|I remember as a teenager, so many people telling me, “you need to pray.” The problem is I never had anyone ever really modeling what that looked like for me. So I would go into my room and close the door, begin to pray. Quickly my mind was overrun by thousands of thoughts, grabbing my attention and directing it toward everything but God. So prayer for me was frustrating. I had never really thought about planning out my prayer time. It seemed silly.|
Each year I choose a discipline I really want to focus on and work on in my life in the coming year. For me, being in youth ministry I begin my year in September. This year I have made prayer my focus and these are some of the things I am learning about prayer.
So, what does my prayer time look like? It depends; I try to change things up constantly to keep my walk fresh. When things become too much of a routine they tend to lose much of their value. I have a different approach and focus each day of the week. My suggestion is to find things that work for you personally. Experiment and try new things. Here are a few thoughts and directions from my prayer time.
Scripture: I always begin with scripture. It is always a great place to start to help focus my mind. I will also pray the scriptures. Many prayers are recorded throughout scripture. Prayers of Jesus, Paul, Timothy, David. Their prayers can help give clarity and words to my thoughts and feelings. Open up to the Psalms, it is amazing how at times, when I do not know the words to pray, I will open up to Psalms and find the words of the Psalmist who is able to put words to my feelings. It is a spring board into a conversation with God. The New Testament is filled with prayers as well. Last week I was reading through Ephesians and this prayer really grabbed my attention.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19 NIV)
I have been praying this prayer a lot over the past week for the leaders in our church, for students and parents I minister to.
Lists: This is another great place to begin. What are the things that are on your heart and mind? Who are the people in your life who are struggling? Who are the people who don’t know Christ? Who are the leaders you are surrounded by? What circumstances, relationships, events are constantly in your thoughts? Develop a list and continue to add to it, always paying attention to what God is doing. In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait EXPECTANTLY. (Psalm 5:3 NIV) Do you wait and watch expectantly for God to answer your prayers? Maybe God answers more of our prayers than we ever realize but our eyes are not open to what is happening all around us.
Prayers of Others: Throughout the centuries other Christians have prayed some incredible prayers. Many of these prayers are extremely passionate and often times downright audacious prayers; prayers asking God to move mountains. The great thing is many of those prayers are recorded. There are lots of resources out there. I am currently using a book of prayer by Walter Bruggernann, Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth.
Patterns: Use patterns in prayer. One pattern I will use comes from praying through the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13. You can break down Jesus prayer into several categories, praise, God’s agenda, provision, forgiveness, protection. Jesus did not give us the prayer as a word for word agenda, but rather an overall blueprint. Another possibility is the use of concentric circles (stole this from John Piper). I begin with my own sin and the void it creates between me and my creator. In the second circle I place family, in the third circle I write pastoral staff, next the shepherds, next the rest of the church staff. In the fifth circle I write students and parents. I will spend my time praying through the circles. Patterns simply help me to focus.
Focus is huge for me because, believe it or not, mine mind tends to wonder. None of these thoughts are original; followers of Jesus have been doing them throughout the centuries. However, as I have been focusing in on my prayer life in the past month, these are just a few of the ideas I am implementing in my prayer walk.
Above everything, PRAY. Don’t spend so much time focusing on “what to do” that you don’t actually “do”. These are just suggestions to get you moving in the right direction. Spend time connecting with the Father.