5 Practical Tips for Prayer

IMG_6379

It feels icky to write about prayer in this way, offering you “5 practical tips for prayer”. I honestly believe that when we truly understand who God is and what He’s done for us, when we’re poor in spirit and needy, and when we’ve created space to pray, that’s all we really need to move forward in prayer.

An understanding of God
An understanding of our Need
Space to pray

You don’t need self-discipline to pray continuously; you just need to be poor in spirit. (Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life)

However, I also know some of you speak in the language of “lists” and connect better with “plans”, so hopefully this will help. I often get stuck in my prayer life, so I don’t follow any one way. I think of these more like options, if I’m stuck in prayer, I pick up another way to pray that day.

 1.  Journal. Keep a journal nearby and just start writing. I open up to a new page, write the date, and write anything that’s on my mind. Usually it starts with a loooooong to-do list or all the things I want to do in my life or all the things I am failing at (it’s awful to admit, I tell God all the ways I’m a failure almost everyday. Oh how I bet that grieves Him that I still see my failure before I see my blessing, my identity in Christ. Maybe I need to start by writing this everyday: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

After I empty my brain of all my to-do lists and horrible self-talk, prayer happens. I usually start with, well you. I begin to pray for the women I teach/lead/shepherd, friends, family, neighbors, the hurting, those suffering, etc. This is often where the Lord gives me dreams and visions of what could be for the women of The Well or this city; I write out my million ministry ideas and plans and then I sit on them. I wait, continue to pray, until the right time to move or move on. I actually have a 10-year plan of bible studies to write for the women of The Well, and we’re moving through them on to year 3!

2.  Prayer walk. Sometimes, I need to get out of my house, away from my computer and the pile of laundry or chores, and go out for a change of scenery. This honestly, is the best way I know how to connect with God through prayer. I walk. I talk to Him. I listen. I daydream. I intercede. I plead. I petition. I delight. I have to leave my house to be more present with God. I have my headphones in (so people don’t think I’m insane and talking to myself) but I’m actually walking in silence most of the time.

3.  Music. Turning on worship music pulls me out of whatever is going on in my busy brain and refocuses my heart. Usually in between songs, I will sit, or stand, sometimes put my face to the ground, and pray. Whatever the Lord puts on my heart, I pray.

4.  Lists. Oh my heavens this is the place I feel most like a failure. However, I’ve heard of people writing out a prayer list by the day of the week. For this season, I’m going to give it a try, mostly because I really do want to be more intentional in my prayer time (but this really does stifle me and make it feel more like a checklist to Santa than a conversation with the God Most High). Nonetheless, I am trying something new during Lent and this will be it!

Monday: Santino & Me (Our marriage, our dreams, ministry, family, our hearts, etc.)

Tuesday: My team & women’s group (women I serve and serve with)

Wednesday: The Well (our staff, our church, our elders/leaders)

Thursday: Women I disciple/shepherd & women in pain/suffering

Friday: Friends & Evangelism

Saturday: My neighborhood & the world (missions)

Sunday: Family

I wrote out things I will pray for under each day, specific scriptures and names. We’ll see how it goes and if I last more than a week.

5.  Pray out loud. Yes, really, pray out loud. My mind wanders if I just try to pray in my own head. It’s too loud up there! I have to pray out loud. Even better if I’m with someone to pray out loud with them, I’ve seen God move when I gather with others to pray. This deserves a post of it’s own, and is so missing in the Church today—actually praying with others, not just telling them we will pray.

Journal, prayer walks, music, lists, praying out loud are all things I try from day to day. If I’m stuck, I try something else. Sometimes I do all of these, other times just one. I hope some of these help cultivate your prayer life and deepen your love for the Lord.

Whatever you try, may we experience freedom when we come to God in prayer.

What has worked for you?

How have you connected with God through prayer in a different avenue?

This weekend, take some time to focus on Who God is, our need for Him, and finding margin to pray.  To seek Him, to pray for your own heart, and to pray for others.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1: 9-11)

Advertisements

The Secret to a Healthy Prayer Life

olive branch

I was only one month into seminary when I started feeling my margin diminishing and my calendar filling. Two part time jobs and full time school meant a lot less free space in my day and my week, and it didn’t take long before I started to notice a difference. During a conference call with my professor, he reminded me that it was vital to my spiritual life (along with my relationships and physical health) to find something that filled my soul both daily and weekly.

Something refreshing and filling, both daily and weekly. Creating space in my day and in my week to rest, breathe, refocus, and fill up.

Margin: an amount allowed or available beyond what is actually necessary. That white space around the edge of a page, or that white space in my calendar, where there are no appointments, no errands, no tasks, but just space. To move, to rest, to breathe.

“Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.” (Richard Swenson, M.D.,  Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives)

We cannot have a healthy thriving, flourishing, deep prayer life apart from margin. We have to leave space to pray, to listen, to refocus, to refresh, to be.

In his book, “A Praying Life” Paul Miller says,

“American culture is probably the hardest place in the world to learn to pray. We are so busy that when we slow down to pray we find it uncomfortable. We prize accomplishments, production. But prayer is nothing but talking to God. It feels useless, as if we are wasting time. Every bone in our bodies screams, “Get to work”.

When we aren’t working, we are used to being entertained. Television, the internet, video games, cell phones make free time as busy as work. When we do slow down, we slip into a stupor. Exhausted by the pace of life, we veg out in front of a screen with earplugs.”

Busyness, productivity, noise, lots to keep our attention keeps us from praying. Later, Miller says,

Learning to pray doesn’t offer us a less busy life; it offers us a less busy heart. In the midst of our outer busyness we can develop an inner quiet.”

Margin is vital to our prayer life. It’s vital to our health, our relationships, our connection to God. We need parts of our day we can just be. We have to fight for margin. We have to learn to say no to the urgent, to say yes to the important. It means we have to say no, not because we are busy, but to keep from being busy.

So if we truly understand to Whom we pray, then margin to pray should become a way of life.  Prayer is a gift, an invitation to be with our Heavenly Father, to enjoy His presence, and be filled by His Spirit. We can’t enjoy this kind of freedom without margin.

So as we consider this season of Lent, how can you rework your day and your week to find margin?

What do you need to say no to, in order to create sacred space with God?

What ways are you choosing other things (TV, social media, etc.) to numb out or fill up margin?  How can you begin to seek God in prayer during those down times instead?

Let’s accept Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28-20 to be refreshed in Him:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. 

 

Resources:

Tyranny of the Urgent by Charles E. Hummel

Margin for Your Crazy-Busy Life by Michael Hyatt         

And When You Pray {Our Father}

Someone once said if Bible study is the heart of the Christian life, then prayer is the breath. It is the very thing that gives us life, and is an expression that we are alive in Christ. Prayer is ultimately about knowing God and communicating with Him, both through speaking and listening.

I’ve found it fascinating that of all of the things the disciples could’ve asked for Jesus to teach them about, the one thing they asked was “LORD, teach us to pray.” I find great comfort in knowing that even Jesus disciples needed instruction to grow in their prayer lives.

Prayer is really hard. My prayer place is often the hardest place to find. One of the ways we move forward and grow in our prayer life is to first admit that; Lord, we need you to teach us to pray.

The second way to move forward is the Gospel. Understanding our adoption as sons and daughters moves us into a life of prayer because we are praying out of a new identity, as a child of God. We understand we are loved, forgiven, and accepted by our Heavenly Father first, and that changes our prayer life. Understanding whom we pray to changes the way we pray.

Read Matthew 6: 5-15
 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  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.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.  Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

What do you notice about how Jesus teaches his disciples to pray? Where does He start?

Prayer should always start with proper perspective, we first focus our eyes on God, the one to whom we’re praying, and not on our circumstance. While prayer is simply talking to God, we still do so by entering into His presence with reverence and awe, a respect for who He is and yet a great intimacy knowing He will listen. Sometimes Hallowed be Your name is spoken with words, other times it’s a posture of the heart, bowing low in humility believing God is who He says He is.

Listen to Tim Keller explain in this sermon the importance of understanding the difference between Christian prayer and all other types of prayer: knowing God as our Father. Again, understanding whom we pray to changes the way we pray.

Respond in prayer by thanking God for this gift of being adopted, for His Son for making a way for us to know our Heavenly Father, and pray in light of that. Linger in His love, responding to His fatherly grace, and let prayer be a conversation that flows from this place.

  1. In what ways is prayer hard for you?  How do you struggle with prayer? 
  2. How does understanding God as Father change the way you pray?

I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. (Psalm 145:1-3)

Read the rest of this Psalm here: Psalm 145

“Good, Good Father” by Chris Tomlin

 

*If you have trouble viewing the videos above in your email, you may have to open this article in a separate window.

Spiritual Disciplines: Prayer {Week 2}

In this week’s panel, we’ll discuss prayer. Make sure you’ve completed p.20-26 in the study prior to the video.

Which type of prayer from our study was new to you? Have you tried praying differently this week? Comment below!

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/119399613″>2015 02 10 – Women's Bible Study Week 3</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/twcc”>The Well Community Church</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>