“I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.” Charles Spurgeon
I’m learning that in my attempt to serve God there is nothing, and I repeat NOTHING, more important than engaging in intentional, focused and regular times of prayer. This may seem simple; or even like one of those statements that make you say, “Thanks Captain Obvious” but I’ve discovered that the importance of regular and disciplined prayer in our lives cannot be overstated. And as elementary as the need for prayer may seem, too often we as Christians (myself included) have found ourselves the victims of situations that we could have avoided had we simply decided not to move until we had engaged in communication with God through prayer. The nineteenth century pastor and evangelist Oswald Chambers says this about prayer in the life of the Christian:
“We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first line of defense. We pray when there's nothing else we can do, but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all. Most of us would prefer, however, to spend our time doing something that will get immediate results. We don't want to wait for God to resolve matters in His good time because His idea of 'good time' is seldom in sync with ours.”
Can you identify with this? How many of us have made prayer the last option rather than our first line of defense? Can you look back over this last year and see areas of your life where you leaned on your own judgement, consulted popular opinion or worse trusted other people to hear God on your behalf and because you did not personally seek the will of God through prayer you had to endure headaches and heartaches that God could have spared you from or better prepared you for had you chosen to communicate with him? I know that I can personally identify with this. There have been so many situations in my life that had I chosen to pray before I committed, before I made an announcement or before I became connected God would have spared me from heartache and embarrassment or He would have better prepared me for the trials that came with those decisions that I had made!
So what do we do now? It is my desire that 2017 be a year that I and everyone connected to me commit to a more intentional and powerful prayer life and I want to share with you some things that I believe will help us as we seek to strengthen our prayer lives in the coming year.
We have to purposely carve out time to communicate with God. Our prayers cannot simply be reactions to the adversity in our lives but the same way married couples must intentionally make time to be with each other so that their marriages can be strong, Christians must intentionally carve out time to communicate with God. Whether it be in the first few hours of the morning, in the car during your morning commute, or during your lunch break, be intentional about making time even if it’s only a few minutes a day and once you create a time: STICK TO IT!
All this means is, “Have a METHOD of prayer.” This will help you stay on target and also assist you when you have time constraints like during the work day. A method that I have used for years is the “A.C.T.S. Method” and it’s broken down this way:
This part of prayer is worship, where you take the time to tell God that you love Him and how much He means to you. Take this time to declare His holiness, His power, His majesty simply loving on Him, not for what he’s done, but for who He is. This step is critical because it displays that we have a proper view of God and our place before Him and it sets the stage for everything else that happens during the time of prayer.
1 John 1:9 says. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This critical part is where we take the time to confess our sins to the only one loving enough to forgive us and strong enough to cleanse us. It is important that we honestly confess our sins to God, not for God, but for ourselves. God already knows so take this time to come clean and confess, in detail, any wrongdoing that you are aware of and believe that unlike people, God won’t condemn you. He will be true to His word and forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.
This is the time during prayer that we take the time to thank God for what He has done in our lives and the lives of those connected to us. This is where we get to express our sincere gratitude for God keeping us from danger, for meeting our needs, for protecting our children and keeping our loved ones safe. Thanksgiving is where we get the opportunity to search our memory banks and remind ourselves of how good and gracious God has been and when we do, we tell Him “Thank You!”
This is the “Asking Part” Notice that this part comes last. Everything that we have done up to this point sets the stage and prepares our hearts for the privilege to make our requests known to God. After we have adored, confessed and thanked God for what He has done we are now able to approach His throne as sons and daughters and ask Him for the things that we need and believe in faith that His will be done in our lives.
How many of our New Year’s resolutions do we give up on before the 1st Quarter of the year has even passed? Don’t allow that to be the case with your prayer life! Please believe this: AS SOON AS YOU COMMIT TO PRAYER THE DEVIL WILL DO ALL HE CAN TO KEEP YOU FROM IT! DON’T LET HIM! Fight for your prayer time with all your might! Will you miss some days? Sure you will. Will it be hard? Absolutely! There will be days where work, the needs of a spouse, the care of children, homework and the other various commitments of our lives will be fighting for our attention BUT THAT’S OK! Fight back, and be dedicated to communion with God! Trust me, you are more valuable to those who need you if you are prayed up, so fight for your time!
BE IN THE WORD!
Hear me good when I say this: A prayer life without a steady diet of God’s word is like a sandwich with only one piece of bread! The first and easiest way for you to be able to discern the voice of God is by giving heed to what He has already said through His written word. The voice of God and the character of God is revealed to us in scripture and we need The Word of God, incorporated into our prayer life, so that we can properly distinguish the voice of God from our emotions and ungodly influences. I suggest incorporating a daily Bible reading plan, you can find several of them online at Bible.com, their link is at the bottom of my page. When I was younger my mother gave me a plan that I still use to this day and that is, on chapter of the book of Proverbs for each day of the month in the morning and one chapter of the New Testament at night. There are thirty-one chapters in proverbs so that typically works out for you to read through that book once a month. If there’s a short month then you can add a chapter or two to any given day.
Well that’s what I have. I’m praying that 2017 will be a year that we as Christians can commit to prayer and I pray that some of these things that I’ve shared will be a blessing to you and strengthen you in your walk with God.
Grace and Peace.