I’ve thoroughly enjoyed preaching through Romans 8 and the recent focus on prayer has been especially helpful to my own soul. The last few weeks have been a reminder to me of the power and necessity of prayer in the life of the Christian and I want us to dive deeper into the gracious gift of prayer. It’s why I love this quote from the German reformer Martin Luther:
“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”
Do we not understand theologically what Luther is saying? Then why is it practically such a chore to pray? Why is it that many of us can’t remember the last time we breathed a prayer? We know we are to pray (and pray without ceasing as Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5), yet we do not pray. To fail to pray, then, is not to merely break some religious rule. It is a failure to treat God as God.
Is our struggle to pray due to wrestling with God’s sovereignty over all things? Do we say “What is the point of prayer if God is sovereign?” I’d argue that when we fully understand the sovereignty of God, as it is recorded in Scripture, then the natural response is not prayerlessness, but rather genuine life of prayer. Is our struggle to pray due to a lack of desire to pray or not knowing what to pray?
What if we, with sincere hearts, asked the same question the disciples asked Jesus in Luke 11: “Lord, teach us to pray”. From this simple statement the disciples both acknowledge the sovereignty of Jesus (“Lord”) and they recognize the immense need to commune with God in prayer (“teach us to pray”).
What is prayer then?
The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines prayer as “is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies”.
A few weeks ago, I defined prayer as a continual, intimate conversation with God that is grounded in knowing who He is and that what He has said from His Word is true.
We could continue to define prayer but no matter how we define it – Biblically of course – it must always lead us back to actually spending time in prayer.
It’s why I want to encourage you to take the time and develop an intentional prayer plan.
Like any good goal, developing a plan helps us see that goal come into fruition. Want to lose a certain amount of weight? You need to develop a plan that includes working out and eating healthy. Want to save for a future purchase? A budget is the plan to help you accomplish that goal. We use plans all the time to help us accomplish goals and establish new rhythms and developing a plan to help you be intentional in prayer is worth considering.
Take the time to answer these questions and enjoy how the Holy Spirit strengthens you as you spend more time in prayer.
Determine when you will pray.
The heart of a believer who prays without ceasing understands the need for an intentional time of prayer daily. It is good to pray at meal times, in the car when you see an accident, when you head into a meeting, or when you are prompted to pray when talking with someone. It is also good to pray when there are no other distractions or responsibilities. It is good to have time just between you and God.
While the Bible is not dogmatic on when you should pray, the Bible speaks on the importance of speaking to God first thing in the morning, even before you speak with anyone else.
“O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” – Psalm 5:3
Your plan might require you to adjust your morning routine by getting up earlier or spending time in prayer instead of scrolling social media. Your plan might mean you take your lunch break in the car and spend a portion of that time praying. Maybe you take the first 15 minutes of your kid’s nap time to pray, and then go take a nap yourself!
Determine where you will pray.
I recently mentioned my Prayer Chair ™ in a sermon, not realizing how much time I spend in that chair. It’s a chair in my office that faces two windows and is at a table. There is no work at the table and I can’t see my normal desk. It’s really only me, my Bible, and a few pens. It’s here where I spend my intentional time in prayer.
You don’t necessarily need to have a Prayer Chair ™ in an office, but you need to have a certain location where you pray and the people in your house know that is where you go to pray. Jesus speaks to the importance of a prayer closet in Matthew’s gospel account.
“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” – Matthew 6:6
Determine where your prayer closet will be. Maybe it’s in the garage or out on the porch or maybe it’s a walk around the neighborhood. Wherever you decide to pray, know that wherever you are, you are meeting with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and He hears your prayers!
Determine what you will pray.
This may seem like a strange determination but knowing what you will pray is key to intentional praying! Many of us determine the time and the location, but then we sit down to pray and find out we don’t know where to start. There’s a host of helpful tools to help you know what to pray, but the most practical comes from Jesus himself.
Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” – Luke 11:1–4
We can see Jesus’ model prayer and establish four key points that you can implement in your intentional prayer time. The four points make up the acronym A.C.T.S.
Adoration: Acknowledging who God is and understanding His Holy character.
Take the time in your prayer by praising God for who He is! Need a start? Pray through Colossians 1 or Ephesians 1.
Confession: Acknowledging you have sinned against God’s Holy character.
Take the time to confess your sins specifically, not generally. Need a start? Pray through Psalm 51.
Thanksgiving: Acknowledging God’s goodness towards you flows from His Holy Character.
Take the time to say thank you to God for all that He has done for you. Need a start? Pray through Psalm 34.
Supplication: Requesting from God, in accordance with His will, what you need to reflect His holy character.
Take the time to take your requests to God. He loves to hear His children come to Him with their needs. Prayer is taking everything that is on our heart to God.
In Romans 8:15, God’s children cry out to God the Father. “Crying out” to our Father in Heaven represents both the crying out of “Dad, help I’m hurting” and the “Dad, come look at how awesome this lego house I built is!” It’s the crying out of both pain and praise.
When we turn to the Lord, we trust that even when we are not praying the Lord’s will for us, the Holy Spirit Himself is interceding for us, because He knows perfectly God’s will for us.
Determine to pray.
Finally, an intentional prayer plan requires us to actually pray and commit to praying! The plan becomes meaningless if we don’t actually implement it. And one of the surest ways an intentional prayer plan is derailed is through the excuses we create.
Being too tired, not having enough time, being too busy, too much noise, or even not knowing what to say are all excuses that we need, no, we must eliminate them. We make time for what we deem important, even when we are too busy and have little time. We carry on conversations with other people while our kids are around all the time. I could keep going but you see what I’m trying to say. Any excuse is a poor excuse for a lack of praying.
So determine to pray. Determine to spend a designated time in a designated place with just you and the Lord. Take your heart to Him. Hear him speak to you from His Word. And go to Him in confidence, knowing that you are no longer condemned, but you are now His child whom He longs to talk with.
By His Grace,