There 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.
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.
For 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!