Breaking Down the Basics: Prayer
As a teenager, new to the faith, my youth pastor would often say, "the battle is won in prayer." At the time prayer was a foreign concept to me; at the same time, it was amazing to me that I could talk to God. However, I wasn't quite sure what that looked like. Was it on my knees bowed, or pacing the floor? Was it silently in my head or loudly with enthusiasm? Was it with my hands folded gently before me, or with arms lifted high in surrender? It wasn't just the "how" of prayer either; it was the when, where, and frequency.
Perhaps I should start out with what prayer is not. Prayer shouldn't only be used as:
a "get out of jail free" card.
the last option when all else fails.
something you do only when you need a request from God.
a place to be disrespectful.
meant to be quickly passed over with a few rushed words.
E.M. Bounds wrote, "...we can never get to know Him if we use the vehicle of prayer as we use the telephone--for a few words of hurried conversation. Intimacy requires development."
Prayer shouldn't play second-fiddle in our day, but instead be cherished as a priority. It is prayer that touches the throne of God. It is prayer that turns your situation upside down. It is prayer that changes things. I'm able to stand by this because I've watched it played out time and again in my own life. When I needed a few hundred dollars to finish Master's Commission, it came in just in time--twice! When I had no job, I was always provided for. The many years leading up to marriage were hard, but God did things no man could. As I embarked on a new chapter in Colorado, I found God provided every need along the way. I can testify to the power of prayer.
My favorite book on prayer is The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. He writes something I remind myself of often; "Bold prayer honors God, and God honors bold prayers." This is something we can identify that prayer IS. Prayer asks for the impossible. In fact, it thrives there. Batterson continues, "God isn't offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less. If your prayers aren't impossible to you, they are insulting to God. Why? Because they don't require divine intervention."
Prayer first and foremost must by bold. Furthermore, they must carry this great confidence in what God can do. If you come to God in a time of prayer, there must be an assurance that God is capable. It's faith--prayer requires it.
But what else is prayer? As listed at the top, is it a certain position or volume of words? This is up to you and where you thrive. For example, I can easily wander in my mind if I'm silently sitting on the couch. As a result, my prayer time if much more productive and invigorating when I'm standing up, perhaps even pacing, and praying out loud. For some, having that quiet, focused prayer in your favorite chair may work.
What does the Bible say? The Bible covers both, in fact. The Old Testament is filled with terminology that describes people who vocally called out to God. On the other hand, in 1 Samuel 1, Hannah is described to be praying, "in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard." There are references to standing with arms raised high, and references to being flat out, with face to the ground. The Bible gives no formula, but what does that mean for you? It means find what allows you to be most focused and productive, and do that.
What about a time of day or frequency? Some say religiously that the morning is when you pray. Some say prayer is when you need it. But again, what does the Bible say?
In regards to frequency, the Bible does say in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to "pray without ceasing." Some may look at that and immediately be discouraged because how is one suppose to pray without ceasing? I breathed a sigh of relief when I learned it didn't mean it was without stopping, but rather describing a lifestyle of prayer. Our days should be filled with instances of prayer; whether that's our devoted time in the morning, while you're sitting in your car, when a dilemma pops up, or your sitting down for a meal. Prayer should be the natural outflow of a life committed to following Christ. So prompt yourself to pray, at every turn and silent moment.
As for that specific time, that goes back to preference. Some people are much more motivated and alert in the morning, and some in the evening. Find the time that you feel most attentive and make that a devoted prayer time. Give God your best.
There is a lot that could be said about prayer, and I certainly can't address it all here. With that, below are a few great books on prayer that will inform, encourage, refresh and invigorate.
Recommended Books of Prayer
The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson
Purpose in Prayer by E.M. Bounds
Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala
Praying the Names of God by Ann Spangler
I hope you walk away from this post with an excitement to pray big and bold prayers. To believe for the impossible. I hope you take away an understanding of your blueprint for prayer that best allows you to be a productive prayer warrior. And I hope you cherish it as an opportunity to further develop your intimacy with God.
Pray as everything depends on it; it's where the battle is won.
How would you rate your commitment to prayer, one being you forget daily and 10 your mind often goes to prayer in every situation.
How would you rate your confidence in prayer, one being no confidence your prayers are being heard and ten that you have no doubt God is listening.
What would help you get higher numbers on those scales? Make a plan and commitment to foster your prayer life.