I need to lose weight, work out, and rest consistently. I want to be a better husband and Dad. I need to read more books, save and give more money, and share my faith more. But if you want to know the single most important goal I have for the coming year, it is this: to have a more consistent, continual and conversational prayer life with God.
I agree with John R. Rice who wrote in his book, Prayer: Asking and Receiving, that “all of our failures are prayer failures.” Why is this so? Because God is faithful to answer our prayers as we adjust our prayers to the desires of God’s heart. And we’re only capable of praying more powerful prayers as we spent more time practicing at it in His presence.
Think about it. If my prayer life were more consistent, I’d have the power, wisdom, and will to eat better and be healthy, improve my relationships with love and grace, read more, give more, and tell others about Jesus more. If you’re with me, let me offer some suggestions, some tools, and some challenges…
Start with Jesus’ model prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. Then read the other prayers of Jesus and then the prayers of the saints in Scripture, particularly Paul’s example of praying for others to be brought closer to God. Then, read good books on prayer, such as:
- Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller
- Prayer: Invading the Impossible, by Jack Hayford
- Kingdom Prayer, by Tony Evans
- With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray
- Dangerous Prayers, by Craig Groeschel
- Prayer: The Great Adventure by David Jeremiah
- Prayer: Experiencing the Heart of God by Warren Wiersbe
- Prayer: Asking and Receiving by John R. Rice
- The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer
- Secrets of a Prayer Warrior, by Derek Prince
Study the Bible as part of your praying.
Bible study and prayer aren’t really two separate things. They are one. Our prayers are fueled and informed by the Scriptures, and prayer is the way we really apply what we’ve learned and worship the Author of the Word. So, use The Bible App with its dozens of reading plans to stay on a steady diet of God’s Word as you pray.
No, don’t hum and clear your mind. Instead, fill your mind with truth and then focus your thinking on what you’ve studied at quiet moments during the day. This is biblical (see Joshua 1, Psalm 1, etc.).
Keep a daily journal.
This has always been a little too random for me, but in the upcoming year I hope to consistently write out a prayer every day as part of my time in God’s Word. You can keep it somewhat brief and write about four elements each day, based on the SOAP acronym:
- A Scripture.
- Your observations about the text, historical, grammatical, etc.
- Some application(s) to live out from the text.
- A prayer that includes praise, embracing God’s purposes, confession of sin, and a prayer for provision and protection.
Pray for others.
Then, I finish my prayer by switching over to a text file I keep. I use Apple’s Notes app to keep a simple text file synced across my devices that includes a list of people I’m praying for. I’ve divided the list up into categories and I read through the names, picture the faces, and lift them before the Father. My categories are:
- My family (wife, kids, and extended family).
- My men (a group of guys for whom I pray daily about spiritual growth and leadership development).
- Spiritual needs (people I know that need salvation, healing, recovery, etc.).
- Physical needs (people I know that are suffering physically).
- My church staff.
- My small group.
- My church’s small group leaders.
- My “other” church (Saddleback’s staff, some friends, and my old small group).
- My world (missionaries and church planters I pray for).
- Influencers (government leaders, influential Pastors, etc.).
I don’t spend as much time on the list as it may seem. I just use it as a trigger to remind me of the people in my life that I need to be supporting with a ministry of prayer.
Move into conversational prayer.
What I’ve described so far is an organized, systematic approach to having a quiet time every day. But the way in which I’m really interested in growing this year is in moving from that appointment time with God into the all-day, everywhere-I-go conversational kind of prayer. That is, I want to be consciously aware of God’s presence throughout my day and make prayer my first go-to when I need help.
And lastly, don’t get legalistic. Prayer isn’t a duty that we check off a list to earn God’s favor. It’s a delight, a freedom, something we get to do rather than have to do. And it’s life-changing.
Expect God’s Responses
Sometimes, God says yes. Sometimes, God answers by telling us to wait until a better time, perhaps when we’ve matured enough to handle his yes. Sometimes, God says no, but his no isn’t final. It’s intended to redirect us to seek greater insight into God’s will.
Whether God says yes or no to our requests, what’s far more important is that we expect God to show up in the conversation. God will reveal himself to you in prayer as you listen to his voice and seek his presence. He moves us, molds us, and grows us from the inside out through his personal friendship with us. As Jeremiah declared,
Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.
~ Jeremiah 33:3 NIV
God longs to hear from you today. And he longs to show himself to all who seek him. All you need to do is show up to the conversation.