20 Mar Spiritual Disciplines: Prayer
This is the first in a short series of blogs looking briefly at some of the spiritual disciplines that shape our Christian lives. The focus will be more practical than theological and I hope that some of what I share will prove helpful in stimulating increased devotion to Jesus and growth in your own life of faith.
If prayer doesn’t come easy for you, consider yourself normal, but don’t resign yourself to failure, rather recognise your need for help and God’s willingness and readiness to give that help, and don’t give up.
God’s word says ‘be devoted to prayer’, and ‘pray continually’, so we need to obey what God says, trusting that what He says is for our best. After all, prayer is a means of grace by which God has designed that we grow in our relationship with him and receive all that we need from Him. As the old illustration goes; ‘All of heavens resources are on the bottom shelf, you just have to go on your knees to get them.’
The writer to the Hebrews declares that because of Jesus we get to ‘… approach the throne of grace with confidence that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.’ (Hebrews 4:16). Why would we not want to lay hold of that privilege again and again and again, each and every day, remembering that God has not only called us to ask for spiritual blessings but for anything pertaining to our daily needs. Jesus taught us to pray, ’Give us this day our daily bread.’ Therefore, whatever needs we have God desires that we look to Him to meet them, and trust that He will indeed supply what is necessary. What an invitation!
So how do we persevere in prayer?
‘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.’ (Matt 6 v 6)
Prayer won’t happen by accident, the world, the flesh and the devil will see to it that we are distracted with a whole host of other things to do first, so that we never get to prayer. For this reason, we need to plan and persevere. The reality is that if you don’t have regular set times of prayer, you probably won’t pray much at all. In fact the more disciplined you are with set prayer the more likely you will be to enjoy a life of much spontaneous prayer as well.
Some practical ideas: Here are some ideas that might help you become more devoted and disciplined in prayer:
Routine is key: Try and find the same time each day to set aside for prayer, just start with weekdays if that’s more achievable, even if it’s only 5-10mins, do something. It might help to tie it to something that is already part of your routine (e.g. praying in the shower, praying on your commute to work or walk to school). In a few months your heart and habits will have changed for the better.
Pray the Bible: Pray Biblical prayers. Pray through the Lord’s Prayer, using each section as a focus to extend your praying. Scripture feeds and focuses our prayers, and helps us pray in line with the will and purposes of God. When my mind wants to wander or doesn’t know what to pray, walking through the Lords prayer in my mind is so helpful.
Use an alarm: Set an alarm on your phone or watch to prompt persistent prayer at regular times each day (e.g. At 10.02am each day one might pray Luke 10 v 2 “the harvest is plentiful the workers are few, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.’) Find a verse you want to pray regularly over your own life or over someone else’s life and set an alarm to remind you to do it.
Pray with others: Do you have a Christian brother or sister you could meet once a week or once a fortnight for the purpose of sharing and praying together. This doesn’t need to be anything more than a 30 minute appointment if you keep it focused and know why your meeting. Also make sure you access the corporate opportunities provided by the church for prayer, as these will help you set the time aside and focus.
Pray with your spouse and/or kids: Try and find a regular time to do this. For example, on a Sunday night, talk through diary for the week ahead with your spouse and then pray together. Or after your evening meal, go round the table and get each family member to pray a quick prayer.
Make a prayer list: Use a prayer diary or a prayer app to create lists to help you remember what to pray for each day. (Prayer Mate is a good one for praying through topics each day),
Give God your best: I start every working day with prayer, rather than rushing ahead with the work that needs doing. This is a way of intentionally demonstrating that my dependence is upon God and not in myself. You may not have much flexibility during your working day to pray in this way, but try and do something that demonstrates that you believe God can do more in 5 minutes of answered prayer then you could do in 5 hours of uninterrupted work.
Make some sacrifices: Replace something else you do regularly with prayer (E.g. a particular TV program). You don’t have to do this indefinitely, but perhaps make a commitment for a particular purpose, within a particular timeframe.
Go for a prayer walk: Perhaps a few times a week take a walk and pray as you go. Exercise and prayer is a great combination.
Remember, prayer is hard work, we’re in a spiritual battle, and prayer is our greatest weapon, so we need to know that the enemy will certainly do all he can to distract us and prevent us from praying. Therefore, we need all the help we can get, so do something. Don’t expect your prayer-life to grow and be rich and rewarding if you don’t make the effort to put things in place that aid prayer.
Remember, spiritual disciplines are not about us earning anything from God, but rather about us putting ourselves in a position to receive more from Him.
Post by: Martin Coleman