Called to Pray: Preparing for 24-hour prayer with practical advice.
During the last week in February each year, BYX engages in a week of prayer that we refer to as “Called to Pray.” We challenge our members to sign up for half-hour blocks of prayer round the clock leading up to the Collegiate Day of Prayer, which is celebrated annually on the last Thursday each February. As we challenge the men of BYX to pray for their campuses, their chapters and other chapters around the nation, we believe God will honor the prayers of His people and will move on our behalf.
In an effort to prepare us for that week we will be sharing a three-part series on prayer on The BYX Blog over the next three weeks. We hope you will take time to read these posts in order to prepare your heart for all that God wants to do in you and through you and your brothers across the country.
“The one concern of the Devil is to keep the saints from praying. He fears nothing from prayer-less studies, prayer-less work, prayer-less religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.” Samuel Chadwick
To kick us off I get the privilege of sharing some practical suggestions regarding how to pray. I must admit that I am more than a little intimidated by the task of writing a piece on how to pray. I have decided to be content to merely skip a rock over the ocean of this subject in hopes that some practical suggestions might help encourage you as you attempt to go deeper in prayer in the coming days and weeks.
Where to start: Asking Jesus to teach us to pray.
When we come to the subject of how to pray, I think there is only one place to start and we find it in the Luke 11 when one of Jesus’ disciples says, “Lord, teach us to pray.” This request came on the heels of Jesus wrapping up one of his many moments where he pulled away to pray to the Father.
I believe Jesus’ followers witnessed the transforming power of His fellowship and communion with God in prayer. Jesus makes it clear that he can do nothing by himself, but only what he sees his Father doing (John 5:19.) The disciples noticed that something was different about Jesus’ prayer life. They wanted to enter into what He was experiencing so they wisely ask Him to teach them to pray.
We too would be wise to ask Jesus the same question that his closest followers asked him when he walked the earth: Lord, teach us to pray. When we ask Him to teach us, we are acknowledging that we need help in order to pray rightly. When we humble ourselves and ask, I believe Jesus loves to answer that prayer and that He will gladly lead us as we learn to go deeper in prayer.
Begin with worship.
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name.” Psalm 100:4
When we come before God with grateful hearts we position ourselves to receive from Him. Sometimes it may even require that we preach to ourselves like David when he says, “Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me. Praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits (Psalm 103:1, 2.)
Even when we are not “feeling it,” we can call to mind all that God has done for us. As you thank the Lord for His goodness in your life and as you begin to worship Him for who He is, the issues in your life will be put into proper perspective. As you turn your eyes upon Jesus, and look fully into His wonderful face, the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.
Don’t just talk. Take time to listen.
Prayer is not designed to be one-way. Often times we come to God and just start talking, and when we run out of things to say, we assume we are done praying. Communication doesn’t work like that with any person in our life, so why do we think that that is what communication with God (i.e. prayer) looks like.
Just imagine that you and your friend’s relationship was such that he did all the talking, never asked you questions, never listened to you, just talked and talked and then, once he stopped talking, he just said goodbye. Crazy right? Yet so often this is how we approach our Heavenly Father.
We don’t take the time to ask what’s on His heart, what He wants to say to us, what He wants to reveal to us today. Prayer is supposed to be a dialogue. In John 10:27 Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.” As we learn to go deeper in prayer, we must learn to wait on God and listen to what He wants to say to us.
You have time!
Martin Luther was the man God used to kick down the door of the institution that the church of Jesus had become. Through his efforts, the light of the true gospel began to shine once again in the land. He changed the course of history.
To say that he was busier than you and me is quite an understatement. And yet, it was Martin Luther who said, “I have so much to do today that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer.”
Daniel had the affairs of a kingdom on his hands and yet he prayed three times a day. David was ruler over a mighty nation, and yet he says, “Evening and morning and at noon will I pray” (Psalm 55:17.) Every one of us has time to pray.
The questions remain what will we do with our time and do we believe in prayer enough to give ourselves to it? When we choose not to pray, we essentially are communicating that we can do it on our own, that we don’t really need God.
God, help us to understand the necessity of prayer. Help us to trust in you with all our heart and to lean not on our own understanding (through prayerlessness) but to acknowledge you in all our ways (through prayer) as we trust you to make our paths straight.
Same time, same place.
I encourage and challenge you to make time to pray and to make prayer a priority in your life. As I exhort you to seek first the Kingdom of God (through prayer), I want to relay a practical suggestion that I have picked up in nearly every book I’ve ever read on prayer. It is simply this: in order develop an effective, powerful prayer life, it will help to get into the habit of praying at the same time and the same place every day.
Of course there will be times you can’t do this and will have to be flexible, but the point is developing a habit of prayer. Whether it is a desk, a kitchen table, or an actual closest like I used in college, finding a place that you have set aside to seek the Lord each day is critical.
Equally critical is finding a time each day that you have set apart to take in the Word of God and give yourself to prayer. Most of the great saints throughout history agreed that the best time to seek God is early in the morning (Psalm 63:1.) Having said that, the goal is to find the time that works best for you and commit yourself to creating a habit of seeking God in the secret place each day.
Raising the bar.
If you really want to learn how to pray, I will give one final suggestion. In my own journey, one of the greatest helps to my prayer-life has been reading about the lives of other men and women who devoted themselves to prayer. Their lives have raised the bar for me as it relates to what a life of prayer can look like.
I have heard it said that prayer is something that is better caught than taught. I think that’s true. And for me personally, I tend to catch things better by real life stories than by bullet points of good information. I think it’s one of the reasons Jesus typically spoke in parables. There is something about stories that speak to our hearts rather than our minds.
All that to say, if you really want to go deeper in prayer, I encourage you to read a biography of a praying saint. Allow his or her life to cast a vision for what prayer can look like in your life. I believe it will change your life! If you aren’t sure where to start, here is a brief of individuals throughout church history that are known for the devotion to the secret place of prayer. These men changed the world and each of them pointed to prayer as the reason for their effectiveness.
- David Brainerd
- Samuel Chadwick
- John “Praying” Hyde
- Edward “Praying” Payson
- George Mueller
- Robert Murray McCheyne
- A.W. Tozer
- Leonard Ravenhill
- E.M. Bounds
As I bring this first of a three-part series of posts on prayer to a close, I feel as if I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of how to pray. There are countless books and resources available online to help as you desire to go deeper in prayer.
I think the most important first step is to simply pray. Don’t wait until you have a perfect game plan and really great theology on prayer to begin a habit a cultivating a more fulfilling prayer-life. Just start praying, and just as it’s easier to turn the wheels on a car that is already moving forward, it will be easier to improve your prayer-life after you’ve committed to give yourself more fully to the Lord in prayer. I’m excited for all that God has in store for us as Jesus teaches us how to pray this month!