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!