Do believers find it hard to pray? A recent national survey confirms what we all suspected. For example, the survey found that less than a third of evangelicals admit to having any meaningful time devoted to daily prayer. Nearly one fifth of us only pray when it’s convenient. Obviously, we could do better.
When I started walking with God as a teenager, I wanted to pray but I didn’t yet know how or what to pray. Fortunately, I was introduced to some “entry level” prayer plans which helped me begin my life of prayer. For instance, the ACTS prayer plan has been popular because it’s easy to learn and practice. You spend a few minutes in Adoration (praising God for who He is), time in Confession(repenting of your own sins), some time in Thanksgiving (thanking God for all He has already done for you), and finally time in Supplication (these are your prayers of request – asking God to supply your needs).
Another simple (and very similar) plan I used a lot when I was learning to pray begins with a commitment of only 5 minutes. I still encourage the “5 Minute Prayer Plan” for anyone who is just getting started.
Minute One: Confess your sins
Minute Two: Thank God for all He has done for you
Minute Three: Pray for others
Minute Four: Pray for your requests
Minute Five: This is a “bonus minute” which allows you to pray more for one of the first 4 “categories,” or anything else you want to talk to God about. You’ll need the extra minute!
You may say these plans are “too simple” or “too brief” for significant prayer. Of course, in one sense, you’re correct. Remember, however, these are “entry level” plans. When I started developing my prayer life years ago, for instance, my prayers were inconsistent, scattered, and undisciplined. I’ve heard many people testify that when they pray their minds wander. These plans provide simple structure. In addition, when developing the habit of prayer most people are inconsistent at first, finding it hard to meet with God on a regular basis during the week. Eventually, in the absence of a plan, inconsistency becomes the norm and too many believers continue to struggle in prayer. Our enemy would like nothing better than to face an undisciplined, prayer-less Christian. And yes, these plans encourage only a few moments of daily prayer which surely isn’t enough. That’s also mostly a correct analysis, but before you can swim laps you’ve got to get in the water!
These plans offer good places to start a habit of prayer, or to start over. Honestly, when I started as a teenager with the five minute plan I found that my daily time with God increased quickly. Most everyone will have the same experience.
What about a strategy for those ready to move beyond a basic, or entry level prayer plan? In part 2, we will look at how to use the most famous prayer in history as a guideline for your own prayer life. For now, praise, supplication, intercession, and confession can and should be on everyone’s prayer list. The only thing left to do is to do it!
CHANGE YOUR WORLD AT PRAYER MEETINGS! -by Kie Bowman
A friend of mine, who leads a large ministry in Austin, once said to me, “Everything in the book of Acts happened at a prayer meeting, after a prayer meeting, or on the way to a prayer meeting!” After studying the book of Acts, I have to admit his statement is essentially correct. I’ve come to believe, along with the 20th century prayer leader, Armin Gesswein, “The early church didn’t attend a prayer meeting – the early church was a prayer meeting!” There was something dynamic and miraculous about the prayer meetings in scripture and we must recapture what we’ve lost since then because prayer meetings change the world.
THINK DIFFERENT/PRAY BETTER
Admittedly all of us have been to some boring, ineffective “prayer meetings” that were more “meeting” than prayer. Forget those! They are criminal ripoffs – man made counterfeits of what we find in Scripture. God is calling us to think differently- and more biblically- about prayer meetings. We must abandon the lifeless so called “prayer meetings” we remember, and immediately move back to a biblical, life giving model for prayer meetings that change the world! Dead “prayer meetings” offend God and nobody wants to attend them anyway. They are indefensible so move on and let’s do it better! The Bible informs us about the importance of dynamic prayer meetings.
DAVID’S HOUSE OF PRAYER
One biblical model for a dynamic prayer meeting is found in David’s Tabernacle. David included worship music with prayer and we should too!
When King David organized the responsibilities of the priests and Levites in the House of God he set aside singers to lead night and day worship.
“Now these, the singers, the heads of fathers’ houses of the Levites, were in the chambers of the temple free from other service, for they were on duty day and night.”
(1 Chronicles 9:33)
The same is true of musical instruments- David made certain the prayer meetings were filled with worship music. He insisted multiple instruments- specifically designed for prayer meetings- be played consistently. From a total of 24,000 Levites charged with ministering in the house of God, David assigned 4000 of them to provide non-stop worship music to support the night and day prayer meeting. In other words, David assembled praise teams and bands to facilitate night and day prayer.
“4,000 gatekeepers, and 4,000 shall offer praises to the LORD with the instruments that I have made for praise.”
(1 Chronicles 23:5)
It’s obvious that worship music and singing is one form or expression of prayer. Our dynamic prayer meetings should be infused with prayer music using instruments and worshipful singing and praise. Worship and singing pumps life into a prayer meeting- it helps us keep our focus on the joy of the Lord and that stirs our faith.
PRAYING LIKE PENTECOST
Someone has observed that, “Jesus started the church the way He wanted it, now He wants the church the way He started it.” The book of Acts is our blueprint for the life of the New Testament church. At Pentecost in Acts 2 the church was born when the Spirit was poured out after a dynamic 10 day prayer meeting. Big things happen in response to prayer. Fortunately, God has provided a template for prayer for the New Testament church today based on the model originated and practiced in the book of Acts. Simply put, the “Acts model” for prayer was the prayer meeting. From the first few paragraphs of the book we find the entire congregation – the Apostles and many others-in a prayer meeting.
“All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”
This habit of meeting together for prayer continues throughout the entire book. In fact, the Apostles announced early on that leading prayer would be one of only two ministries they would focus their lives on-along with the all important ministry of the Word.
“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
It might be tempting, but it would be shortsighted, to imagine that the Apostles meant they would spend all their time in private prayer. They no doubt spent hours in private prayer- just as Jesus taught them-but that is not the larger message of Acts 6:4. The phrase, “devote ourselves to prayer” in English ignores the definite article, “the,” found in the original Greek New Testament. The Apostles said, “We will devote ourselves to the prayer…” When they said “the” prayer, they were referring to an event- they meant the church’s consistent habit of gathering in the prayer meetings.
Prayer in the early church was a definite, public practice. Prior to the Apostles stating their intention to devote themselves to prayer, several instances of prayer had already occurred in the book of Acts and not one of those instances was an example of private devotionals. Only prayer meetings had been mentioned up to that point in the book of Acts. There isn’t a single reference to private prayer so far. New Testament scholars like John R. W. Stott acknowledge, “It is noteworthy that now the Twelve have added prayer to preaching (probably meaning public as well as private intercession).” The Apostles were men of private prayer, of course, but the public leadership of their ministries demanded that they continue leading the dynamic prayer meetings which kept the fires of revival burning hot in the early church.
We would never interpret the Apostolic focus on “the ministry of the Word” as an expression of their commitment to private Bible reading. Neither should we interpret their ministry of prayer as an expression of their own private devotional exercises. In fact, for the next several chapters of Acts, prayer will be mentioned in every chapter and on nearly every page- but in only a single example do we find one the original 12 Apostles praying alone! The book of Acts is about the power of prayer meetings that changed the world!
How does this focus on dynamic, life giving, biblical prayer meetings affect your prayer life? For one thing, you should be a part of a prayer meeting like this. The early church exploded in miracles, missions, and ministry as a direct result of the powerhouse that was the prayer meeting. Something tells me the people who experienced a prayer meeting in the book of Acts never wanted to miss the next one!
Why should you attend a prayer meeting like that? How does it benefit your prayer life to be involved in a congregation of praying people? There may be numerous advantages but allow me suggest two powerful reasons your prayer life will benefit from attending dynamic prayer meetings.
First, we grow best in the context of community. The Bible says,
“Iron sharpens iron,
and one man sharpens another.”(Proverbs 27:17).
Our forefathers of faith, in the Iron Age of Israel’s history, knew their iron weapons could only reach maximum effectiveness if they were sharpened by other iron. The writer of Proverbs brilliantly recognized the comparison immediately that people- like iron weapons needing to be sharpened- improve fastest and best in the context of interaction with other people. That’s one reason we need to attend powerful prayer meetings. Yes, Jesus calls us to secret places for prayer, but He also calls us to grow and thrive in praying groups.
Not only do we benefit as a direct result of praying with other people, dynamic prayer meetings carry the unique promise of God’s presence. If you want answered prayer on a big scale, prayer meetings are essential. Jesus said,
“Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Few other promises of Jesus more clearly anticipate the history changing power of the church gathered in faith-filled prayer meetings! When we gather in expectant faith with other like minded believers, ready to pray and cry out to God, we can expect Jesus to meet with us! Amazing things happen at prayer meetings.
At our Church we always say, “Prayer moves the hand that moves the world!” Most Christians want to be more effective in prayer so here are 4 simple but strategic principles to help you develop a more consistent, satisfying, and powerful prayer life.
Even though prayer is powerful and all of us want a better prayer life, it is still a discipline you can learn and you can get better if you make a commitment. We never grow spiritually by accident-it calls for commitment. We grow when we commit to grow. Remember, the original disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” They knew commitment was involved and they knew they could get better at prayer. What commitments do you need to make in order to get better in your prayer life?
Jesus taught us about the importance of a designated place for prayer when He said, “when you pray, go into your room and shut the door.” Your “room,” or place of prayer, could be almost anywhere if you can control the schedule and eliminate distractions. That means privacy and and a place for unhurried concentration are essential ingredients for developing your life of prayer. Turn away from your text messages and social media to focus on the Lord. Give quality time to the Lord each day. Your prayer life will grow.
Jesus also encourages privacy in prayer, because He said that once you’re in your place of prayer you should “pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” That means finding a place and time you can be alone each day for your regular meeting with God. Remember, “the secret of prayer is prayer in secret.” We don’t pray in secret because we’re ashamed of prayer, we pray in secret (or solitude) because we want to prioritize prayer above all the noises and distractions that so dominate 21st century life. You will never regret time alone with God!
THE BIBLE AND PRAYER
Jesus made us an incredible promise when He said,
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” The words of Jesus- His teachings- are found in Scripture. Jesus taught that daily Bible reading and prayer go together. If we read and study the Bible we should follow it up immediately with sincere prayer. I do this early every morning. It’s the best part of my day. I have my quiet place, and it’s early enough that no one needs anything from me at that time. So I read the Bible and pray to begin each day. Remember to saturate your mind with the Word of God as part of your daily commitment to prayer. It’s a game changer.
Of course there are many more principles to incorporate into your journey of prayer improvement. We will deal in other devotionals with the power of prayer meetings, developing your prayer lists, how much time to spend in prayer, what to pray, and more.
For now, begin the journey. Plan ahead because you’ll need to schedule the daily time, gather any resources you may need, and find your private place. You will improve if you keep going. The prayer journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Take the step!