Why do we pray? No, really?
Here’s what I’ve discovered. Many of us pray because we need something. Some of us pray because we’re angry or desperate. Others pray it because we think it will make us feel better or because we feel “guilty” and know we need to.
While these reasons aren’t “wrong,” I want to remind you that prayer is SO MUCH MORE than asking for things we need or “feeling better” about life.
Prayer is NOT this random thing we use as a sort of “magic potion” to solve all our problems and make us seem more “religious.”
Prayer IS intimate communication with the One and Only God.
Will you let that sink in for a minute?
You and I–although we are just one of billions–are personally invited to converse with Creator God daily! And how many of us turn down this opportunity in the name of “busyness” or “I forgot”?
While prayer does involve requests, that is not it’s SOLE purpose. We pray to worship God, to thank Him for all He’s done, to get to know Him and His character, to share with Him our deepest joys and deepest heartaches.
As I write this, our nation is facing the biggest health crisis it’s known in over a century. Businesses are closed downs, schools are out, families are stuck at home, and finances are uncertain. This is naturally a time people talk about “prayer” a lot. The problem is, we talk about prayer more than we actually pray.
But as people who pursue and love the heart of God more than anything else, we MUST be in prayer!
There is no end to the ways God is moving because of this coronavirus crisis. Do you see it all around you? But Scripture shows that the beginning to great revival and spiritual growth begins with communion with God (1 Chronicles 7:14)
During these days in isolation, let’s turn off the TV, hang up the phone, close the door, and hit our knees in fervent, genuine, and intentional prayer, uniting with the Lord in surprising ways He’s working amidst tragedy.
Here are 7 simple ideas for deepening and focusing your prayer life during this season.
1. Keep a prayer journal
This may seem simple, but beginning the habit of writing out prayers is a great way to stay accountable and focused on God during your times in prayer. I’ve been keeping a prayer journal for 10 years and it never ceases to amaze me how God answers prayers because I can see the written account of my longings or requests and how God fulfilled them in His beautiful way.
2. Pray Scripture
I will never forget the lecture I sat through with Dr. Don Whitney when he asked, “Do you keep praying the same old things about the same old things?” I resonated with that. I often run out of meaningful things to pray for people. He went on to explain that we have been given a wise and inerrant tool to help us pray accurate, helpful, and new things over our lives and others–the Bible! If you pray through the Psalms or portions of the gospel, pausing after each verse to make the prayer personal, you will be amazed what a powerful prayer tool Scripture is. Read more about this in Dr. Whitney’s book, Praying the Bible.
3. Make a prayer list
It’s hard to be intentional and deep in prayer when we don’t know what we’re praying for/about. I’ve always found it helpful to keep a list of people to regularly pray for on certain days of the week. But it’s also important to keep a list of praises, thanks, and current burdens/struggles to confess and share with the Lord as we strive to go deeper in fellowship with Him.
4. Pray through A.C.T.S.
If you have trouble knowing where to start when you’re praying, or if you find yourself only making requests, the A.C.T.S. strategy is a great starting point to facilitate conversation with the Lord. It begins with ADORATION – worshiping God for who He is and praising Him for His works and attributes. Next is CONFESSION – admitting to God where you have sinned, understanding the weight and shame that Jesus’ blood paid the price for, and asking for His forgiveness. Then practice THANKSGIVING – displaying your gratefulness to God for all He has done and provided for you. SUPPLICATION is last – this is where the requests come in. Share with God the people and situations you’re burdened about and pray for those needs. Read more about A.C.T.S. here on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
5. Place “prayer reminders”
We are VISUAL people, so placing post-it notes around the house (especially during this quarantine time) with prayer prompts is a great way to keep yourself in a continued mindset of prayer (1 Thess. 5:17). These prompts could be a person’s name or a character of God to praise–whatever helps you focus upon the Lord and enter into dialogue with Him.
6. Pray for others like you pray for yourself
This point addresses a posture of prayer that we don’t often like to admit: our prayers are selfish. We will spend a long time talking to God about a problem we have (as we should), but we rarely intercede for others with the same vigor. When you’re praying, ask God to help you see the situation from the others’ perspective so you can better lift them up (Philippians 2:3).
7. Be silent
If you don’t remember any other suggestion, remember this one. Prayer is NOT about you. It is about the opportunity to commune with a Holy God. Although it’s important to add intentionality to our prayer life, no amount of “effort” will substitute for experiencing God personally. One powerful way to do this is to be still and silent (Psalm 46:10). Many times, God has brought a person, situation, sin struggle, attitude, or passage of Scripture to mind when I was finally quiet enough to let Him guide the conversation.
I pray these ideas are an encouragement to you and your prayer life during this season. Prayer is such a crucial part of our spiritual development and now is the perfect time to start building God-honoring habits in the area of prayer.