Deepening Your Prayer Life

sleep-122925_1920There are times when shout out prayers are all one can manage. Like when you’re raising infants … on -3 hours of sleep. When, upon learning your now adult daughter wants to go into international missions, and she begins to talk about visiting India’s slums. Or communist countries.

Or one’s stuck in Atlanta with no money, no credit cards, no ID, and no hope of ever (insert large doses of melodrama) returning home.

Shout out prayers, those, “Oh, Lord help me,” cries uttered countless times throughout the day, are great. Necessary. And at times, a woman’s only hold on her sanity. But if one’s prayer life continually resembles an elevator pitch, before long, one’s spiritual life will suffer.

Divine intimacy, the kind that resembles the deep, abiding, sigh-worthy love between a divineintimacypichusband and spouse, requires regular, unhurried communication.

This is what I long for. What I hope for, and at times, what I intentionally move toward. But then life gets busy, I get distracted, and suddenly I’m back to shout out prayers once again.

If I want to grow as a believer; as a wife, mother, ministry leader, and friend; if I want to experience the deep joy and peace Christ promised His believers, I’ll make my prayer time one of my top priorities.

johnstudy1For those participating in my interactive, online Bible study, or those wanting to, you can join our previous discussion, titled Obedience in the Mundane, HERE. You can learn about the study HERE, and you can join our Facebook community HERE.

I’ll make it a habit; a regular part of my daily routine, as guaranteed as brushing my teeth, drinking copious amounts of heavily flavored coffee, eating tootsie rolls throughout the day.

This behavior–the habitual, prioritized prayer time, not the tootsie roll eating–of an entire community, struck me, and convicted me, as I was reading in Luke 1 one morning.

Here’s the background. Luke, the historian recording the events that make up the Bible book named after him, is telling a man named Theophilus, about the events leading up to the birth of John the Baptist. He begins by describing John’s parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, and as we discussed on my personal blog last Thursday, they were known for their faithful obedience. (Luke 1:6) That was their main defining factor.

Then, Luke goes on to describe a glorious event in Zechariah’s life–he was chosen by lot to “enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense” (Luke 1:9).

(You can read more about incense in Old Testament worship Exodus 30.)

This incense burning was a sacred, intimate time, one where Zechariah was likely overwhelmed by God’s presence.

But catch this, while he was inside the temple burning incense, a great crowd stood outside, praying.

Prayer had become a way of life for these people, a habit that had been established over a thousand years previously when a man named Moses was alive. Ever since the time of Aaron, the first Jewish priest, the priests burned incense twice each day, and when the people smelled its holy aroma and saw it rising heavenward, they prayed.

For over fourteen hundred years.

When I have trouble staying consistent for seven days. (sigh.)

There’s numerous reasons for this. I get busy. (To busy to take time to connect with my Creator? My Savior? The One who knows everything I’ll face in the days and years ahead and the best decision for every choice? Um …)

I get distracted, which is what cell phone timers are for. 😉

Sometimes I get discouraged, especially if it feels like God hasn’t been answering, but catch this–by the time Elizabeth and Zechariah come on the scene, God has been silent for 400 years. (You can read more about that HERE.)

And I thought waiting a year or so for an answer to prayer was unbearable.

But maybe that’s because I’m approaching prayer wrong. I’m approaching it for what I can get, rather than Who I can come to know.

That  needs to change. Because, yes, God is amazing, faithful, generous, and attentive. And yes, He does answer prayer and loves to give good gifts to His children, but the best gift we’ve ever been given is that of Immanuel, Christ with us. Let’s not get so caught up in what we don’t have or maybe don’t know that we miss out on the beautiful gift of divine presence God has made available to us today.

What are some ways you refocus yourself on Christ? How have you made prayer time a priority? For those of you who watched “War Room,” did the movie inspire you, and if so, how? Share your thoughts and examples with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from each other!

 

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About Jennifer Slattery

Novelist and speaker Jennifer Slattery, also writing as Jen Pheobus, uses humor, grace, and truth to inspire God's children to live abundant, Christ-centered lives. She does content editing for Firefly, a southern fiction imprint with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, and is a regular contributor to Crosswalk.com; Internet Cafe Devotions; Faith, Friends and Chocolate; and manages the social media for Takin’ it to the Streets, a ministry that serves Omaha’s working poor and homeless. She’s placed in numerous writing contests and her work has appeared in numerous compilations, magazines, and e-zines.
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8 Responses to Deepening Your Prayer Life

  1. JaniceG says:

    Loved this thoughtful post on prayer, Jennifer. What you named Shout Out prayers are what I know as Arrow prayers. They are pointed directly from our heart felt immediate need to the Supplier of all things good such as help in trouble times.

    Christians need to always be ready at a moment’s notice to stop and pray before proceeding. We read in Ephesians 6:16-18 ESV, “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance making supplication for all the saints,” so we rightfully pray with our Shout Out and Arrow prayers as moments arise.

    We also need to honor God with regular committed times for conversational prayer, listening with our hearts for impressions He uses for quiet times along with praying based on the desires He puts in our hearts. I am learning all the time about prayer. It is not a stagnant pool from which to draw living water.

    Journaling or writing out prayers seems to work best for consistency. I need to do so much more in this area. I don’t think that “praying without ceasing” can primarily refer to prayer journaling, of course. That’s just not practical. I am seeking to get a balanced approach to meet the needs of the many prayer requests I receive. That is where I am right now. Dedicating a space for a War Room might be a wise move to help. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love your thoughts, Janice, and how you often base your thoughts on Scripture. 🙂 This is an area I really need to improve in as well. Maybe that’s why I was so struck by Luke 1:9-11 and the fact that the community of Israel stood outside the temple praying while Zechariah was burning incense.

      This morning, I was reading in Daniel chapter 2 and was struck again with the gift God has given us in His presence. To give a shortened backstory, the Babylonian astrologers had been told to interpret the king’s dream. If they couldn’t, they’d be killed. They responded by saying what the king demanded was impossible, that only the gods could do such a thing, and that the gods didn’t live among the people.

      And yet, Daniel’s God did. And does. He lives among us, and more than that, longs to spend time with us–for us to abide with Him. As I thought about that, I thought of how often I take God’s presence for granted. Of how often I allow other things to crowd Him out. And yet when I pause to rest in His presence, I’m filled with such joy and peace, a peace unattainable outside of Him. Considering the deep fulfillment He provides, how could I not stop everything when He calls and rest in Him?

      Liked by 1 person

      • JaniceG says:

        Your thoughts resonate with me. When I was a nominal Christian in my twenties, I did not understand that personal relationship with God. It changes everything to know Jesus personally. The Bible is God speaking to us and by reading it through I finally understood the fullness of relationship with God. I think some people recognize that God’s word has such power to change lives, and they are afraid of change until life gets so intolerable. People are misguided to think their lives will become less if they follow Jesus. They can’t begin to imagine what abundant life is.

        I am thankful you shared your thoughts, Jennifer, from reading in Daniel. That can only lead to praising God for His gift of presence and a personal relationship with the Three-In-One Almighty God. He is so great and awesome in all His ways!

        Like

  2. Judy says:

    I loved “War Room.” I bought the books “Battle Plan for Prayer” and “Fervent.” They’ve both helped me better focus on praying. Prayer has always been a part of my life, but as I watched “War Room,” I realized I tended to use it as a last resort. I’m working on making it a first line of defense.

    When I owned or horse, I used my morning time taking care of him as my time with God. I kept the “line” open throughout the day. After he was gone, my prayer life slipped. It felt so pointless. I’d pray, and life would happen. It was “Facing the Giants” that started me thinking about how I go about my prayer life. “War Room” helped me see how lackadaisical I was, how I prayed and expected things to happen without putting much thought into it. The books have been helping me recognize the true power in prayer.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. First, Judy, I’m sorry you lost your horse. 😦 I can see why that may have made it hard to pray for a while.

    I saw “War Room” as well and was inspired to be more diligent and consistent with my prayers. I really loved the room itself–the closet that had been turned into a literal prayer closet. I need something like that–a place I can post things to help me stay focused and remember who or what I need to pray for. I use a list on a notecard, and I have Scripture on it as well, but the added visual of a room devoted entirely to prayer would be awesome. I didn’t know there were corresponding books to the movie. I’m going to check those out! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: When it Feels as if God Isn’t Listening | Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud

  5. I talk to The Lord all the time as I would a friend who is constantly by my side, and with me wherever I go. Even while I am washing dishes, playing with the pets, and doing exercises, I pray. I am not always kneeling, as in more formal prayer, but because I have a need to share with him constantly, I do so while walking, doing chores, or even showering!

    Like

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