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.
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.