And we realize that one of the things that God is doing is getting us ready to shine like the sun in the kingdom of our father. 


That’s one of the things we talked about on Sunday because it comes out of our book, Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke. 

The “Easy-Yoke-Triangle.”

One of the three things that are important for us to do, to grow spiritually, is to accept our trials and define God in those trials— to seek empathy from the Lord and from people in those trials so that we can learn. 

In the Apprentice Prayer, we pray, “My life is your school of discipleship for teaching me.” 

And that’s really the point that James and Paul make in the scriptures when they tell us to rejoice in our trials, because, Hey, there’s an opportunity here for God to show up. 

If we’re looking to the Lord, if we’re praying, if we’re listening to God, if we’re joining in God’s activity, God can do great things, even in hardships, stresses and injustices.

So Dallas Willard on prayer, three great points that he brings out, that we’re unpacking:

  1. Prayer is asking.

That’s the first point. 

It’s emphasizing the power of humility—the power of being submitted to the Lord and his kingdom. 

  1. Prayer is not just a prayer life, it’s a praying life.

It’s learning to practice God’s presence. 

  1. Prayer is a power-sharing device. 

One of Dallas’ ideas for a praying life is: We need courage for power, and to be safe, we need character.


These points and teachings from Dallas on prayer have been so helpful to me and my prayer life.

Prayer is Active Communication


It’s taken prayer from me, which was a temptation to do something that was probably selfish or that was very limited or that sometimes felt like a duty.

Or that sometimes I avoided because I lost faith in and felt like, well, it just doesn’t really work

I got discouraged, and tempted to not pray. 

Sometimes I even just got confused about it. 

“Well, how important is it anyway?” 

“God’s sovereign, why does he need me to pray?” 

I had all kinds of confusion and I had had teaching on prayer, but like Dallas teaches, sometimes familiarity breeds contempt. 

I’d kind of taken that for granted. I’d gotten bored and over-familiar with it. 

So having some new, different perspectives and teachings on prayer reignited my prayer life.


That’s what we need, that warming, that reigniting from the presence of God. 

I think that I wanted to think of prayer more like meditation or contemplation. 

So when Dallas is teaching “prayer is asking,” when I first heard him say that and read that in The Divine Conspiracy, I was just kind of like, “Yawn.”

Or, “Gee, this is so basic. Is this really so important?” 

“Is this really what prayer is?” 

But the more I thought about it, and this is often the kind of response I’ve had with Dallas’ teachings, I thought, “You know, that’s actually brilliant. Because that humbles me.” 

It just gets down to the reality that prayer isn’t needing God to provide me with things to make me happy.

This means there are many challenges I face in my life and in my work on a daily basis.

And I need to ask God for not only what I want, but also what other people might need and what I sense might be best. 

And then to work on that with the Lord.

This is a C.S. Lewis teaching here, he says, “There are two modes of causality in life: prayer and work.”

In many ways this goes back to the Benedictine tradition where they’re always integrating work and prayer in the daily rhythm of life. 

There’s work to do: Preparing meals, taking care of the monastery grounds, teaching in a school for students, and many different types of work that we might do in the community, Monks and all of us. 

That’s one mode of causality. 

Prayer is Being in God’s Presence


But the other is prayer:

Talking with God. 

Worshiping God. 

Drawing on the scriptures to ask God for the things that we need. 

And so prayer and work integrate when we are learning to do them together in practicing God’s presence.


Our work also becomes very catalytic because it’s empowered by God. 

As we have prayed and asked, and as we’ve been listening and received guidance, direction, power, and wisdom from God. 

We’re actually doing our work with him instead of on our own. 

Normally, we can feel like, “Okay, I prayed. Now I just go do my work and depend on myself.”

Prayer is integrating that. 

I think as humans, we find the “all-or-nothings.” 

Sometimes we divide things into categories. 

We tend to slip into that.


Yeah. We start compartmentalizing our life—Segmenting things, separating things. 

We get fragmented. 

So the big task in the spiritual life is integrating everything in Christ. 

Everything being integrated through a praying life where we’re increasingly tuned in to God’s presence. 

Responding to God’s words, God’s action. 

We are so prone to seek a “prayer life,” Dallas says.

We sort of go off and do our devotion, or we would go to church and that’s like the spiritual part of our life or that’s our prayer time. 

Then we go off to live the rest of our life on our own. 

And the whole point of devotions and spiritual disciplines is this integrated life where we’re doing all that we do for God’s glory. 

And the way we do that is by doing it with God in the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Part of Being Childlike is Asking


I appreciate also what you said about asking, being humble. Children ask a lot of questions. 

They’re asking all the time.

But as we get to be adults, we find that we don’t like to ask. 

In fact, we even become embarrassed to ask. 

And so I think that’s true, that it is humbling for us. 

And yet it’s a beautiful thing as a parent, even as a grandparent, I love it when my kids ask.

I feel honored when they ask and surely God feels that with us. 

Asking is coming towards somebody relationally, when you ask something of them. 

I think the other thing is when we ask the Lord, we’re opening up. 

We’re being honest and we’re being vulnerable and we’re trusting. 

There’s a trust there, in asking. 

Some of us don’t ask because we’re afraid of the “no.” 

We don’t want the boundary.

We don’t want the “no.” 

We are afraid that what we’re asking for isn’t something God would want for us. 

And so in asking, we have to trust that God loves us and he cares. 

He wants to know, and he’s for us. 

If he says “no,” it’s for our good. 

We’re sitting here by our podcast equipment and I’m remembering Juliet being here last week. 

The whole time she’s here, she’s asking for things. 

And usually I’m indulging her because I’m giving her whatever she asks and interacting with her about it. 

Enjoying her enjoyment and her ask of it. 

I’m excited when she asks for ice cream. 

I know she wants your plain yogurt, she just delights in it and loves it so much. 


And she thinks that’s ice cream. 


And then we’re up here by the podcast equipment and I see her going over and she wants to play with the knobs. 

I don’t want her to mess up our settings, because then our noise is gonna be off for recording.

That was an example where I had to say no to her. 

And I don’t like saying no to her, but out of love for you and I and our listeners and others, I had to set a boundary there.

I had to not give her what she was asking for there, which was the ability to play with all of the podcast buttons and controls.

So I think that’s an example though, even though she didn’t stop asking because I said no.

She went on to the next thing and asked to use my computer keyboard.

And I could let her do that. 

I was able to turn my computer off and no harm was done. 

Now, she wouldn’t necessarily understand the difference: 

Why could she play with the computer keyboard, but not the podcast equipment? 

But, she’s trusting me and she’s still continuing to ask.

It would be so sad for me if she stopped asking because I said no to the podcast equipment. 

And she didn’t ask for anything else and just went away from me.

Asking is Engaging In Relationship


So her asking of you is engaging you in relationship. 

That’s the principle in our spiritual life that prayer is asking of God. 

And it’s not only asking for things that we want or things that we need or for other people. 

But it’s also asking questions of God.

It’s asking for God’s guidance in our work, in our ministry. 

And so that’s where prayer is a conversation. 

Dallas liked to say that prayer is talking with God about what we’re doing together. It’s an interactive, ongoing relation.


It is. And I think God even is fine with us asking for some things that he knows wouldn’t be good for us, that he needs to say no to, just because that’s part of the relationship too. 

He’s still with us in that asking.

We’re still revealing something to him of longing or a desire. 


He wants to hear about our heart’s desires. 

He cares about us and he’s drawing us along in relationship. 

So prayer is a process.

It’s a journey and what’s so critical about that is that we ask God for the things that we need, the things that we hope for, and the questions that we have. 

And then we bring this into our daily life. 

So this is where Dallas would say, “Don’t just seek a prayer life, seek a praying life.”

John Wesley called it a “continuing instant in prayer.” 

Just keep praying.

Whenever you’re going into a new situation, a new meeting, a new project, a new conversation with somebody—any activity—we pray. 

We do that with the Lord. We talk to God about it.

A Praying Life Looks Different for Everyone


Sometimes we get overly heroic with our goals in prayer. 

I love the story that Dallas talks about where he was talking to a pastor who had heard stories of great leaders who pray for hours, you know, four hours in the morning before the start of their day. 

And so this pastor wanted to do that and follow John Wesley’s example. 

He got up at four in the morning and tried to pray for two or three hours. 

And then he said, “But he found he could sleep better in bed,” and I relate to that. 

In fact, I pray better in bed too. 

It was interesting because Dallas says he hadn’t had the thought that John Wesley didn’t sit up and watch the 11 o’clock news. 

Dallas talked about how in Wesley’s day and age, he went to bed with the chickens and woke with the chickens. 

Because he didn’t have anything else to do, he didn’t have the light switch to switch on. 

It was a different world then. 

And so the way that we would live a praying life might look a little different than the way that John Wesley led a praying life. 

And the important thing is that we figure out how to integrate prayer into our life. Not that we think it has to be a certain way because it’s not gonna be sustainable for us. If we’re trying to do it in the way that somebody else is doing it. 

And we’re looking at it as the ideal standard.

Avoiding Works-Orientated Righteousness


We just have to be careful that we don’t turn the disciplines, in times of prayer, into works-oriented righteousness. 

Whether we’re praying for four hours like John Wesley was called to do, or we are praying for 15 minutes, or 5 minutes.

The point is bringing those prayers in this posture of humility and dependence on the Lord. 

And bringing these prayers into all that we’re doing so that even our action, our work, our relating becomes expressions of prayer. 

We’re doing it in God’s presence. We’re trusting in God’s work.


I love the way Dallas says it here. He says, “The way you get to the point of doing everything in His name is to bring Him in on everything.” 

I mean, in a way it seems so obvious and yet it’s actually pretty profound.


Colossians 3:17 says “Whatever you do, do it all in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Learning habits that help us jog our minds and awaken us to the reality that, “Hey, I’m in the kingdom of God right now.”

“This doesn’t just depend upon me and my muscle and my brains, but the Holy Spirit is here at work.” 

And, “Lord, I need your help with this.”

It’s not necessarily some mystical thing. 

It’s just the offering of our heart in service to the Lord.

Learn Jesus’ Prayer


It’s not even just citing some rote words. 

Sometimes some of us can take Jesus’ prayer, when the disciples asked him, “Teach us to pray,” and he gives these words, as if we just say this prayer and then we’re done. 

But I love the way Dallas unpacks that, when we say our Father who art in heaven, where’s the heaven?

It’s not far off and way later. It’s right here, near us. 

We’re in the heavens right now. 

We’re praying to God here with us in our life, in our circumstances.

And then, “hallowed be your name.” 

Well, what is hallowed? 

A lot of us get confused about that. It’s the beginning of the word Halloween. Well, no, Dallas unpacks it: It’s treasuring God. 

Oh, as I treasure God, I’m praying.


Treasuring God is something that we do in specific moments in time, hopefully with some being smitten with Jesus and expressions of affection for God, the father. 

As Dallas says, “We want a life that is shot through with prayer.” 

We want this sense of all that we’re doing, we’re doing in Jesus’ name.

If You Don’t Believe God Answers Prayer, You Won’t Pray


One of the things that I appreciated so much about Dallas is he would often articulate our unconscious questions that were problems for us. 

So he did that on the subject of prayer when he said that we have to understand, with prayer, that it’s important for us to ask. 

And he said, “Why should there be a universe in which intelligent human beings have to go around and ask for things? Why doesn’t God just jump in on them?”

“Do you really think that after you pray, God will do something he wasn’t going to do?”

And Dallas says that you have to be open to that. Call it whatever you want, if you don’t believe God answers prayer, then you won’t pray. 

And that’s why most people don’t pray. They can’t make sense out of their arrangement.


There are stories in the Bible where God changes his mind. 

That shakes some people up because in their theology, God is omniscient, omnipotent, he wouldn’t change his mind. 

He’s the Sovereign Lord. 

And one of these mysteries, I believe, is that God doesn’t always choose to access his omniscience.

And there are times it seems, according to the scriptures, where he has one idea about something and based on the way that people respond, he decides on another way. 

And that’s the way relationships work in personal relationships. 

In this spiritual world, there is this interaction. 

God has made us as free moral agents, where we have choices about things and our choices matter. 

This is an important part of prayer and believing that God hears us and God responds to our requests and responds to our prayers. 

And even angels are on the move—on the march, as it relates to our prayers. 

God’s even inspiring those prayers. 

This is so important.

God Shares His Power Through Prayer


It’s confusing to us though, because I think in our concrete thinking, we have trouble integrating God is all powerful. And yet prayer is a power sharing device. 

That’s even kind of a scary thing sometimes to think about, that God would share his power with us.


And this is one of Dallas’ great points. A very ”Dallas Willard-like” terminology here. 

Prayer is a power sharing device. 

What Dallas says there is that, through the process of persistent prayer and putting our faith in the Lord, having courage to step out and do things with the Lord— all these things we’re talking about— that God makes his power safe for us. 

And if we think we want God’s strength and power, we might not realize that, actually, if God just gave it all to us, it wouldn’t be safe. 

I mean, God is more powerful than the sun. 

God has to shield us from the fullness of his glory or the total magnitude of his power, and help us take refuge under his wing, so to speak.

To give us the sufficient power for a particular situation that we can handle. 

And then Dallas says, “Well, the way we learn to handle God’s power safely is as we develop the character of Christ.” 

That’s where Dallas gave us this great prayer that he’s personally prayed for me. 

We’ve prayed this countless times over the years. 

It’s a bold prayer that really puts us on our knees. 

It stops some of our ambitions and maybe over-eagerness for things that we want— Even good things, like growth in our work, in our ministry. 

But the prayer is: Lord, please don’t grant me more power than my character can handle. 

We all think we want power, but power can really cause problems for us.

Character and Prayer Work Together


We need the character of humility, of love for other people, of patience and wisdom and many different virtues that need to be worked into our life so that we’re more like Jesus. 

And power might take the form of success or it might take the form of notoriety. 

Maybe we just need to pause and say, “Do I really want all of that?” 

…or wealth is another source of power:

Do I know what to do with it if I could have that?

God in his great love and wisdom wants to be careful with us. 

We join in with that when we say, “Well, you know, Lord. Yeah, actually, most of all I want you to develop my character and as you see that it’s safe to empower me, then yes. Bring that on.”

So hopefully these thoughts on prayer are helpful to you as we look at Dallas Willard and all that he has taught us about prayer. 

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