Prayer is an elusive topic because we all pray—but the difference between good prayer and bad prayer is as great as the difference between shouting at the ref in a baseball game and having a conversation with friends. It’s the difference between throwing out concerns to God in our moments of frustration and letting Him challenge and grow our hearts. We need to dedicate and spend time specifically in prayer. Dr. Jerry Falwell made a discipline to spend HOURS at a time in prayer as a college student.
You should listen to his story here: Jerry Falwell on Prayer
Many pastors do the same today—most notably pastors starting churches in India that we work with spend hours in prayer, hoping to know God better and see Him work powerfully in places where people have no access to the Bible. Knowing God’s mind and truly bearing your heart to Him requires time—especially when you are learning how to do it well for the first time.
The Heart of Prayer: Prayer is not about speeding God up, but about learning to be patient and live according to the timing of God. The men of the Bible were often men of swift and decisive action…but they were forced to wait. Abraham and Isaac waited years for their children to be born. 100 for Abraham, 20 after his marriage for Isaac. Prayer taught them to rely on God’s timing and wisdom. Prayer teaches us to let God be in control of the timing of events. If we keep trying to move God with our prayers, we will be frustrated. We need to let God move us as we pray.
Don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”
~ Luke 18:7-8
But those who trust in the lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint. ~ Isaiah 40:31
Practical Application: Here are a few tips, and a couple of assignments for using prayer in ways you have not done it before. If you want more to learn and grow from on this subject, look back at Chris’ sermon on prayer called “Stalking Jesus.”
ACTS: Try praying through this acronym each time you are taking time to talk with God.
A – Adoration – reflect upon how awesome God is, in creation, in His character, and in His work in your life and the lives around you.
C – Confession – Come clean before God. Evaluate your life since you last had a good conversation with Him. Take joy in the good moments, and apologize for the bad ones. God sees everything, but conversation flows much more easily when we stand just as we are before him. Patrick Lencioni says it this way: “can you stand before God naked?” You should be able to.
T – Thanksgiving – Thank God for what He’s done and who He is. Spend a moment in appreciation for your life. Contentment is a powerful factor in life, spend some time appreciating your present situation.
S – Supply – Ask God for the things you need, and the things others need.
Pray for others: Take time to pray for others in a clear, focused manner. Make a list or a picture wall. Stop with each person in mind and ask for more than what they would request…ask for God to help you in praying for what they really need.
Pray with others: make it a daily routine to pray with your spouse and with your kids. You’ll be amazed at how hard it is to be selfish and demanding when every day the two of you humble yourselves and pray together. You’ll gain a greater focus, and the blessing of God on your efforts to be a good spouse and parent.
When someone shares a prayer request with you, don’t simply talk about praying for them, rather go ahead and take their hand or rest your hand on their shoulder and pray for them in that moment. Even when it’s not a prayer request–whether or not the person is even a Christian, you’ll almost always find a person willing and grateful that you have taken the time to pray other them–and often God honors that by giving the person a sense of peace in the very moment that they need it.
Set Specific Times to Pray: Too often we fail to pray because we fail to plan. As you grow, your list of things to pray for will grow and you’ll need to split up when and how you pray for things. You simply can’t go through them all in one sitting. Pray for specific things during your quiet time. Pray for others at other breaks in the day. Many people today turn off the radio and pray in the car. I have stopped at a park between work and home and prayed there on occasion. It helped settle my mind and refocused me on being the man God had called me to be before I entered the house and my workplace.
Stay Focused When You Pray: It’s so easy to get distracted when you pray. You haven’t been a Christ follower who prays often if you haven’t fallen asleep at least once trying to pray…it tends to happen to all of us. Jews have adopted the habit of rocking back and forth when they pray in order to keep from getting distracted when praying. It looks funny to us, but it serves an important purpose. I suggest finding ways to help you stay focused when you pray. Keep your eyes open, even make a picture wall of people to pray for if that helps. Remember, we close our eyes to focus when we pray in groups–there’s nothing that commands us to close our eyes when we pray. You can also pray on your knees…the posture allows you to focus, and it helps keep you humble in your communication. I would also encourage you to write out your prayers, especially when you are tired. Writing can help you collect your thoughts as well as giving you a way to review your prayers in the future.
- Pray with two other people this week, not including your group members.
- Make a list, picture wall, or other aid to help you pray.
Questions to Answer:
- What am I praying for, for myself?
- Who am I prayer for besides me? What am I asking God to do in their lives?
Recommended Resource: Book and/or small group Study: