Spending time in prayer is a spiritual discipline that is instrumental to the Christian’s journey to become more like Christ. Prayer is vital to our spiritual health and instrumental to life change. However, if we are honest, many of us view prayer as an optional part of the Christian life. It is something we probably think that we should do more of, but is not critical. In light of this, it may be helpful to ask ourselves some questions: “Am I seeing God’s power flow through my life?”, or “Am I seeing the fruit of the Spirit: qualities like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control operating in my life in an ever-increasing way?”, or “Are other people drawn to Christ through my influence?”, or “Would my family say that they see Christ in me? How about my co-workers, or my classmates?”
One reason we don’t pray more often than we do may be because we aren’t convinced we really need to. We like to think of ourselves as being independent and self-sufficient. After all, we’re smart, competent, socially adept, and experienced. Think about it. Jesus was the most competent, gifted, “have-it-all-together” person who ever lived, and yet he felt compelled to pray. As you read through the gospels you will discover that Jesus prayed a lot, as did his followers. Apparently, they knew some things about prayer that we don’t know, or at least aren’t convinced of. There are many benefits that flow from developing the habit of prayer:  Prayer assures us of God’s presence. (Psalm 145:18)  Prayer brings blessings from God. (Matthew 7:11)  Prayer brings help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)  Prayer brings peace in the midst of anxiety. (Phil. 4:6-7)  Prayer brings physical and spiritual healing. (James 5:15-16)  Prayer brings wisdom. (James 1:5), and  Prayer strengthens us against temptation. (Matthew 26:41)
As we develop the habit of prayer, it can be helpful to follow Jesus’ guidelines outlined in Matthew 6:5-13. No passage in the Bible is more straightforward in its teaching on prayer. And the truths contained there are just as applicable today as they were 2,000 years ago. When it comes to prayer, Jesus tells us to:
Pray secretly. A private place insures a minimum of distractions. No ringing phones, no kids, no pets, no neighbors. It eliminates the temptation to try to impress others: it’s just you and your God.
Pray sincerely. Be real: Again, when you pray, don’t try to impress others. Don’t try to impress God. Just be yourself, warts and all. Be natural. Talk to God like you would talk to anyone else. Don’t use King James English. Be vulnerable. Tell God what’s on your mind. He knows it already, but he wants you to talk to him about it. If you are upset with him, tell him so. He is big enough to take it. If you are hurting, or afraid, admit it to him. He wants to hear what is on your heart.
Pray specifically. Jesus doesn’t give us an exhaustive list of what we should pray for, but what he does include is instructive. For God’s honor to be upheld (v. 9) For God’s kingdom to be established (v.10) For our daily needs to be met (v.11) For our sins to be forgiven (v.12) For victory over temptation (v. 13)
Like every area of life, when it comes to prayer, we need some balance. It is so easy to spend all our time in prayer asking for things for ourselves, that we forget to pray for others. Or we spend all our time asking for things, and never get around to thanking God for how he has blessed us. To achieve the proper balance in your prayer time, consider using the “ACTS” acronym as a pattern for prayer: ‘A’ stands for Adoration (Psalms 8, 19, 23, 46, 95, 100, 148). The idea is to begin your time of prayer by focusing on God’s sovereignty, power, grace and mercy. “C” stands for Confession. An important part of a balanced prayer life involves confessing yours sins to God, specifically. For example, “Father, I confess the sin of pride, or lust, or jealousy. And I ask for your forgiveness.” “T” stands for Thanksgiving. We are quick to ask God for things, but rarely do we thank him when he answers our prayers. There are four kinds of blessings for which you can thank God: (1) answers to prayer, (2) material blessings, (3) spiritual blessings, and (4) relational blessings. “S” stands for Supplication. There are four areas of supplication for which you can pray: (1) ministry, (2) people, (3) family, and (4) personal.
Once you begin to develop the habit of prayer, you will find that it is becoming an integral part of your lifestyle, just as it was for our Lord and Savior.
Application / Challenge
Develop the habit of spending time with your Heavenly Father each day in prayer. Consider using the “Digging Deeper” section of this week’s Talking Points, Walking Points to help you experience freshness and variety in your prayer life.