Years ago I spent the night at my childhood home. Seeing a light on, I knocked on my Dad’s door after he had gone upstairs to bed, and when I peeked in, I saw him kneeling at his bedside saying his prayers. It’s a beautiful picture of reverence to God that I carry in my memories. It was comforting to know that each night he would take time to pray. I’m thankful for this aspect of prayer that I was raised with. When I first experienced a Protestant conversational prayer, my eyes were opened to a whole new world of prayer. This was a conversation really, but with God. As I began an in-depth study of the Bible, my spiritual and prayer life grew by leaps and bounds.
Thy Will Be Done
Somewhere along the line, as life wore me down, I decided that my only prayer would be “your will be done.” Looking back, I believe I was too weary to carry the burdens in my life. I had wholly and truly trusted God to control my life; I was His. Acceptance for whatever He had in mind for me and my loved ones ruled my thoughts.
I knew I could pray specifically. I knew God was a loving Father who only wants what’s best for me. To say “thy will be done” now seems like I was unresponsive to God; a shrug of the shoulders, a dismissive “whatever.” Thankfully, during that time, the Holy Spirit covered for me. “When we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit prays for us in ways that cannot be put into words.” (Romans 8:26 CEV)
A Prayer Journey
I don’t remember how long I held out on prayer. It just wasn’t sustainable. I knew in my heart and soul that I was missing out on something I needed. I started thinking about it daily. One day while reading Matthew, I read, “This, then, is how you should pray…” (Mt 6:9) – Jesus was giving us a model of how to pray. How could I read this and disagree? So I started saying the Lord’s Prayer each morning when I woke up.
I usually didn’t make it through the entire prayer, as I would pray “our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name” and that sent me off on a prayer of worship. “Forgive us our debts” led me to the introspection of the previous day. “As we forgive our debtors” pricked my conscience for those I harbored anger against. Slowly, as I would take time to pray, my prayer life picked back up.
A Study of Prayer
Our couple’s Bible study has recently studied Tim Keller’s book “Prayer- Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God”. We have read other books on prayer but felt we could still use a little help in our prayer lives. It’s been an amazing study and is full of encouraging ways to dig deeper into what prayer in its best form can look like.
One of the suggestions I have been putting in place after reading this book was to try meditative prayer as a springboard to my daily prayer. I have never been one to journal (odd for someone who likes to write??) but I decided to take a daily verse from my bible app and write it out. I used the following prompts to help me focus:
•Underline words that stood out to me.
•Look for words that showed me a character trait about God and used that for praising Him.
•Look for promises and commands.
•I would ask God why He was giving me this verse for this particular day. Many times, it seemed like it was the perfect verse for me, and just what I needed to hear. If I get stuck or just curious, I open my Bible and read what comes before and after that passage.
•I picked a time of the day that I thought I could make a habit of this practice. Each entry was dated to keep track of how I was doing. I did well for a few days, then missed a few. But after about two weeks, I would catch myself if I forgot. It has given me an excitement for prayer that I haven’t felt in a while.
Pin me for later!
Committed to Prayer
The take away is that prayer can be difficult sometimes. My prayer life has certainly been a journey. As I grew in my faith, dealt with difficult situations, and suffered from doubts or hit mountaintop highs, my prayer life would ebb and flow. Now I feel that no matter what life throws at me, I need to have a rich and blossoming prayer life. I’m committed to taking time to pray every day.
Truths about Prayer
We all know the truths about prayer- God wants us to pray, He listens to us when we pray, He answers our prayers, and He gave us a model for prayer… but the best example of what our prayer life should look like comes from Jesus who spent many, many hours in prayer. Here are a few verses to encourage you:
“Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” Luke 6:12 (He put in the time!)
“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16 (He knew sometimes we need to be alone with our Father.)
“I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me that they may be one, even as we are one.” John 17:9 (He prays for us!)
“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 (He shows us what true forgiveness looks like)
What does your prayer life look like?