3 Steps To A More Effective Prayer Routine

3 Steps To A More Effective Prayer RoutineCan you confidently say that you have an effective prayer life?

 

Do you have a system that you use to converse and communicate with God or is it just dependent upon how you feel at the moment?

One of the beautiful things about God is that he gives us freedom to reach out to him in our own way, but that doesn’t mean that a system for effective praying isn’t a good idea.  I know that it is very easy for me to get distracted and not pray like I should.

Consider the words of David in Psalm 5:3  In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.

This verse gives us three tips for effective prayer to start the day.

1.  Start your day in prayer

I don’t think it is a coincidence that David says “in the morning.”  Usually we are freshest in the morning.  It is here that we establish direction for the rest of the day.  If you start your day off on the wrong foot it doesn’t usually get better from there.

These words remind us to come before God in the morning.  God desires a relationship with us and  what better way to solidify that relationship than spending time together in the morning?

If you start your day in prayer it has a way of centering your faith, your work, your relationships and your life.   I can’t come before God in prayer without taking a look inside my heart and examining what is there.  If I have sin in my life I have to deal with it before I pray.  If I have a relationship with someone, and that relationship is out of line, I have to fix it before I pray.

By beginning your day with God, you force yourself to realign what is important and make sure that you are living your life accordingly.

2.  Don’t be afraid to make requests to God

What kind of requests do you make of God?  Are they generic or specific?

There is an acrostic for making S.M.A.R.T. Goals.  It looks like this:

S- Specific
M- Measurable
A- Attainable
R- Realistic
T- Time-bound

So if you are going to make a goal it should be specific, have a measurable outcome, be attainable, be realistic, and set with a time frame in mind for its completion.

What it we did that with our prayers?

God asks us to present our requests to him.

I wonder how many of us actually are specific in what we need:

  • Please give me good recall as I take this test this morning
  • Help me to understand the depression my spouse is dealing with and say something today to minister to his or her needs
  • Give me the ability to relate to my teenaged daughter and give her wise counsel in her decisions about going on that date Saturday night
  • Strengthen my faith each morning as I go through this cancer diagnosis

Let me be clear, I am not talking about putting restraints on God.

He works according to his timetable and in ways that only he can fully fathom.  However, by putting some S.M.A.R.T constraints on our prayer requests it can make our prayer walk with him closer and make the next point easier.

3.  Wait expectantly for God to answer

Here is a gut-check question:  do you even really expect God to answer you?

Ouch.

Sometimes we pray and don’t even look for God to answer us.  Perhaps no one really modeled praying for you.  Maybe something didn’t turn out the way that you wanted it to and now you blame God.  You pray because you know you are supposed to, but you really don’t expect an answer because you aren’t waiting expectantly.

Perhaps you haven’t offered a specific enough prayer and so you don’t really know what answer to be waiting for.

This verse says that we are to wait expectantly for an answer.



If we pray fully expecting God to answer our prayers, we are more likely to recognize the answer when we see it.

When I come out of a prayer expecting God to answer, then I am looking for that answer in everything!  Each person I meet could be an answer to my prayer.  Each circumstance I face could be the one used to show me how God answered my prayer.

When you wait in expectation you begin to see God at work in the little things and those things come together in a mighty way.

So what kind of prayers are you praying?  Do you start in the morning to set your day off on the right track?  Do you make specific requests for God to answer?  Are you praying and expecting an answer to your prayers?

If we were to pray like this, might that change the type of prayers we prayed?

Try it out.  I would love to hear of a time that you prayed this way and how God answered your prayers.  Please comment below.

 

Joy in the Journey

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So two days ago I was making my morning commute to work.  I glanced at the fuel gauge as I pulled out of the driveway and knew that it was pretty low.  I don’t have a fancy fuel light that comes on when I need to get gasoline, I just have to estimate how far I can make it on what I have left.  Usually if the needle moves a bit, I can go for another ten or fifteen miles.  An imperfect system, I know.  It jiggled as I backed out of the driveway, so I figured that I could make it to the gas station near my work where the gas was about 12 cents cheaper than by my house.  With an eighteen gallon tank, that’s a savings of $2.16!

Down the road I went, sliding around the slower drivers, making it through the school zones and talking to God.  Usually in the mornings I pray as I drive.  It is a quiet place and I have about a 40 minute commute so I like to start my day laying out my requests before God.

This particular morning I was praying about having joy and contentment in all circumstances. Some of my favorite verses on joy and contentment were running through my mind:

  • James 1:2-3Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance…
  • Philippians 4: 4-7: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
  • Philippians 4:12:  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Just about the time that I thought about being content in every situation, my engine started to sputter.  There is always a moment of panic when your vehicle stops doing what it is supposed to do.  Of course I knew that I was running out of gas, but part of me rebelled at that idea.  Hadn’t I just seen the needle jiggle as I backed out of my driveway?  I knew there was a gas station just up the road on the left hand side, but I didn’t know if I could make it.  I put my truck in neutral and coasted some of the way in the hopes that I could coax a few extra seconds out of the fumes still in the tank.  I came around the corner and there stood the gas station, shining like a beacon on hill.  Unfortunately, there also stood a line of cars; traffic was backed up at the red light so there was no way I was going to make it.

As my truck gasped its final last breath,  I pulled over into the turn lane in the break in the median (the road I was on has two lanes on each side with a median in between.)  I jumped out of the truck, locked the doors, looked both ways and crossed the street, heading for the gas station.

It struck me as funny.  Here I was praying for joy and contentment in all circumstances when my truck ran out of gas.  As I walked up the hill to the gas station, i began thanking God for the opportunity to take a walk on such a sunny and beautiful morning.  I thanked him that I had a little cash in my pocket to go buy a gas can and a gallon of gas.  I thanked him that I broke down within walking distance of a gas station.  I thanked him that I had left a little early that morning and would still make it to work on time.  I thanked him for the blog material and story to tell my class that morning.  I thanked him for his perfect timing and his sense of humor.

Basically, I kept on praying just as I had before my trials and troubles started.

To make a long story short, my savings of $2.18 that I anticipated turned into about $11.70 spent.  I walked to the gas station, bought an $8 gas can because the clerk didn’t have one to loan me, filled it up with a gallon of even more expensive gas than the gas by my house and began the walk of shame back down the hill to my truck.  I threw the now empty gas can back in the truck and started it up.  I pulled back into traffic and went on my merry way to work.  My misadventure really only took about 15 minutes of my time.

So what is the point?

Just this, continue to praise God in all of life’s crazy circumstances.  This time it was my fault, next time it may be someone else’s fault.  It really doesn’t matter.  What matters is that we serve a God that loves us and we should rejoice in good times and bad.  If we allow our circumstances to dictate our moods it makes for some tough sledding.  If we let the joy of the Lord be our strength and trust his guiding hand we will find that his joy is enough to carry us through this crazy thing called life.

 

 

A Good Morning

Good Morning

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.  Psalm 5:3

There is something wonderful about beginning your day in the presence of the Lord.  Like many things requiring discipline, you have to train yourself to be consistent about this, but once you do it will radically change your days.

I like this verse above because it full of promise and instruction and hope.  Here are a few things that I have taken from this verse. Hopefully they will help you as well.

  1. Start your day with God.  David is called a man after God’s own heart.  He experienced his share of ups and downs in his life. He sinned, he struggled, he was chased, he was a king, he was an adulterer and a murderer.  He fathered one of the wisest men to ever live.  But his one constant seems to be his relationship with the Lord.  Even when he sinned, he felt God drawing him back; whether through a prophet or in his prayers.  David began his day with God.  We would be wise to do the same.
  2. God will hear your voice.  This is an amazing promise! Have you ever wondered if anyone is listening to you?  I know I have.  We don’t have to wonder that when it comes to God.  He hears our voice.  David states this as a fact.  We don’t have to light a candle or perform a ritual or be in a certain place for God to hear us, we simply lift our voices to him and know that our words don’t fall on deaf ears.
  3. None of your problems are too small for God. David says that he lays his requests before God.  There are a couple of implications here.  First, David doesn’t qualify the type of requests he brings before God.  He doesn’t say, “I bring all the huge things before you, because I know how busy you are and you probably don’t care about the small stuff anyway.”  He knew, through firsthand experience, that God would listen and provide for all his needs whether they were big or small.  I am so thankful for this promise. Some of my prayers are huge and the issue I am dealing with seems to overwhelm me, but some of my prayers are insignificant and seem like they shouldn’t even matter.  Both kinds are welcome to God because he knows the small stuff matters to me.  Because prayer is an intimate language, we can confidently go before him and leave all of our requests at his feet.
  4. You can have confidence that God will answer your prayers. David says that he does two things: he lays his requests before God and he waits expectantly.  That expectantly is a very important adverb.  It means that we give our requests to God, with the confidence and knowledge that he will answer our prayers.  We shouldn’t pray to God as a last resort, when all our other options have been exhausted.  We should bring our requests to him as soon as they cross our mind, fully anticipating him to work in his pleasing and perfect will.  (Romans 8:28)

I know that for years I struggled with regularly having a consistent quiet time with God.  Life has a way of getting in the way.  But if you will make an effort to start your day with God, it will transform your day. Your transformed days will become transformed weeks and transformed weeks will become transformed years and transformed years will become a transformed life. (Romans 12:2)

What way of managing your quiet time works for you?

Please leave a comment below!

What God Are You Praying To?

What God Are You Praying To?

Reverence: honor or respect felt or shown;deference–especially : profound adoring awed respect.

Think about the last time you bowed your head to pray.  How did it begin?  Dear Heavenly Father is always nice.  What came next? Perhaps you thanked him for something or maybe just went into your litany of things that you needed God to do for you.  Most of the time that is how we approach God.

I found a quote by Henry Blackaby and a sermon by Andy Stanley that turn this kind of praying upside down.

The quote is this:

“We talk about standing in the presence of a Holy God, yet our response to him is unlike anyone who stood before him in the Scriptures.”

When people of the Bible stood before the Lord, it didn’t take long before they fell on their faces in reverence and awe of him.  When we stand before the Lord, often times we are flippant and demanding and take the privilege we have for granted.

The sermon entitled “Red Letter Prayers” addresses this and instructs us to pray as Jesus prayed in the Lord’s Prayer.

Jesus’ focus was on two primary things:

  • First, we should spend our time in prayer lifting up and exalting the magnificent, mighty, holy and powerful God who loves us.
  • Second, we should seek his will (his kingdom) over our own and give him the right to act as he sees fit in our lives.

In the message, Andy makes the case that when we spend our time exalting God (putting him in his rightful place as Lord of our lives) and focusing on building up his kingdom (instead of our own) then the rest of our lives tend to fall into place.

Jesus says it this way in Matthew 6:32-34:

For the pagans run after all these things, 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.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

When we keep God high and lifted up it keeps our focus pointing upward as well.  It causes us to lose sight of our problems and focus on the one who holds all things together.  It causes us to turn our prayers from what we want to what God wants for us.  It helps us remember that we are here not for our own glory, but for his glory.  We are here not for today, but in preparation for eternity.  If we will pray like this we will begin to see treasures in heaven mount up instead of treasures on earth that rot and decay.  When we treat God like he is the Lord of our lives instead of a magic genie that gives us what we want, he will begin to show us his Lordship in powerful and mighty ways.

Remember, sometimes you have to fall flat on your face in order to remember the mighty, powerful God you serve.  You have to approach him with reverence and awe.  Only then can he lift you up and provide what you need, when you need it.  

Isn’t it amazing that the God of all the universe loves you and I that much?  I think so too.

Prayer—The Intimate Language

We look upon prayer as a means of getting things for ourselves; the Bible idea of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself.  Oswald Chambers

 “Prayer is an intimate language.”

Does this statement surprise you?  Perhaps you have never thought of prayer in this way.  I would ask you, why not?  If you look at the type of relationship that God wants to have with us it is an intimate one.  The word intimate means, “closely connected, involving very close connection, private and personal.”  Isn’t this an adequate description of the type of relationship God wants with us?  So it stands to reason that the way we can communicate with God is through an intimate language called prayer.

The amazing thing about prayer is that for it to be truly effective it strips us of all falsehood, pretenses and presumptions.  To truly communicate with God our souls must be laid bare.  For me to stand in His presence I have to have a clear conscience (meaning free from sin) and an earnest desire to hear His voice.  I have to take a step away from the world and my life and all that ties me down there in order to be free to hear Him speak.

In addition, I have to be completely honest with myself and about my walk in order to speak to Him intimately.  Perhaps this is why it is difficult for many of us to have an excellent prayer life.  We are unwilling to be honest with ourselves about where we stand compared to where we should be standing.  Many Christians would rather be “good enough” than attempt to make lasting changes in their lives and their Christian walk.  True, intimate prayer with the Father lays us bare.

The amazing thing is that once we learn to pray intimately with Him, oh how it changes us!  Deep intimate prayer is cleansing and cathartic.  It helps wash away the filth and drudgery that weighs us down.  It brings us to a closer and fuller relationship with God.  It allows us to become closer and more intimate with our spouses, friends and other believers.  It ignites a change in us that enables us to walk with renewed strength and vigor.   It becomes a place of refuge in times of trouble and a place to celebrate our victories in times of triumph.

Meaningful prayer changes Christians.  It is the intimate closeness of the Heavenly Father to his children.  It is the still small voice that carries us on.  It is the voice of the One who created you for just such a conversation as this.

Father, speak to my heart today.  Create in me a desire for intimate conversation with you.  Help me to clearly hear your voice and to respond in kind.  Take away everything that hinders me from hearing your words and give me a thirst for more of you, this day and every day.  Help me to speak this intimate language that you have created because you love me that much.  In Jesus name, Amen.