I must admit that prayer is one of the (many) subjects that I feel terribly unqualified to write about. And this is the danger with even writing an article or doing a talk on the subject – people tend to assume that you are an ‘expert’. You know the type – the kind of Christian that can wake-up at some criminally early hour of the morning and pray regularly every day for 2 hours… I am actually envious…and wish I would be like that.
Instead I struggle to concentrate and my mind tends to drift to thinking about either what is next on the ‘agenda’ or what should I have for tea. I need to work hard at being disciplined and keep my prayer routines. When I write routine, I see that as a means of grace, rather than a legalistic meaningles habit.
But very often, that makes me feel inadequate, guilty and even artificial. Yet strangely I long to pray more, I love it when I do and I believe with all my heart that prayer is a fantastic privilege and potential – truly essential if you want to grow closer to Jesus and become more effective as a Christian.
Rather than write about the general practicalities of prayer – which I am sure you might know a fair bit about – I decided to give you some of my personal findings on prayer, what works for me… little gems here and there. So here they are – and I hope that they will be an encouragement and a challenge to you as well:
- Be serious about this (Matthew 6:5) – it isn’t optional, added extra stuff. Prayer is the ‘air’ that the Christian needs to survive spiritually – there is no shortcut. No tape/ book/ CD/ website/ experience can be a substitute for praying. It might sound like a churchy cliché, but it is so true – without prayer you cannot survive as a believer. If Jesus prayed – so should you!
- Be disciplined (Ephesians 6:18). It always helps to determine to pray, even if you don’t feel like it – prayer is about discipline (not a fave word, eh?) and without it we will never make progress. One of the dangerous myths around is that you should pray when you feel like it. Silly thing to say/do – because there would be plenty of things to distract you and make you feel like doing a 1000 other things rather than pray… As the chaps at Nike say: ‘Just do it’.
- Be original – don’t necessarily think that what works for others will work for you as well. Prayer and personality are very much linked. You must find a time and a place that is suitable for you. Use your own words and be genuine. If you run out of ideas – improvise! Don’t be afraid to look at examples in church history of how Christians prayed in the past (i.e. hymns, written prayers, liturgy). If you need use visual stuff, music and do not be afraid to get out and about.
- Be a warrior – prayer is and will continue to be a spiritual battle. Your ‘flesh’ will keep resisting it because of your pride. You like being in control and prayer will short-circuit your control issues. If you expect prayer to be easy wou will be surprised, issapointed and ultimately deflated every time you fail.
Anyway… I’ll better stop here. Last thing – a well guarded secret. Most Christians struggle with prayer – whatever the appearances might say. So you are not alone if you do too. Therefore you will never stop learning new things about prayer. So whatever you do – just pray! And you will experience unspeakably marvellous things that God will do in and through you (Matthew 7:7-11; Philippians 4:6-7)!