If you were here on Sunday, you know that we talked about prayer. (If you missed it, you can watch, listen, or read the message from our resource library). On the one hand, talking about prayer is awesome. After all, it is such an important part of our walk with the Lord that any time focused on prayer is a good thing. On the other hand, talking about prayer can easily bring about feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and hopelessness as we all wrestle with the fact that our commitment to prayer is not as strong as it should be. So here are 4 practical steps you and I can take to improve our devotion to prayer (Colossians 4:2).
#1. If necessary, repent, ask forgiveness
If you believe that your devotion to prayer and your alertness in prayer need to change, then begin simply by asking that the Lord to forgive you for your unwillingness to follow his instructions Asking for forgiveness is not a sign of weakness, but rather it is a sign of strength. It is a sign that you genuinely believe the promise of 1 John 1:9 that if we confess he is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. It is also a sign that your relationship with the Lord Jesus is significant enough that you would be willing to admit your sin rather than ignore it and pretend like it did not exist.
#2. Get organized
I find that I steward my responsibilities best when I am organized properly. Once or twice a year I go through my clothes and make sure that I have what I need and that I get rid of clothes that I either cannot or should not wear. I organize my finances regularly. I keep my car relatively clean, at least the inside. I organize these things because it helps me to use my time and effort efficiently. So why would I rely solely on my memory for prayer?
There are many ways to be organized. You can use a prayer list on a legal pad, you can create notecards for the people that you are praying for, or you can use a spreadsheet or some other device on your computer or smart phone. The bottom line is that you need to find a system of organizing your prayer list that works for you. Here are some things to keep in mind as you create a system:
- The system cannot take more time to manage than it would take for prayer … that defeats the purpose.
- You need to have easy access and easy use of the material. If it is not easy, then you will stop using it – fast.
- You should be able to update it. For example if you are praying that Tom comes to Christ, then you would certainly want to record the day Tom was saved.
- The system cannot run your prayer life; it is just a tool to help you use your time well.
#3. Pray at times when you can be focused
Colossians 4:2 reminds us to be alert in our prayers, so pick times when you are alert. It may sound really great and spiritual to get up at 5 am to pray, but you are asleep again in 5 minutes, you picked a lousy time. So choose the times you are awake and can focus on others. Driving can be a great time to pray, especially if you have a long interstate commute. A break at work could also be a great time to pray; you will simply need to find a place that is quiet enough for you to focus.
#4. Follow up on your prayers
It is really exciting to hear when one of your prayers was answered. Yesterday one of our counselors emailed the team to let them know that a person trusted Christ last night. We prayed for that! It is absolutely wonderful to watch God answer prayer. So let me encourage you to follow up with the people that you are praying for. Here is one little illustration.
A few months ago a family member of one of my friends was involved in a serious car accident. A young girl was the most severely injured. There was a short period of time that it seemed the little girl would die. We cried out to the Lord together asking for his will, but asking that his will be that the girl would recover. In the sovereignty of God she got much better. What an opportunity it was to celebrate God’s work through prayer. In essence, everyone involved in the situation got to experience the love of God with one another (see the prayer in Eph 3:14-21).
May God help us all take a step of growth in our prayers for one another. There surely are many more tips that could be shared. If you have something that has helped you develop a more meaningful prayer life, please share it with us all.