My prayer life could be better. Have you ever said that? If so, you aren’t alone. It’s common among the Christians that I know, including myself, but why is that? Are we too busy? Do we lack the knowledge? Is it a lack of discipline? Or it something else entirely?
I can’t help but notice that Jesus prayed a lot as I read through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Mark chapter 1 presents Jesus as having a busy day of teaching, casting out demons and healing people. At the end of this long day, Mark 1:32-33 says, “That evening at sundown they brought him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door.” I can only imagine how tired he would’ve been.
Then Mark 1:35 says, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” After a busy day and night of ministry, he didn’t sleep in. He woke up early to pray. This was not an isolated event. This was his practice. He would regularly pull away from the craziness of life, and spend extended time in prayer.
Jesus made it a priority to pray. It wasn’t just when he felt desperate, or when he needed something, although he did pray during those times. Jesus was devoted to prayer.
When he was teaching the disciples to pray, he began with, “when you pray….” He expected it to be a regular part of their lives.
Jesus seems to have a reliance on prayer that few people can match. He is God but doesn’t that emphasize it even more. Jesus, the God-man, showed complete reliance on God to sustain him and the ministry that he did on earth. How much more should we be reliant on God in prayer?
John Barnett once told me that “we pray as much as we need God.” How much do you need God? Most of us would be embarrassed to say it but our practice of prayer reveals that we don’t think we need God.
The Apostle Paul was a man of prayer. Each of his letters open with a prayer of thanksgiving and supplication for those that he is writing to. It was his practice to pray continually. He was in constant communication with God because he was convinced of where the power source came from.
Be Devoted to Prayer
In Colossians 4:2 he says, “Continue steadfastly in prayer.” That phrase or ones similar to it show up 6 times in the New Testament (Acts 1:14, 2:42, 6:4; Rom 12:12; Eph 6:18) and every one of them is related to prayer. Each of them has the general idea of being devoted to prayer. God desires us to be devoted to a conversational relationship with him.
How does that happen? I can tell you that it’s not by accident. Being devoted to something means that it will happen. It is a regular part of your day and routine just like my morning coffee. I wouldn’t dare miss out on that cup. I couldn’t function, but I’ve somehow come to believe that I could go without my morning conversation with God.
The verse continues in a practical direction. “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” Watchfulness brings to mind the idea of looking out for enemies. The enemy of prayer is distractions and the busyness of life. So I’ve got to make prayer a part of the rhythm of my life.
For me to stay focused in a time of prayer, I’ve got to be writing it down in a notebook or speaking out loud. If I’m not doing that, I will get distracted every time. I’ve also got to have do not disturb on my phone. I’m addicted to my phone. The thrill of a new notification is intoxicating to me so I must remove that temptation from my time of prayer.
To begin, figure out what your distractions are, and avoid them at all costs. Now let’s talk about the what, where, and when of prayer. Knowing the what, where, and when will be essential for you to become devoted to prayer.
I’m not the most organized person in the world. In fact, every form of organization in my life has been born out of the hopelessly cluttered way of doing it. I fail over and over because of my lack of organization and that has held true in my prayer life.
My wife, on the other hand, is a Type A, Enneagram 1 person who thrives off of organization. I’ve learned a lot from her especially in the area of prayer. She is my definition of being devoted to prayer. If you want something to happen in your life, ask her to pray for you because it is almost a guarantee that it will be answered. She’s a righteous woman like James 1 talks about but the main thing that sets her apart in her prayer life is her devotion to it.
The system is simple. It follows along with the Lord’s prayer.
Monday - Praise God for who He is, what I love about Him
“Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be your name” (Matt 6:9)
Tuesday - Pray for the advancement of His kingdom and for spiritual growth.
“Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10)
Wednesday - Pray that God would supply us with the things we need-pray for self and those in need. Pray for opportunities to serve others and provide for their needs.
“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt 6:11)
Thursday - Pray to forgive and ask for forgiveness. Confession and reconciliation.
“And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors” (Matt 6:12)
Friday - Pray for protection against spiritual warfare and protection against sin
“And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one” (Matt 6:13)
Saturday - Praying in remembrance that this is His kingdom, NOT MINE. I am nothing without Him. Ask that my future would be His will NOT MINE
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Eph 3:20)
Sunday - Pray in reflection on how His power has worked in my life (answered prayer)
“to Him be the glory in the church by Jesus Christ to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph 3:21)
Jesus taught his disciples to go into a closet to pray (Matt 6). Jesus’ practice was to go out to desolate places. Regardless of where you choose, the idea is to get away from potential distractions.
I lived with a guy who decided to turn his closet into a literal prayer closet. There’s no telling how many of those times of prayer turned into holy naps, but he removed distraction from his prayer time. It was inspiring.
Choose a place that will allow for silence and solitude.
Choose a time that you can devote extended time to prayer. Mornings aren’t any more spiritual than the rest of the day, but they do tend to be less distracted.
A relationship isn’t always on the go, although on-the-go conversations are part of a relationship. It takes time to build a deep relationship with God. So plan a time that will allow for extended time alone in prayer.
Prayer is an essential part of your relationship with God. Don’t let it go to chance. Be devoted to it and be watchful. You will be amazed at what God does in and through you if you will just be devoted to prayer.
Think through these questions this week:
How would you evaluate your current prayer life?
What distractions need to be removed from your life to enhance your prayer life?
Where and when will you pray?