Back to the Basics: Prayer

So do you have your coffee, tea, or cocoa? Ready to chat? We as women love to talk. We are relational. We thrive on deep communication, being known. With that in mind, let’s jump right in!

Prayer is one of the most important things in the Christian walk. Prayer coupled with the Word of God forms our conversation with the Lord. Communication. He speaks to us through His word; we speak back to Him through prayer. Then we listen…. I personally like to listen with a pen and journal. That way when He impresses something on my heart I can write it down, contemplate it, pray more about it, and obey when He calls for action.

Would you agree that prayer is very important in the Christian walk? Most Christians will agree with that, I believe. Then why do we treat it so casually? Why do we not pray frequently, boldly, and confidently to our Father who loves us? And if we pray intentionally and frequently, daily even, in our quiet time at least, why do our prayers often end up sounding like a child’s Christmas wish list to Santa? Why do few Christians practice walking in the “praying without ceasing” mindset we are instructed to in 1 Thessalonians 5:17? Why do we not have the “peace that passes understanding” that we are promised in Philippians 4:7 after we pray? Why do we pray and then find ourselves surprised when something miraculous happens in answer to our prayers? Please hear my heart here, I’m not asking in an accusing way! I’m asking myself why I do these things too?

A photo by Ben White. unsplash.com/photos/BtNxJsFOjtQI believe prayer is one of the simplest yet most profound and powerful parts of our life with Christ. It is beyond our understanding in many ways. Prayer is so simple that a little child can do it, yet so powerful and profound that it intimidates lawyers and doctors. It can be sporadic or a disciplined pursuit. Prayer is earthly words spoken that are then acted on by all the power of our Omnipotent Creator. It is at the same time practical and mystical, in that it is a practical action we are instructed to do by scripture, yet it has spiritual ramifications that are beyond our comprehension. Prayer sets in action the spiritual forces in the heavenly realms and is eternal. When we pray a prayer it is never lost floating around in space. Revelation 5:8 tells us “And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people” and they are there in heaven eternally before the Father.

Whole books have been written on prayer. So of course I cannot touch on every facet of prayer in one short blog post. I will mention a few resources I love at the end of this post. So for the rest of the article I will focus on carrying through with prayer in your daily life. I’ll offer some ideas for being intentional and organized in prayer.

Tips for a flourishing prayer life:

1. Make prayer and Bible study a priority.

If prayer coupled with Bible study is a conversation with God, then we need to make it a daily activity, and many times a day. We women would not be pleased if our husband, boyfriend, or best friend, only had a conversation with us on Sunday! So why would we think a relationship with God can be sustained without intimate conversation on a regular basis? God speaks through His Word, and we respond to Him through prayer – that’s the conversation. I love the Navigator’s “Wheel” illustration. It refers to prayer and the Word as the vertical spokes of a wheel – us reaching up to God and Him speaking to us. (I’ll include it at the bottom of this article, and we’ll discuss the 2 horizontal spokes of the wheel in other articles.)  And without these spokes our wheel of life becomes a flat tire to drive on.

2.Start the day off with prayer.

Make it a habit to go to God first thing in the morning. Start your day talking with Him. Set the clock for 15 minutes earlier than you would normally rise, then gradually increase the time you spend. It’s worth every moment.

3.Pray scripture.

One of the most powerful ways to pray is to speak God’s words back to Him. There is power in the Word of God! As Isaiah 55:10-11 says, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Just personalize verses that speak to the issue you are praying over.

Example. Praying scripture using Hebrews 12:1-3 might go something like this:“Lord, As I’m facing tough times ahead and since I’m surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, help me throw off everything that hinders me and the sin that so easily entangles me. And let me run with perseverance the race marked out for me, fixing my eyes on you, Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of my faith. For the joy set before you, you endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Father God, remind me to consider Jesus who endured such opposition from sinners, so that I won’t grow weary and lose heart. In my struggle against sin, I have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood as Jesus did! Amen.”

4.Have a plan for your personal prayer time. 

Don’t just give your wish list to God every time you meet (supplication). Spend time in praise, adoration, thanksgiving as well as confessing sins, interceding for others, and listening to Him. I’ve seen the acrostic ACTS – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. It reminds us to do more than just ask, ask, ask. In reality, my prayers are very much like a human conversation with a rich flow of comments & questions, speaking & listening, ideas, and appreciation all mixed together.

5.Write out your prayers.

One thing I’ve found very helpful is to write out my prayers. It gives me a glimpse of my motives and what I’m really saying. I use my simple lined journal and write stream-of-consciousness style as my thoughts flow. Many times I will be drawn to my knees when I see my prideful, selfish attitude on paper. And equally as many times I find the resolution to my situation spilling out of my pen as I write. I often write out verses in my prayers and even find myself moved by God in a new direction. It’s shockingly revealing. My prayer journal has taken many forms over the years. My recommendation to you is to Start Journaling! Start with whatever you have. If you aren’t satisfied, research so you can refine or change your format. Check out this article on ideas for a prayer journal.

*********************************

Here are a few other important things to consider about your prayer life:

A. Pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17) All day, every day keep the conversation open with Him as you go about you daily life. You’ll love it and be surprised at the things the Lord has you pray and do as you go about your job or daily errands.

B. Pray for others on the spot when they ask for prayer.This is a form of interceding. Dictionary.com defines interceding as – to act or interpose in behalf of someone in difficulty or trouble, as by pleading or petition. But basically interceding is a big word that means praying for others (or yourself). You plead their case to God and ask Him to act on their behalf. And here I am challenging you to do it out loud, in the moment, in their presence! I can see your reaction in my mind. You’re sitting there like, “Oh that makes me really uncomfortable. Won’t it be awkward?” It’s worth it!

So why pray for someone right there on the spot in the church hallway, in the aisle at Wal-Mart, or sitting in the bleachers at the ball park? Three great reasons to pray aloud, on the spot with a person:

1) You won’t forget to pray for them. You are doing it right then. And guess what. When you’ve done it once you’re more apt to remember to pray for them again later when they’re not around.
2) There is power in the spoken word. Having someone pray aloud for you touches the heart. It brings peace, comfort and hope. It lets the person being prayed for know that you actually prayed (and didn’t just say that) and what scriptural promises you prayed over them. 

3) Your personal prayer life will ramp up when you are unafraid to risk or to be awkward or to be vulnerable enough to pray with them in public.

C. Be a part of a prayer group with like-minded people. I’m part of a prayer group for moms of teens and young adults. We come together knowing we are loved and never judged, and that we’re prayed for in our darkest moments. We text each other during the week when a crisis or a praise comes! We cry or celebrate together. I call us Stretcher-Bearers because we are like the lame man whose friends had to carry Him to Jesus; sometimes we are broken moms, and the hurts are so difficult we can’t even get the words out to pray for ourselves and our situation, but our stretcher-bearers take us to the throne. We have prayed each other through major ups and downs.

So find you a group. Start a group. I guarantee someone else is wishing someone would. Your prayer group could focus on praying for: spouses, children, schools, grandchildren, missionaries on the field, the team, the band, the workplace, the pastor… whatever your need is.

D. Remember, the Holy Spirit prays for us when we don’t know what to pray. Romans 8:26 tells us, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” So don’t let not knowing what to say stop you from praying!

E. An Emergency prayer: “Help me, Jesus!” God knows. You don’t have to explain. When those moments come just shout out His name.

Remember James 5:16 (NIV) “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

****************************

The Navigator’s Wheel Illustration

wheel

Resources on prayer:

“Be Devoted to Prayer” a wonderful article by John Piper

Lord, Teach Me to Pray – Kay Arthur  Kay’s Arthur’s website

Prayer Portions – Sylvia Gunter

Sylvia’s website has devotionals, a blog, and a place to order the book.

The Power of a Praying Parent – Stormie O’Martian  She also has resources on praying for your spouse, grandchildren, adult child, etc. Stormie’s website.

Back to Basics: Keeping a Prayer Journal.

My prayer journal has taken many forms over the years. My recommendation to you is to Start Journaling! Start with whatever you have. If you aren’t satisfied, research so you can refine or change your format. Here are some ideas on different types of journals, how to set them up, and tips to think about.

1. Write out your prayers. Most often my prayer journaling consists of writing out my prayers. I write basically a “Dear God” letter in my daily notebook – a simple, lined journal from Walmart or Books-a-Million. This is the same notebook I use for sermon notes, ideas, quotes, diary-type daily writings, etc. I used to keep a separate journal just for prayers (and that may be the option you like best), but I slowly realized that although I like to organize and separate things into boxes, the different areas of my life blend together and I am more satisfied having it all in one book. That way if God used a sermon to pierce my heart, the next quiet moment I had, I could spill out my prayerful response and these things would be together in one place.

2. Keep a prayer list journal. If you don’t just love to write like I do, consider doing a journal in which you keep an ongoing list of prayer requests and answers. Having a dedicated notebook, or a specific section of a notebook, just for list would work best. In this journal I do less essay praying and more just-the-facts request lists. Just write down the people and needs that you are praying for. Always date your entries, requests and answers. You may want to number or bullet the list. Leave room to write the answer when it comes. You may want to consider writing requests on the left-hand side of the book and leaving the right-hand page blank to jot answers to these prayers as they come. Sometimes answers are shockingly immediate! You realize God was already working out the answer before you prayed your prayer. Other requests will be on your list for 30 years before you see an answer, if you even do in your lifetime. (You may want to check out Etsy or Amazon for a specifically designed Prayer Journal if you have the money.)

3. Use a 3-ring binder with dividers. This is a very organized method using a binder, dividers, and theme paper. It is great for a scheduled 7-days-a-week in-depth prayer list. Set up categories to pray for. Label each tab of your binder with one category or a day of the week. Categories I’ve used for the week:

Church – Sunday

Family & Like Family – Monday

Friends & Intercession – Tuesday

 Government – Wednesday

The World – Thursday

Missions/Missionaries – Friday

Praise – Saturday

At other times I have added, Community, Schools, Prayer Group (when I was part of a large prayer group that involved praying for a couple of dozen people), Healing, Salvations, and Church Leaders. This binder idea works well if you have lots of things you’re praying for and limited time. You can pray for a different section of your notebook each day of the week. The idea is to try to use only 7 groups or else have more than 1 topic to pray for under each day of the week.

4. Use an index card box. Another great idea is to use 3×5 cards and a small card box or even blank business cards and a binder to hold them. Categorize or alphabetize requests. I tend to always have a section up front for “Urgent Needs.” Put the request on the front with the date and the answer on the back with the date. Rotate cards to a separate “Answered Prayers” box once they’ve been answered to keep room in the first box, and in order to use the “Answered” box as encouragement and a reminder of what the Lord has done.

5. Write scriptures to pray beside specific prayer requests. When God gives you a specific verse to pray for a promise, or when you come upon a scripture that specifically meets a need you’re praying for, jot it down in the notebook or on the card with the request where you will remember to pray it!

6. The busy mom option. Use a photo book. A small photo album or flip book you can put photos in is a quick prayer reminder. Place in the album photos of people, churches, etc. that you are praying for. Keep it on the kitchen counter, nightstand, or the end table next to where you sit to nurse the baby. Flip through the pictures praying for each person or situation in whatever spare moments you have.

7. Try a paperless Prayer Journal. Apps such as Prayer Notes or Pocket Prayer Pro offer techies and people on the go something that is always with them. Record prayer requests, set reminders, get a system of daily prayer going, all at the tip of you fingers. I haven’t personally tried this form, but would love to hear from someone who has.

pexels-photo-92333

The bottom line – PRAY.

Get yourself organized in a way that assists you but doesn’t dominate you.

Remember the goal is not the organization, but praying and growing in our communication with the Lord.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12