“Call unto Me…” Jeremiah 33.31
In the interaction of life and prayer will be found the secret of power, and the realization of fellowship with God will never be more than a theory save as prayer becomes a practice.
- G. Campbell Morgan
We are beginning to consider ways of improving our practice of prayer, starting with an understanding that, in general, prayer is to made to the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit. There is a proper framework for the practice of prayer, and we do well to keep this in mind as we seek the Lord.
Next I want to consider six general guidelines for prayer which, if we can follow them, will help us to overcome the paucity of prayer in our lives so that we learn to practice prayer more consistently and with greater satisfaction and fruit.
I can be brief in summarizing these guidelines, although working them into our prayer lives will require and ongoing effort.
Pray about everything. First, nothing is off limits for our prayers. “In everything” Paul advises, we are to bring our requests before the Lord with thanksgiving (Phil. 4.6, 7).Whether our concerns are spiritual or physical, routine or extraordinary, personal or on behalf of others, nothing is unimportant to God, and we should not hesitate to seek His favor and blessing on everything we are and do. Whether we are feeling up or down, depressed or exultant, angry or filled with doubts, we should learn to come to the Lord in prayer about everything in our lives.
Indeed, if there is anything in your life that you consider not worthy of bringing before the Lord in prayer, then you should seriously consider whether this should be in your life at all. God sees us always, is with us always, and is able to empower us in all things to live for His glory (1 Cor. 10.31). Further, there is a form of prayer – whether praise, thanks, intercession, confession, or even imprecation – for whatever might be in our lives at any moment. All we need to do is make up our minds to pray and reach for the proper prayer vehicle.
We must seek the Lord in prayer about everything if we expect to know His blessing there.
Pray without ceasing. This will seem like an impossible ideal (1 Thess. 5.17), but only if we think of prayer as something we do when we are talking to the Lord in a certain way according to a certain posture and under certain fairly restrictive conditions (in your prayer closet, for example).
If, on the other hand, we regard prayer more like riding in the car somewhere with your wife and family, then praying without ceasing becomes more a state of mind, a readiness to converse, and an exercise in active listening for the presence and prompting of the Lord.
We shall have to nurture this ability, to be sure. However, if we can begin to think of our prayers more in terms of a relationship than a spiritual activity, we might begin to learn what Paul means, and what Jesus seems to have understood, by this charge to be always in communion with God through His Spirit in prayer.
In everything give thanks. Don’t know how to pray about “all things” at “all times”? We can always pray with thanksgiving (1 Thess. 5.18; Phil. 4.6, 7). Everything we are and have, all we can see around us, every good and perfect gift in our lives, including all the time of our lives – all these come from our loving heavenly Father for our blessing. If you find yourself at a loss for what to pray, just open your eyes and look around you, or close your eyes and let the activities of your life waft across your mind. Then give thanks and praise to God.
Jesus Christ upholds every aspect of our lives – the air we breathe, the coursing of blood through our veins, every electrical charge leaping every synapse in our brains, every molecule and cell, everything! We can always find something for which to give thanks, even if that prayer of gratitude is only whispered in our hearts to the Lord.
Pray as the Lord leads and calls. The Spirit of God is always summoning us to prayer. If we can learn to be alert to His cues and prompts, we will find that our days consist of more prayerful communion with the Lord.
The Spirit prompts us through various signals from our environment – a lovely bird, the kind deed of a friend, a word from a stranger, something in the news. He reminds us of the personal needs and requests of those we love. He convicts us of sins, whether of commission or omission. He presents us with situations and people where prayer is an obvious need. Learn to “listen” as the Spirit prompts and piques throughout the day, and you will have no shortage of things to commune with the Lord about at any given time.
Pray with others. We should all have some people in our lives with whom – and for whom – we pray on a regular basis. Prayer partners can be an excellent way of building more regularity and depth into your prayer life. Find a couple of friends who will join with you, either in person or on the phone, to lift up one another and all kinds of matters before the Lord in prayer.
Pray with expectation. Paul explained to Philemon that he was hoping, through his prayers, to be restored to him soon (Philem. 22). With that in mind, he asked his friend to get a room ready for him.
Now that’s what I mean by praying expectantly. Seek the Lord for something specific, then begin to act as if the Lord were already moving to grant your request. At the very least, He can redirect you or simply shut what appeared to be an open door. But if we’re moving in the direction of what we’ve sought from the Lord in prayer, we actually demonstrate additional faith and trust in Him.
Imagine what the effect of this would be if every believer prayed expectantly for the coming of God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven! Or to be a more consistent witness for Christ!
Begin practicing these guidelines right away. Yes, you’ll need to make some adjustments in your schedule, as well as in your understanding of prayer. But these proven guidelines will allow you to engage more frequently, consistently, and deeply with the Lord in prayer.
In our next installment we’ll consider some more specific practices which, coupled with these guidelines, can bring fresh perspective and power to your life of prayer.
A conversation starter: Ask some friends about their practice of prayer. Which of these guidelines are they following? How might you help one another become more consistent in seeking the Lord?
There’s something special about men praying, or so the Apostle Paul taught. Order several copies of T. M.’s little book, If Men Will Pray, and share it with some friends to encourage them in their prayers.