It’s Always Something, Isn't It?

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The day starts with the best of intentions. You tell yourself in the most convincing manner possible that today is the day. You will absolutely find the time. You will have the most amazing prayer time ever.

Then its off to the races.

Your feet hit the floor running.

There’s no looking back.

The day ends.

You have no idea why you failed.

Maybe you did put on the breaks, briefly.

You sat quietly.

Took several deep breathes.

30 seconds later you were either snoozing or task list checking.

What happened?

One word…distractions.

They are Satan’s answer to keeping us from God!

“How can I keep from being distracted?” is not a new question but many of the distractions today are new.

There are really only two types of distractions. When we figure out what works to control them, prayer can and will become a beautiful part of our relationship with God. First we will look at environmental distractions and then internal thoughts distractions.

It’s not headline news that we all have a lot of activities in our lives. Family, work, home, friends, church, volunteering, Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the list goes on and on. Although we do have commitments in many of these areas, the key is putting the commitment to God at the top of that list. Three specific steps will work to minimize the distractions around us for a productive prayer time:

Turn OFF all the screens:

This means actually turning them off and tuning them out. Yours and anyone near you. There is nothing that you can possibly be missing during your prayer time that’s more important then God.

Schedule a specific time and location:

Knowing when and where prayer time will be spent makes it a priority. Something come up? Just like any other important appointment reschedule.

Be intentional everyday:

Top priority tasks get done. Enough said!

These steps are half the challenge. Internal distractions are the next obstacle.

According to an article in Phycology Today about distractions in our mind, “It's not negotiable: there's no way not to be distracted by distractions.”

That’s encouraging!

The good news is it was reported in The Telegraph that a 2016 study concluded, “Intelligent people may find it difficult to focus the mind because of all the amazing ideas constantly running through their genius brains.”

That explains everything, right?

Bottom line is that everyone battles distractions. There are things we can do to control our thoughts and bring our focus to God. Each of us is unique. We each need to try various methods to find what works for us. Trying one or more of these suggested approaches may get you to that amazing prayer time.

Have a plan:

Consider using the ACTS approach - Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. You can read more on this approach  at billygraham.org/answer/how-does-one-pray-ive-never-been-taught-how-to-say-a-personal-prayer-or-really-talk-to-god/

Force focus:

Either write out your prayer or say your prayer out loud. These approaches force your mind to stay on task.

Prepare your mind: 

Try listening to or singing a favorite worship song, reading a prayer from book of Psalm, or reciting a prayer such as The Serenity Prayer.

Group prayer:

Consider soliciting others to pray with you. Share requests and take turns praying out loud.

 

These are just a few ideas. Try these and others. Most importantly don’t give up until you have found your prayer sweet spot.

Be committed, be intentional, and prayer will be amazing.

Why Should I Make Prayer a Priority?

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In Jeremiah 29, the prophet Jeremiah tells us that God has said to his people, “You will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.(Jeremiah 29:12-14a) 

This is one of many examples of God imploring us to seek relationship with him. Prayer is so important because it allows us to call upon the attentive ear of God, knowing that he will always be there to listen to our thoughts, concerns, and rejoice in our success!

If we think about prayer as being a tool for fostering healthy relationship with God, then it is natural that we would then want to pray everyday. This is similar to how we grow relationships with friends or a spouse through regular honest communication.

Prayer is powerful! When troubles arise, we are quick to offer our prayers to those in need, but we can do so much more when we are intentional about prayer. It is no small thing that we can call upon the name of God at any time. When we have a strong relationship with God supported through constant communication, it bears fruit when we go to him with incessant bold prayers.

What does making prayer a priority in my life look like?

Pray First!

We set aside time each day where we will pray for specific things, upcoming events, thanks for past blessings, forgiveness for past shortcomings, loved ones. We pray for guidance. We pray for peace. We pray that his will be done in all things and that our hearts could accept it. We must be bold in our prayers! For some people, this time will be in the morning, others in the afternoon, whenever we are most likely to follow through (maybe set a reminder the first few times).

We should also remember that we are beginners, and therefore should not set hard-line expectations that we are unlikely to meet (i.e. I must pray ___ long; If I forget I am a fool). In the same way that communications with our spouse will ebb and flow depending on the situation, time spent during this designated period should be determined by the content of our prayers and not the time we are trying to fit our prayers into.

Pray Throughout!

Paul tells the Thessalonians, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) This passage makes it clear that we should touch base with God through each day. One way of doing this is by means of quick rapid-fire prayers. Praying continuously keeps in our minds what we have already prayed for and keeps us focused on carrying out his will. Also, as we begin to look for them, we will find many things to be thankful for each day.

The point is, prayer is an important part of our relationship with God. If he is important to us, then prayer should be also.

Tools for a Successful Prayer Life

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As a church we are entering into a season of prayer. There is arguably nothing more central to the life of a Christian and to the life of a church than prayer.

In the Gospels, Jesus models prayer and emphasizes it with his disciples. He makes prayer a central part of his life. Not just when times were tough, but on a consistent and regular basis. I believe we will discover some of the reasons why it was so central to Jesus as we look at some of the resources we have for prayer. It is my hope that when you finish reading this you will walk away feeling empowered and confident that a meaningful and significant prayer life can be yours. So let me discuss a few resources from various authors (none of these ideas are original to me) that I’ve found helpful in my prayer life. Maybe they can help you too.

PLAN.

A fruitful and vibrant prayer life does not happen by accident. It will not just appear for you one day at random. Prayer must be accounted for in your daily schedule. There must be a time that is carved out and protected in your day for prayer. I know it sounds really simple but in reality it becomes very hard. It becomes a value issue. Since our time is limited, we only schedule those things that we value most. Scheduling an exclusive block of time for prayer in our day is showing God that we value him, that we are willing to spend what limited time we have talking to him. Too often in my own life, I drift away from prayer just because I haven’t done the work to schedule it. Normal life just takes over. You can fight that trend by scheduling a block of time for prayer. If you are newer in your relationship with Jesus, it’s okay to start small and schedule 15 or 20 minutes to talk with him. If you have been following Jesus for some time, perhaps you are ready for a more extended period of prayer. Whatever time you are able and willing to devote to prayer, SCHEDULE IT, or it won’t happen.

KEEP A PRAYER LIST.

As you spend time in prayer you will come to realize that there are limitless people, organizations, churches, and things you can and should pray for. Creating a prayer list is very practical way to remember some of those things that you want to pray for on a regular basis. You can list people, such as family members, church members and pastors, friends, co-workers, and that person (or people) who really annoy you or tick you off (because let’s face it, God put them in your life for a reason, so pray for them!). You can list some of the churches that you have been a part of in the past. You can list just about any organization that is doing the work making Jesus known.

Some people prefer to make a few categories for their lists. One such way to break up the categories is to make a more permanent list of people or things that won’t change. This list would include parents, spouses, family and people very close to you.

Then you could make a more temporary list that includes short range requests or concerns. These would include some significant life choices that are approaching, short range needs, or goals you are pursuing. By their temporary nature, they don’t make it on your permanent list. But here is a really important point that you shouldn’t miss.

Make sure you leave enough space next to or below the item to write down how God answers that prayer. There are few things that will build your faith better than looking upon the faithfulness of God in your own life and the lives of those whom you have prayed for over a long period of time. And PLEASE do not throw these lists away. Going over these lists with your grandchildren one day will be a testament and a legacy to pass on to them.

“Make sure you leave enough space next to or below the item to write down how God answers that prayer. There are few things that will build your faith better than looking upon the faithfulness of God in your own life and the lives of those whom you have prayed for over a long period of time."

ASK AND YOU WILL RECEIVE.

We have the tremendous privilege of being called children of God. As such, God passionately wants to hear from us. He lovingly and whole heartedly wants us to find satisfaction in him and him alone. He is most interested in being your Father and having a relationship with you.

If you are anything like me, you have a horrible tendency to talk to God a lot like a teenager talks to his father: I want…, I want…, I want…, I need…., I need. Rather than a burning desire to spend time with my Father and reconnect with him every day and seek his will for my life, I turn to him like my genie in a bottle who will grant me a couple of wishes if I ask nicely. God wants so much more than this from me.

Yes, God wants to answer your prayers and his promise to us is that when we ask, we will answer. But perhaps a helpful question to ask is, “What does God want me to pray for? What are the things that God is waiting to say ‘yes’ to in my life?” There is nothing wrong with asking God for things or for stuff.

But when I really spend time growing close to God, I begin to realize that what he wants to give me is so much more important that stuff or things. He wants to transform my heart and my life and he wants to transform the world through me. And that has very little to do with the size house that I live in, the car I drive, how full my bank account is, the clothing I wear, or the amount of devices connected to my home network. God wants to answer your prayers so make them worthy of his glory.

GET A PRAYER PARTNER.

Spending time alone in prayer is critical. However, finding another Christian or a small group of believers with whom you can get together regularly to pray can bring much growth and fruit to your prayer life.

If you are married, your spouse is probably the ideal partner. It will foster intimacy and growth in your marriage and with God. If you are married and you have a prayer partner besides your spouse, ensure that it is someone of the same sex/gender as you. Prayer leads to closeness and you must guard your marriage. But finding the right partner will give you a level accountability and someone to help you reflect on the question posed in the previous point (what does God want me to pray for?).

If you are a newer believer, try to seek out someone who is more mature in the faith than you. You will have the opportunity to pray with and learn from them. It is Christian discipleship at its best. If you are the more mature follower of Jesus, then seek out someone who might be able to learn from you. We are made to be in connection with other believers and prayer together as brothers and sisters in Christ with strength that connection. It is worth finding a reliable and trustworthy prayer partner.

These are just four of the many practical suggestions for prayer that I’ve encountered. These points came mostly from Praying with Paul by D.A. Carson but there are many more great books out there and I would encourage you to explore some of them.

But don’t let reading about prayer be a substitute for prayer!

Start praying, develop a disciplined prayer life and then begin to read and learn more to make it deeper.

The Power of a Humble Prayer

 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

(Matthew 6:5-6)

 

There’s a difference between praying for show and praying for real.

When someone prays for show, he is essentially holding a big glowing billboard, saying, “Look at me! Look at how holy I am.” God sees right through that. He knows that the person isn’t trying to talk to the Holy of Holies with pure intentions. Rather, he is being fake, serving his own self-interests. It has little, if anything, to do with God.

Jesus tells us that the person in that example has earned his reward. He has the people’s respect, he got what he came for, and, when all is said and done, he didn’t really care whether or not that prayer was pleasing to God.

This is not the type of prayer that Jesus encourages his followers to pray.

What Jesus is searching for is the humble prayer, whispered in the privacy of the person’s home. He’s looking for the prayers of those who are willing to depend on God, who are willing to put away their own self-interests in search of something bigger, stronger, and more valuable than the admiration of men.

He’s looking for the prayers that are real and honest and authentic.

Through those prayers, He can change the lives of His followers and then change the lives of the entire world. However, if the prayers are fake and superficial, the only change that will show itself will be the withered, rotten fruit that comes from dead religion.

Jesus has said that when you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. (Matthew 21:22) How amazing is that?! 

Today, find a private place, get down on your knees, and pray to the Lord who created the Universe. Your prayer doesn’t have to be fancy or long. It just has to be sincere. Show that you are humble enough to depend on God, and open yourself up to being changed by who He is. You will be amazed at the results.

 

What is Prayer?

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The best way to establish, develop, and maintain any relationship is through conversation. Relationships must be centered on trust. It is upon trust that intimacy is built. How do we establish trust and build intimacy? Through conversation. 

Prayer is conversation with God. Through conversation we build a relationship with him.

If, upon meeting someone for the first time, the conversation ended after an exchanged “hello”, the relationship would not go beyond the introductory level. A relationship can’t continue to grow without extended conversation. The conversation needs to eventually move from the basics of getting to know each other, to sharing thoughts and feelings on a personal and emotional level. That’s the level of intimacy we can have with God the Father.

 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. (Psalm 139:1-2)

He already knows the thoughts and feelings of our innermost places, but when we willingly share those with him in prayer, an intimate bond with him develops in our own hearts.

Another failed technique in relationship building is to dominate the conversation. It’s hard to be friends with a person who only talks about themselves – THEIR problems, THEIR successes, THEIR families, THEIR jobs, THEIR drama. God is so much more tolerant of the kind of conversation than a human friend would be. The thing is, WE are missing so many benefits of having a relationship with the Lord when we don’t stop to listen to what he has to say to us!

These handy acronyms offer a couple of ways to guide our conversation with God:

From Bible study leader, Priscilla Shirer:

P – Praise God for who he is and what he’s done.

R – Repent for any areas of your life where you’re resisting what God wants to do in you.

A – Ask for God’s help and guidance in your life or the lives of others.

Y – Yes! Confirm God’s truth and promises to you by praying His own words from Scripture.

Or similar to PRAY, practice ACTS:

A – Adoration

C – Confession

T – Thanksgiving

S – Supplication (Praying for the needs of others and yourself)

Get to know your Lord and Savior. Reading your Bible and prayer (conversation) are the best ways to grow in your relationship with him. He longs for you to willingly share every part of your life experience with him. We can do that through prayer.

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