There’s a Time to Work and a Time to Pray
Hurricanes can dramatically increase in intensity and deliver significant property damage. Even worse, they regularly serve as the cause for many lives lost.
As I finish writing this new post from yesterday evening, I do so with mixed feelings. For starters I think of my friends and family in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Fort Myers. Hurricane Ian has more than proven to be a powerful storm. My father’s hometown in Cuba lost power. Actually, the entire island lost power at one point. They were pounded by Ian’s slow and destructive path.
Here in Miramar, Florida, we’ve had spontaneous rain bands, tornadoes, and strong wind gusts. As the outer bands leave my home near Miami and move north, I’m reminded how thankful I am for God’s protection and provision in my life.
There’s still considerable land in Florida for Ian to penetrate. And this is the reason behind this blog post. Although I’m only one person with limited resources, I serve a BIG God with unlimited power and resources.
With these things in mind, what do you do during these challenging days ahead? It can be summarized in one action word—pray.
In this post I would briefly like to talk about the basics of prayer. Although this is not an exhaustive list, it certainly provides a framework for you to consider. We will review other helpful frameworks in future posts, but for now, let’s review four essential points. But first, let’s read a classic passage from God’s Word to help us simplify our prayer life.
This prayer is not intended to be repeated every time you pray. It was meant to be a model of prayer to understand and follow. Since prayer is a highly relational activity, it helps for you to have a basic structure to serve as a good example.
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today 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 the evil one.’
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:5-15, NIV)
Prayer is Talking With God
At the very heart of prayer is a conversation with God. As humans, our nature is to complicate things rather than simplify them. The same approach is often adopted when we think about prayer. But there’s good news! Prayer is not complicated at all.
Prayer is also personal. When you have a conversation with someone, it’s personal. Prayer was intended to be personal. What this means in part is that you can relax as you pray. You will never pray a perfect prayer. So, go ahead and remove that stress. You don’t need to carry it any longer.
There’s no need to beat yourself up because you can’t pray for ten minutes or one hour.
There’s no need to quote long theological words as you pray. God’s not impressed with your vocabulary.
There’s no need to change the tone or the inflection of your voice. Prayer is not a performance. It’s a conversation.
Prayer is so much more personal than making it to a certain milestone of time or sounding more theologically intelligent or impersonating some sixteenth century preacher before a community gathering.
Remove all these pressures and simply talk with God.
Talk with God as you would speak with someone you know that loves you, is highly respected, and honored among everyone who knows them, including yourself.
Prayer does not have to be an intimidating experience. Once you realize just how much God loves you, wants to enjoy your companionship, and hear your voice throughout the day, you will discover the highly relational nature of what prayer is all about.Marcel Sanchez, Imagine Coaching Academy Tweet
As you pray, remove the pressure and be yourself
Prayer is God Talking With Us
This second point is difficult for people to understand. It’s not that God grabs a megaphone to get your attention. He doesn’t need one. God communicates with you in different ways. However, one of the primary ways God speaks to you is through His Word, the Bible.
The Bible is the inspired Word of God. In it we find God’s thoughts and instructions. We discover the redemptive theme of God from the Book of Genesis through the Book of Revelation. This redemptive them culminated in the death, burial, and resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. As you concentrate on God’s Word throughout the day, His thoughts become your thoughts and His plans change your plans.
The Holy Spirit takes God’s Word and teaches you how to apply what it says in your life today. What better wisdom can you find than God’s wisdom? There’s no better wisdom. God’s Word serves to guide you and direct you, to equip you and instruct you, to correct you and encourage you.
As you read, study, and meditate on God’s Word, God will speak to your mind in heart. You may not hear God’s voice in ways that can be measured with a sound reader, but you will learn to discover when God’s speaking with you as you submit your life to Him and remain in His presence.
When you hear God's gentle whisper, it means that He wants to reveal something about Himself and He wants you to respond in faith and obedience.
Prayer is Listening to God
Generally speaking, are you a good listener?
Would those who know you best agree?
Listening is a learned skill. You may have had great examples of people who listened actively when you spoke, asked questions, and waited patiently before speaking. Or, maybe you’ve had the opposite experience over these last few years.
Regardless of where you find yourself on the listening scale, I think you would agree, all of us can get better in this area of our lives. I certainly include myself in that group. Listening is not only important to develop as you speak with family, friends, students, and co-workers, it’s also important as you learn how to pray.
My natural tendency is to blend activities together. For some things, this works out great. But for other things, not so great. When it comes to developing a growing relationship with the Lord, you and I need to sharpen our focus and remove distractions.
As you reflect on the scripture passage above, here are some practical ways to help you become a better listener. There are certainly others to consider, but this will definitely get you started.
Select a specific time of day to be alone with God.
When possible, use the same location every day to increase your concentration.
Lock the door for privacy.
If surrounded by others, let them know that you won’t be available for the next 10-30 minutes.
Take your Bible with you. Read and contemplate what God’s Word is saying.
Remove all distractions.
Turn off your phone or activate silent-mode.
Take time to praise God and worship Him.
Thank God for who He is and what He has done for you.
Confess your sins to God and ask Him to forgive you.
Forgive others for the offenses they’ve caused in your life.
Pray for the needs of others and then for your needs.
For a portion of your time, remain in silence before God.
Prayer is responding to God
The fourth essential regarding prayer is responding to God in a way that pleases Him. God is pleased when you believe what He says in His Word. In other words, God is pleased when you place your faith in Him and respond in obedience to His instructions.
“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
Here are a few helpful points to consider as you bring your time of prayer to a close. Notice how each one focuses on action. This is the heart of responding to God in prayer. Although not all action is the same, your response to God in prayer involves taking a step forward.
What do I need to do first as a result of what God is saying?
What do I need to stop, start, or continue?
Who do I need to speak with about this? How can I connect with them?
What coach or mentor would provide additional guidance on this matter?
What step of faith is the Lord leading me to take?
What do I need to do to restore this relationship?
What can I do to build a bridge as I work through this conflict?
What do I need to do to start the application process?
What part of my character do I need to work on today? What habit can I start to strengthen my character?
As we wrap up this post, let’s remember a few things. First, prayer is relational. God wants to speak with you. He wants to enjoy fellowship with you every day. He’s not too busy with the rest of the world. Trust me, He can handle it just fine.
But there’s only one you. So make the time and pick the location, and just be yourself when you pray. The more you pray the more comfortable you will be as you pray. The important thing is to start praying. Sure, you can pray as you walk or drive to work. And hopefully, both eyes remain open.
But it’s also important to spend time alone with God, concentrating on His Person and His Word. It’s important to enjoy God’s presence and reframe your perspective on what’s happening around you. You see, once you get a better understanding of how awesome and powerful and holy God is, everything else will look rather small.
But even though it may be small in comparison to holding the world together and making sure everything in the universe is functioning as it should, God wants to be with you. He wants to speak with you and hear from you and challenge you to move forward as you apply His Word to your life.
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