Thursday, December 04, 2008


I am a fretful and flailing pray-er. If there is a method to praying regularly, consistently, fluidly and rewardingly, I have not mastered it. I know that may come as a shock to folks who think a preacher would have earned his “Expert” rating for praying before being turned loose on the church, but there you have it. There’s no class on it in Bible school. I pray as one with a deep and distant hunger to commune with God and draw closer to Him but often without the discipline to follow through. A deep and distant hunger, you see, is not nearly as urgent as a superficial and shallow craving. And so I battle, as we all do, the tension between living “in the thick of thin things” (Stephen Covey) and wanting to be one in whose life “deep calls to deep” (Psalm 42:7).

Last week I compared praying for the Christian with putting for the golfer. Good putting is instrumental for a good golf score, and good praying is instrumental for a deep spiritual core. Neither is glamorous, and since each is difficult each is often left relatively unpracticed. But just as a golfer must eventually learn how to putt well, a Christian who wants to grow spiritually and be more fruitful in the Kingdom should learn how to pray well. Here is what I have learned in my twenty-five year journey.

“Prayer is talking to God about what we are doing together,” as Dallas Willard puts it. Praying is easier for me when I think of it as a conversation God wants to have rather than a monologue I need to give. This doesn’t mean I hear God’s voice audibly, or even inaudibly, when I pray; it means I speak to God in a personal way. Our prayers to God don’t need to be formal, though they certainly may be. We pray to God as our sovereign Lord who is also our loving Father. “Lord, you know how distracted I’m feeling now but I want to talk to you about things that are going on…” This is not a bad way to start a prayer!

I find it helpful to pray through a template, in my case the acronym A.C.T.S. I begin by Acknowleding God as sovereign Lord and spend some time praising him. Then I Confess my sins. Then I give Thanks for the many blessings in my life. And finally I make Supplication (requests) to God. This may not be helpful to everyone, which is fine, but it helps me progress through a prayer. It’s like walking along a path instead of making my own trail. I spend as much time in each of the four areas as I need. This also helps me avoid spending all my prayer time in supplication.

Given my affinity for structure and schedules, I always thought I would forge a habit of praying early in the morning each day. I have not. Sometimes I do, but most of the time I don’t. Rather, I find twenty or thirty minutes during the day when I can retreat to a quiet place and pray. Sometimes I drive to or from the office in silence and pray during this time. I find it helpful to pray aloud softly; this keeps my mind from drifting. I recommend softly speaking your prayers for this reason.

The key, I have found, is to find a method with which you feel comfortable and just pray. Pray, pray, pray. Think of your day as a continual series of opportunities for short or longer conversations with God. Don’t feel constrained to wait for that “one big chunk of time” when you can pray until your bucket is full (or empty, depending on how you look at it). Just talk to God. He wants to be in conversation with you. He cares deeply for you (I Peter 5:6-7).


Post a Comment

<< Home