Five tips for getting moving with prayer
Last time we looked at some of the reasons we often struggle with prayer as Christians
You can go back and read that post, but in summary we covered:
· We don’t know how
· We are too busy
· We’re not sure God hears us
· We think we can manage on our own
So how do we get started with prayer? Or re-started if we’ve stalled. Or maybe we just need to make a bit of fresh start with prayer because it’s gone a bit stale? Here are FIVE quick tips
Have you heard the saying: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”? It was first uttered by the chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu. It's an ancient saying and the reason it has stood the test of time is that it's true.
Don’t wait until you are “in the mood”. Don’t look for the “right time” or “right place”. It will never happen. Focus on just getting a start, even if it’s a very small one.
Decide how much time you are going schedule it in your day to begin your new prayer life. Be sensible. If you make some outrageous statement about praying for three hours every day by getting up at the crack of dawn, then you're just setting yourself up to fail. But we could all manage FIVE minutes....
For most of us, finding time will mean that we have to sacrifice something else that you are doing instead. Probably you are enjoying that other thing (TV, sleep, friends, kids, etc.) or you wouldn’t be doing it in the first place
Prayer has to be moved up the list of priorities...
You'll only pray if prayer is a high enough priority to bump off something else that you previously thought more important.
When your best friend calls, you make time even if something else that is important has to be sacrificed. You may not know it yet, but God is your best friend and making some time for Him every day is going to be the best long term investment that you have ever made.
Why reinvent the wheel?
There are many very fine prayers that you can simply use straight from a book or a website.
For some reason a lot of people think they have to come up with their own flowery prayers. And then find that they cannot… so give up! What a pity that is…
There’s absolutely no shame in using prayers that other people have written. There are loads of books or websites filled with really great prayers. Use them!
Or we could have a Prayer Newsletter like in my last parish.
If you are learning to pray, then you realise, of course, that you are on unfamiliar ground. But remember that everyone started in that same place. Even the greatest men and women of prayer throughout history started exactly where you are. Everyone has their “ups and downs” in prayer. Just take baby steps for now...
Prayer can grow dull when we turn it into a purely mental exercise.
We find it hard to concentrate, hard to focus, hard to keep finding more and words. God made us creative beings, so why don’t we bring creativity to our prayer lives?
Lighting a fragrant candle can send a signal to our brains: “It’s time to pray.” It can bring a sacred sense of awe to a few minutes of prayer. Listening to music can help us focus on God. Just whack on a CD or Spotify
Many people enjoy doodling, drawing, or painting while they pray. I help my ADHD-plagued brain focus on prayer by keeping a prayer journal. Making a list of requests keeps my mind alert; I stop to pray for each petition after jotting it down. Sometimes I write out longer prayers like a letter. A prayer journal builds faith when you look back over your petitions and recall God’s answers.
Be creative just as God is infinitely creative...
When I look at the life of Jesus, I see something really interesting. And since like all Christians, I want to model myself on how Jesus lives, I think this is relevant...
Jesus frequently went away by himself to find the space and solitude to be able to pray.
We read in Luke 5.16: Great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. but Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.
There are several places in the Gospels where this is mentioned – it’s actually easy to miss them. It’s often a bit of a passing comment between two other stories or episodes from Jesus’ life. He DID really think it important to get away and to carve out a chunk of time to pray BUT He then came back and acted...
· He dived into all the messiness, brokenness, sin and chaos of the lives of ordinary people
· He called out the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and empty traditions
· He told a rich young ruler to give up all he had if he wanted to follow Jesus
· He got frustrated and exasperated with the disciples for their lack of faith
In other words – he prayed, then he acted. Jesus’ prayers were ‘fuel’ that powered a life of ministry A ministry that was often hard, challenging and filled with conflict. He never saw prayer as escape, and he never formed a ‘holy huddle’...
He came before His father to receive resources and strength to live out the Gospel in the world. And we must never allow our prayer to be a thing in itself, but something which empowers us for Christian life