Thursday, July 21, 2011

Intentionality in Prayer

Let me first say that when I am saying prayer, what I am meaning is praying to God Almighty in the name of Jesus.  People throw the word prayer around quite a bit.  Some people even add that they will be keeping you in their thoughts and prayers.  While I don't really understand what that means, I do want to talk more about prayer.

How important to you is prayer?

Is prayer the first idea you have when you think of how to start your day or how to gain insight or help in a situation? 

Prayer is the most significant tool given to us by the LORD Himself.  Are you using that tool?  Am I?

I have had times in my life when my prayer muscles were so strong that I could go on in times of prayer for a good hour or more.  In fact, I had about a year in my life where I had one day a week devoted to prayer from morning to evening before dinner.  I would start out by listening and singing along to praise and worship music, move on to thanking the Lord, confessing any sins, bringing Him my requests for myself and for others, journaling, and just sitting and listening to Him.  I would also include times of studying the Bible and walking around my neighborhood praying for my neighbors and the people I saw while I was walking.

Those were really good days!

Other times in my life, I have laid my head on the pillow at night and thought, "Did I really even talk to the Lord much today?"  Sure I rarely fail to remember to thank Him for my food, and now with children there are times throughout the day that we pray, but some days I have not made the time to really sit and visit with the One who not only created me but also has set me free from the bonds of sin and death through my redemption in Jesus Christ. 

You may be thinking, "But when?  I don't have time to sit and do anything!" 

Yes you do.  You are probably busy, and that is a valid point, but you do have time.  Time is rarely the issue when it comes to what is important.  The issue is lack of intentionality.  If you have been with me for a while, you know that this is something I have been writing about.  Let's review the definition of intentional:

Intend: To have in mind; plan
Intention: A course of action that one intends to follow.  An aim that guides action; an objective

Intentional: Done deliberately

And furthermore, what I have found is that being intentional about anything is a matter of habit.  A habit is formed when a decision is made to do something over and over again.  Eventually a habit it formed, and that action becomes a part of life almost without having to think about it as much.  There is still the need to continue in that habit, if it is a good one, but the amount of thought necessary to continue is not as much as it was before the habit was formed.

Simply put, when you focus on making prayer a habit, it becomes one that is more easily made a part of your life.  Then the focus is on keeping it a habit and growing all the more in maturity and skill, so to speak, of that habit.

Then there is the question: How do I pray?

This is a great question to ask.  Prayer can seem intimidating at times, and in some ways that is not so bad.  After all, if the intimidation is coming from a place of humility and reverence for the LORD God Almighty, then that is not a bad place to start.  However, the LORD wants to have a relationship with you that is one of freedom and honesty.  He sees our hearts.  If prayer is a time when I am motivated by the desire to impress others with my wordcrafting or Bible knowledge, then my heart is not seeking to glorify my Lord in prayer.  On the other hand, He knows when I truly just want to open up to Him and seek His will and praise Him through prayer.

Prayer is simply a conversation.  It involves talking and listening.  Most of us are pretty skilled at talking.  Listening is sometimes harder.  There are so many ways to engage in conversation with the LORD.  I like to mix it up, so I can stay in the habit and discipline of praying daily and throughout the day.  Sometimes I journal, which helps me to focus on writing out my prayers (the talking part) and writing out what God says to me through the Bible and with His voice (the listening part).  Sometimes I have a bulletin board that I can look at with pictures and verses on it to help me focus as I pray.  Other times I have a little flip index card book to help me stay on track.  Walking has helped me focus on praying at times.  Talking out loud, if I can, is often helpful to me because it is easier for me to not get sidetracked or even fall asleep (raise your hand if that has happened to you - I've done it). 

There are so many ways to make prayer a part of daily life. 

Let's not forget that praying with others is also a very needed aspect of our Christianity.  People need people.  We just do.  We need each other.  Prayer is such a bonding activity if we let it become a part of our lives and a part of our relationships.  This can be very uncomfortable at times, and honestly there are some people that I don't feel comfortable praying with.  For example, I am very careful to not pray alone with a man who is not my husband.  There may be rare times when this is appropriate or an immediate need, but still discernment is required. This is because prayer is a bit of a pouring out of one's heart and soul in the presence of another.  It is intimate.

Being intentional about prayer can also open many doors.  For example, when you go out to eat at a restaurant tell the server you are going to pray before you eat, and ask them how you can pray for them.  I love doing this.  It's such an unexpected gesture of care and concern and almost always the server delightedly and thankfully responds with a request.  I have even made friendships this way with servers because many times they come back to share more or they want us to sit in their section the next time we come.  What a great way to show others that God cares about them.  What a great way to show our chidren that we can be about the business of loving others and of sharing God with others even while dining out among strangers.

In my encounters with fellow Christians in or from other nations I have witnessed wholehearted, unashamed, and faith-filled prayer that humbled me, convicted me, inspired me, and challenged me.  Why do I let the distractions of my surroundings keep me from such joy and such power when this free and amazing gift is available to all who call on Him? 

Sure if may take work.  It may not be easy, and it may not even be fun at times.  But isn't connecting directly with the Giver of Life worth the effort?  I do pray that the LORD will help His people be intentional in prayer and fight the good fight before His holy throne.

How will you become more intentional with prayer?  Why not start now?
"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 14:6)

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." (Romans 12:12)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This was so beautifully written, Kristen! Wow... a whole day in prayer??? It's true, though; I think we do what we want to do. We make times for the things that are truly important to us.