3 Ideas For Creating A Better Prayer Life

Photo by ☻☺ on Flickr

Photo by ☻☺ on Flickr

The Struggle

I don’t know about you, but I’ll admit it. I struggle with my prayer life and this struggle primarily deals with making the time to pray and having a focused mind when I pray.

I’m no George Müller.

But, I do know that I should pray. I want to pray. I even know what I should pray about.

Unfortunately, we live in one of the busiest, fast-paced, most distraction-filled times in human history. We have so many things and so many people competing for our attention. If we’re not intentional about it, then our prayer life will end up being one of those areas that keeps getting pushed off to the side of our lives. We end up giving God our leftovers in prayer time instead of our best focused energy.

Our prayer life should be about a relationship with God. Regular, transparent, intimate communication is all part of a growing relationship. God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit as we read His Word. We speak to Him through prayer.

Over the last several months, I have found myself making a number of changes to my personal prayer time. I have been looking for more focused time opportunities to pray. In this post, I wanted to share my prayer journey with you, and I hope that this will be an encouragement to you and your own prayer life with the Lord.

3 Ideas For A Better Prayer Life

  1. Spread your prayers throughout the day. Back in an earlier era, getting up early and spending an hour or two in prayer was perhaps portrayed as a “normal” activity within the Christian life. While we may go through individual times of intense, long duration times of prayer, I believe that our new “normal” should be praying short prayers throughout the day. If your spiritual life is defined as a relationship with the Lord, then doesn’t it make greater sense to have lines of communication open throughout your day? Prayer shouldn’t be just an item on our morning checklist.
  2. Discover your personal “prayer closet.” For me, I have recently found my car to be the best location for (mostly) uninterrupted time with the Lord. As soon as I jump in the car in the morning to drive to work, I praise the Lord for who He is and what He is doing in my life, in my church, and in my ministry. I confess my sin. I offer up prayers of thanksgiving. And finally, I offer up my daily requests to the Lord. I do this all out loud too while I’m driving down the highway. Other people in the cars around me probably think I’m nuts. That’s okay.
  3. Create a system to focus your prayer time. Previously, I tried to have a digital prayer list on my smart phone, but I found this distracting to use especially if I’m praying in the car. I’ve ended up going “old school” analog by just writing my various prayer requests on 3×5 cards and keeping these in the center console of my car. This system seems to be working pretty well for me so far. Just a reminder, though. Be sure to keep your eyes on the road and refer to your index cards when you don’t have a lot of traffic or other difficult driving conditions. Flipping through index cards during a thunderstorm or six inches of snow is a bad idea!

Questions: How about you? What does your prayer life look like? Do you have a “system” in place that works really well for you? If so, what does your system look like?

Praying In Faith, Even When You’re Faith Is Small

Photo by Ed Yourdon

Photo by Ed Yourdon

Have you ever prayed about a very challenging situation, and then you had trouble believing God might actually answer that prayer? Guess you could consider this kind of prayer similar to a “Hail Mary,” those desperation football throws by the quarterback. So, you throw up these desperate prayers to the Lord, but because the situation seems so hopeless, you don’t have an incredible amount of faith that God may actually move in amazing ways, right now.

You know that you should pray for this particular person or problem, but the situation looks completely hopeless. You will go for it. You will pray consistently and fervently, but you’re not holding out a lot of hope that the situation is going to change much in the immediate future.

Sure, maybe later on. Maybe a few years down the road, this person may get right with the Lord or this issue may resolve itself. What happens, though, when God starts moving faster than you were even expecting?

For the last few months, I’ve prayed for two people in a challenging situation. Honestly, the whole thing is a big mess with not much hope in human terms. In fact, I was sensing that the situation was getting worse, not better. I’ve questioned my resolve as a leader and person of spiritual influence in their lives. Maybe, I’m the problem? Maybe, the supposed cure is worse than the disease?

I keep praying, though. I even started praying Scripture back to the Lord a few weeks ago. I’ve driven down the road on my way to work, praying and asking the Lord to remember his promise in Philippians 1:6 (NIV), ” being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Then, my prayer will end with, “God, you started a work in these people’s lives several years ago. I pray that you will complete that work.”

Now, to my surprise, I’ve suddenly seen a glimmer of hope in both of the people I’ve prayed for. I’m seeing a new interest in spiritual growth. I’m seeing them take baby steps in the right direction. Thank you, Lord, for your Holy Spirit’s moving in their lives!

But, should I really be this surprised that the Holy Spirit is at work in the situation?

Are any of us really any different from the early disciples whom Jesus chastised, “oh ye of little faith!?” Unfortunately, we’re not. Most of the time, I think we act in exactly the same way as they did. Our faith is small. We don’t exercise and expand our faith as much as we should.

Let me speak a word of encouragement in your life, today. Stay in faith. Keep praying. God is at work in your situation, too.

“ … The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16b, NIV)

Is God Your First Or Last Thought When It Comes To Money?

Photo by rhoadeecha

Photo by rhoadeecha

Shocked, But Not Really

I was recently teaching a Bible Study class regarding fundamental Christian stewardship principles. In the class was a really sweet, older lady who was telling the class about some mistakes she had made with her finances.

The mistakes she made were pretty serious, but her mistakes didn’t surprise me too much. What I did find surprising, though, was her statement that she had never even considered praying to the Lord about her financial decision-making. This was made even more surprising to me because she said that she had been walking with the Lord for 60 years!

As a stewardship pastor, I took this woman’s comments as a scathing indictment against those of us in leadership within the universal church. We as church leaders have done a very poor job in educating believers on a whole life, Biblical stewardship outlook.

God should be at the center of every part of our lives. He really should be the very FIRST thought in every aspect of our lives, including our personal finances.

So, How Should We Pray About Money?

When we pray about money, should we be selfish and ask for a million dollars in the bank and zero financial worries? No, of course not. These are not the kind of prayers I’m talking about.

I do believe, though, that there are specific ways we can pray about the money and resources He has entrusted us to manage:

  • Pray for wisdom. James 1:5 tells us, If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. If you’re struggling in some of your financial decision-making, then God wants you to talk about it with Him. Don’t just rush in and make a hasty decision when it comes to your finances. Press pause, pray, read His Word, and reflect on God’s wisdom when it comes to His money.
  • Pray for His will to be accomplished. James 4:13-15 states, Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” It’s too easy for us to assume things will happen for us tomorrow because we desire them to take place. In these verses, James reminds us that this life holds no guarantees. We should pray an attitude of “ … if it is the Lord’s will, then He will accomplish whatever He desires to do through us.”
  • Pray for provision. Matthew 6:11 says, Give us this day our daily bread. In the Lord’s Prayer (or model prayer), Jesus gives us the example of praying for our daily needs. In order for us to survive as human beings, there are basic needs that we all must have: food, water, clothing, and shelter. A few verses later, in Matthew 6:32-33 we read, For the pagans run after all these things (basic needs), and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. God loves us and cares about our needs. If we will simply place Him and His Kingdom as our number one priority, He will take care of our daily needs.

Questions: So, is God your first or last thought when it comes to money? Are you praying for wisdom and guidance in your financial management? Are you praying for His will to be accomplished in your finances? Are you praying for His provision when you have needs? If not, why not?