In the message yesterday (August 26), I shared a few ideas you might use to integrate the discipline of prayer in life. Prayer is a conversation with your Creator. Each of us experience relationship in different ways, and this applies to our relationship with God. Since we experience God in different ways, each of our prayer lives will be different. This is true of characters in the Bible. David interacted with God as he wrote prayers, songs, poems, and played music. Moses seemed to find his greatest connection with God when he stood before God on behalf of the Hebrew people. Jacob wrestled with God, engaging him in a struggle. Isaiah seemed to find his place of depth with God in the temple. John the Baptist connected with God through an aesthetic lifestyle. Daniel maintained a disciplined prayer life, setting aside specific times several times a day. I could go on, but you get the point.
I am writing this to help with two goals. First, each of us need to find ways to interact with God in deeper ways on a regular, disciplined basis. Second, each of us will find that path in different ways. This is a list of suggestions. Give several approaches a try. Stick to the ones that lead you to depth in your relationship with God.
- Develop a place and time for consistent prayer. You might find that as you start a new discipline of prayer that it will be important to determine a time and a place that works for you and is meaningful.
- Keep a prayer journal. Include lists of people and issues you feel led to pray for, and you may even divide your list up by days of the week. You can also include a list of Scriptures reminding you to worship.
- Integrate worship music in your prayer, especially if music is a language of your heart. Using music to worship can help you experience closeness and love for God which can be a natural avenue for meaningful prayer.
- Fasting – is a very common approach to depth with God in the Bible. At the heart, fasting is the depriving of something in life (usually food) for the purpose of focus on God and your relationship with Him. In the act of self-denial, a person who fasts can experience closeness to God. During a fast, spend time you would normally eat (or do the activity you are fasting from) to pray, read the Bible, and listen to God. When fasting, remember a couple things. First, this is a relational, not a religious activity. It is about you and God and closeness. Second, start simple. Don’t try to fast for 40 days and 40 nights if you have not fasted before. You might start with a morning to evening fast, skipping breakfast and lunch as a fast. Also, remember in any fast from food, drink plenty of water. To learn more about fasting, see the chapter in Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Don Whitney.
- Use different postures – If you find yourself praying only while sitting at the end of your bed, you might try implementing some of the postures of prayer mentioned in the Bible. Here are a few:
- Kneeling, bowing the knee (Ephesians 3:14, Psalm 95:6)
- Lifting your hands (Psalm 28:2, I Timothy 2:8)
- Falling on your face (Matthew 26:39
- Involve silence and solitude in your prayer life. At time, the best way to give depth to prayer is to get quiet and listen. For most of us, this is very difficult. We have busy minds in a busy world. We try to pray with the TV or radio on in the background, and kid’s playing down the hall. You might try to find ways to get yourself and the world around you quiet for periods of time. This might involve something as simple as minute retreats, where you find ways during the day for one or two minutes to get quiet and listen, to something as big as getting away alone for a day or weekend just for the purpose of silence and solitude before God.
- Find meaningful places for you. Think about it. Is there a place where the presence of God just seems incredibly real. Often, people in the Bible would build an altar in a place where God met them as a reminder of their encounter and a challenge to return to that place.
- Journaling can be an excellent way for some to experience depth in your prayer. Write prayers, thoughts, and issues that you encounter. You can include prayer needs, and write answers to prayer that you see.
- Try writing prayers. Write them as prose, poems, songs, stories, etc. Or you might write your prayers in the form of a letter to God.
- Learn to pray the Psalms. The book of Psalms in the Bible is a book of songs, prayers, and poems written by people who found their connection to God using the previous approach. When you can’t come up with your own words, use theirs.
- Pray the Scriptures. This is especially effective when praying for people and issues. By using the Bible, your prayers can remain focused on God’s plan for those people and issues. For example, you might have an issue in life that is leading to great struggle, and you read 2 Corinthians 12:9. You may pray, “God, I am experiencing something that is difficult, but I trust you, because your grace is sufficient, and I pray that your power will be made perfect in my weakness.”
- One strategy that has helped me pray for people is learning to pray now! So often, when someone would ask me to pray for them, I would assure them that I would, only to forget. Now, I either try to pull the person aside at that time and pray with them, or I pray under my breath as the person is leaving.
- A prayer with a chair – OK, so this might be bizarre, but if you have a difficult time connecting with the fact that you are having a discussion with a real person, you might try it. Pull out an empty chair, and use it to picture the fact that God is sitting with you. Have a discussion with the person in the chair. Be careful though, because if someone else sees you having a dialogue with an empty chair, they might bring in the straight jacket.
- One of my favorite strategies is prayer walking. Take a walk, and as you are walking, pray for people and places you pass. Try prayer walking your neighborhood, praying for the people who live in each home. Or you might prayer walk your kid’s school, and as you walk you pray for different issues, leaders, teachers, and students as you walk around the campus.
- Think of ways to say sentence or breath prayers in all kinds of situations. If we see prayer as an ongoing relationship with God, we’ll find ways to talk to him regularly. But this works better when we learn to quickly pray short prayers in situations or for people.
- Use prayer reminders, especially for the people that are closest to you. Strategically placed pictures, or reminder items put in your car, office, or other places can be used to prompt prayer. Another idea is to use reminders in your computer schedule program. Another twist on this is to use a bucket or bowl for prayer requests, placing strips of paper with your prayer needs. You can grab a strip or two from the bucket each day and pray for those people or issues, then put it back in the bucket.
- Develop A to Z list of needs, or list of praises.
- Conversational prayer takes place when a person or group of people make the effort to talk to God just like they would talk to any other friend, in the form of a conversation.
- Find a small group to pray with you. This might be a great strategy, especially if you are a social person who draws energy from being with a group. Find three or four friends who will meet regularly to pray. If this is something that works for you, one challenge. Spend your time praying and not talking about prayer. Sometimes groups like this will spend 25 minutes talking about prayer requests and 5 minutes praying.
- If you are married, pray regularly with your spouse, and if you are a parent, pray for your kids.
- Read prayers. There are several resources, online and in book form. Sunday we used the book The Valley of Vision, a book of Puritan prayers.
If you have other ideas, reply to them so we can all give it a try. I hope this is helpful, and I pray that we will become a church full of people who are in a conversation with their Creator.