Why We Don’t Pray

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We’ve been talking about the spiritual discipline of prayer in class.  So I asked the question,

“Why don’t we pray?”  The replies were interesting:

  •  We feel like there’s not “enough time”
  •  We don’t understand why it matters/how it works
  • We have no sense of history (our own, or of God’s interaction with man)
  •  We lack discipline – we are lazy!
  • It’s awkward
  • We make it too complicated
  • We want to do it perfectly
  • We don’t know how to listen
  • We have too many distractions
  • Our prayer list is too long
  • We don’t know how to start

Let me start with this simple encouragement:

Understand that prayer is important.  It is a command.  It is something Jesus did, and instructed His followers to do.  To not make time for prayer is a sin.

You don’t have to understand exactly how it works to do it!  You drive your car every day, but can you explain how the engine works?  You microwave food every day, but can you explain the science behind it?

If you are willing to admit to yourself that you don’t pray much because you don’t see the need for it… then take the time to study prayer in the scriptures.  Ask God to show you why it matters.  Ask Him to help you realize how important it is, especially relative to all the other things you waste time doing during the day.

Start with some of these passages:

Matthew 7:7-11 Ask and will receive, God gives good gifts

John 16:24  Ask and will receive

Ephesians 3:20     God can do more than we dream

Philippians 4:6-7 Prayer frees us from anxiety

I Thessalonians 5:17  Command – pray continually

Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16 Jesus’ example

Luke 18    Why persistent prayer matters

I Samuel 12:23  Sin to fail to pray for others

James 5:16-18  Elijah, persistent prayer is significant

2 Kings 20:1-6 Prayer appears to change God’s plan

Jeremiah 33:3  God’s answers reveal hidden things

John 15:7  Condition – remain in word and in Jesus

1 John 3:21-22   Condition – living obedient life

1 John 5:14-15  Condition – ask according to God’s will

James 4:3 Hindrance – wrong motives

Psalm 66:18   Hindrance – keeping sin in heart

You must first come to a place where you understand that prayer matters – and then we’ll talk about making  time for prayer and using your prayer time efficiently and effectively.

The Wheel

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I shared with the ladies at The River this week “The Wheel” – a wonderful visual illustration of the Christian disciplines necessary for a believer’s growth.  It’s a great point of reference and teaching tool!

If you are a Christian and have surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, then the next area of concern is what kind of progress are you making in establishing basic spiritual disciplines?

What are “the basics” of the Christian life?  These are disciplines that growing Christians maintain and that we desire to help others establish in their lives.

Wheel

  1. Christ the Center, “Lordship”. The hub of the wheel is Jesus Christ, He is at the center of a Christian’s life. Discuss – is Christ really Lord of all your life, are there areas you struggle to give Him control over? 2 Cor 5:17, Gal 2:20
  2. Word. One spoke of our relationship with God. Discuss – why to read, what to read, quiet times, daily Bible reading, learning to journal, how to do research, etc. Learn to hear it, read it, study it, memorize it, and meditate on it. 2 Tim 3:16, Joshua 1:8
  3. Prayer. The other spoke of our relationship with God. Discuss – why we pray, how we pray, what has God promised about praying, etc. Learn to pray more regularly and fervently, maybe keep a journal. John 15:7, Phil 4:6-7
  4. Fellowship. The spoke representing our relationship with other Christians. Discuss – do you spend time with other Christians, why we need other Christians, the role of the church, ways to stay involved and build friendships. Heb 10:24-25, Prov 13:20
  5. Witnessing. The spoke representing our relationship with nonbelievers. Discuss – the witness of our lives, why witness, how to witness. Learn write a testimony, learn an evangelism illustration, reach out to those she knows. Matt 4:19, Romans 1:16
  6. Obedience. The rim of the wheel, the most visible product of a growing Christian’s life. Discuss – why obey, what to obey, areas of struggle or disobedience. Romans 12:1, John 14:21

Adapted from Walt Henrichsen’s book Disciples are Made Not Born, chapter 8.

Quiet Times #4 – Organizing Your Prayer Book

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Monday I sat down and helped two friends organize their prayer journals. Here’s how it went:

Identifying Groups of People
On a piece of scrap paper, write down all the groups of people that you want to pray regularly for. The list might include: immediate family (self, husband, kids), work or husband’s work, extended family, church, small group, Bible study group, friends, nonChristians/outreach/neighbors, sports teams, kid’s teachers and friends, missionaries, etc. Your list might be different. Think of them as circles of influence. Who are you willing to commit to praying regularly for?

Now, how many days a week are you committed to having prayer time? In our group, we committed to five days a week.

Next, try to group your circles of influence together, for the number of days you plan to pray regularly. In my case it looks like this:

Mondays – Husband’s work & Extended family
Tuesdays – Bible study group, Book club group, Women I disciple
Wednesdays – Church general/ leadership and ministry, Small group, & Missionaries
Thursdays – My friends, My kids’ friends & school, Tennis team, Other nonChristians
Fridays – My immediate family, including myself.

Next we divided the journal into sections of roughly equal length, put tabs on the side for each day, and wrote “Friday – Our Family” or whatever.

There’s also the Emergency 911 page. In the front of my prayer journal I keep an Urgent Prayers page. I don’t write on the page – I use sticky notes. If it’s urgent, I hope it’s not permanent, and in a few days, when the Prayer911note is full, I can either quit praying about it (ie. Algebra test), or move it to a more permanent section of the journal.

So on a Friday morning, I sit down with my coffee and I cover the Urgent 911 prayers. Then I flip to the Friday section and pray through the list for my family. I date the request on the left, keep the request to one liner, and write a date on the right side of the page when the issue is resolved. Later, when the journal gets fuller, I will probably start at the back of the section and work my way forward, praying for everything that has not yet been answered.

I also encourage writing verses in your prayer book, claiming them (and highlighting them!). I also tape prayers, photocopied bits, and good quotes inside.

What a priceless treasure it is to hold a prayer journal that is several years old…  I can see instantly how God has been so incredibly faithful, time after time. Praise Him!

Wake Up! (My One Thing)

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“Wake Up!!”

God has a way of making His message clear.

I talked about The One Thing in my previous post – challenging you to listen to God and do the One Thing He was asking of you in this next year.

My One Thing, the thing God put on my heart, was to get up earlier every day and pray more.  AlarmClock

I need to pray more consistently, to pray with better content, and greater concentration.  Mind you, I already get up 30 minutes before my kids… I make my coffee and sit down to work on my Read Thru The Bible plan.  But by time I am awake, my coffee is cool enough to drink, and I’ve made it through 3 chapters of Jeremiah… there really isn’t much time to pray.  At least, not to really get down on your knees and pray in a concentrated manner.

I told God I would do it on Wednesday night.  Then it was Sunday morning and I still hadn’t started.

Sunday afternoon I picked up Anne Graham Lotz’s book The Magnificent Obsession and on page 55 I read this:

“God commanded me to repent of my shallowness, I asked Him How?  His answer was so practical and simple… Wake up!!  I was to literally wake up by setting my alarm earlier than I would otherwise need to and spend time with Him before my day began and my household stirred.”

Well, my goodness!  She got the same instructions as me!

So Monday morning I got up earlier.  I hugged my hot coffee cup and this is what I read:

“And I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear and I called to you but you did not answer.” – Jeremiah 7:13 (NASB)

“I have sent you (Judah) all My servants and prophets, daily rising up early and sending them…” – Jeremiah 7:25 (NASB)

Three times this week God has made this clear to me – making extra time to meet with Him in the morning is important.  Apparently early is (at least one time) when God speaks, when God calls to us, and when He sends His servants and prophets out to do their work for the day.

I need to keep getting up early so I don’t miss anything!

“It is better to be sleep deprived than God deprived.” – Anne Graham Lotz

On Brain Surgery and Other Dramas

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12 years old.  Kinda young for brain surgery, really.  One of my best friend’s daughters is having brain surgery tomorrow, December 4th.  Here she is – with her surgeon Dr. Ben Carson at Johns Hopkins today as they get ready for tomorrow… (Rare case of pediatric trigimenal neuralgia, if you must know.)

It’s exhausting to think about.  Overwhelming.  Actually, for them, I think it’s been all that and a whole lot more for the last 4-5 months of trying to figure out what is wrong with KT Rose and how to go about fixing it.  I really cannot relate.  It’s hard to have empathy for a situation that is so far from what most of us ever have to endure.

As I thought about KT Rose and her brave-by-necessity parents… I am not sure what to say.

Yet I do have one story to tell.  This incident was one of the biggest dramas I have faced as a Mom… but it pales in comparison to brain surgery.

Yet the truths remain.

My son Mark had his tonsills out when he was 6 years old.  We were living in Germany and the German hospital sent us home on the 7th day.  In the middle of that night, our first night home, he ruptured something deep in his throat.  There was blood was everywhere – it was like a scene from a horror movie that I couldn’t make stop. I had to call a German ambulance and send him back to the hospital, the one we’d left only 12 hours ago, with my husband for emergency surgery to stop the bleeding.

The adrenalin rush of the crisis was absolutely exhausting, and we’d already had a week in the hospital… I didn’t know at the time that it would be two more weeks until we would finally be free, sent home to rest and heal and make new blood on our own time.

The ambulance left our house with Mark and my husband around 2 AM and then suddenly it was just eerie and silent.

I paced the hallways.

There was no way I could sleep, so I cleaned up all the messes in the house.  I prayed.  And prayed.  And prayed.

Ross called around 5 AM to say the surgery was over and Mark had been moved into the recovery room.

I watched the sunrise around 6 AM and drifted off to sleep finally.

I had a dream, but really it was more like a vision as the details were so clear and it was just a picture… not moving pieces.  I saw myself, curled up in the fetal position, in the palm of God’s hand.  Of course.  The meaning was so clear.  I was in His hand… just curled up, exhausted.  Resting.  He had it all under control.  I could relax.  Sleep.  Let go.  So I slept finally.

(It was another two years before something odd occurred to me.  Why was it me in His hand, and not Mark?  Shouldn’t He have been confirming that Mark was in His hand?  But no, what God really wanted to say was that I was in His hand.  Apparently that’s what I needed most, was to know that He was cradling me.  Comforting.  Protecting.  Controlling.)

I slept the sleep of the dead, the exhausted.

For one hour.

At 7 AM my phone rang.  It was Christa, one of my closest friends in Stuttgart.  She was the one had been picking up my daughter from school all week, feeding her dinner, and keeping her busy until my husband and I changed shifts at the hospital every night.

“What in the world is going on?!” she asked.  “I have been awake since 2 AM – praying for you.  Now tell me what’s happening.”

God woke her up to pray for Mark and our family.

When I most needed help, I couldn’t do anything about it, but God could.

I still don’t understand how prayer works in the economy of God but I do know this – He is in control.  Of everything.  Including waking up your friends to pray for you.

How awesome it is to serve a God like that!

Love, hugs, and prayers to KT Rose.  Mom and Dad, rest in peace.  You are in the palm of His hand.

Sleep as best you can.  Some of us may be up praying for you.