The people of God need to pray, we ought to pray, we MUST pray. Great movements of God are normally preceded by great movements of prayer by God’s people. We see this pattern throughout Scripture and throughout the history of the church. God does not need us to pray in order to move. But in His sovereignty, He has chosen to work in power, time and time again, in response to the concerted cries of His people. Since 2012, the Southern Baptist Convention has declared January of each year a month-long Call to Prayer. Such a declaration is honorable and right, but is not of much impact unless we actually heed the call.
The New Year is always a time of changes, fresh starts, and renewed promises. May we seek the Lord in having a renewal in the discipline of prayer! I have never experienced a time in my Christian walk where I felt like I was praying too much. I doubt you have ever had such an experience either. How can we respond to this Call to Prayer in such a way that it is not just another event on the SBC Calendar? If it is going to be more, we need to be intentional with a plan of action. How, then, must we pray?
1. Have a plan for your personal prayer life
We talk about prayer, we have studies about prayer, we even sometimes go to conferences about prayer, but are we praying? Every believer should establish a pattern of consistent and focused prayer. Certainly, we should “pray without ceasing,” but this verse does not exclude us from the consistent need to be still and get alone with God. According to Mark 1:35, Jesus rose long before daylight and found a quiet place to be alone with the Father. The pattern of our Savior was to remove Himself from the busyness of life and ministry to seek the Father. What intentional steps are you taking to improve your prayer life? Here are a couple that have been helpful to me through the years:
- Journaling. Writing down my thoughts and prayers always helps me to stay focused. There are so many distractions around us at all times that we must find ways to keep our thoughts on the Lord.
- Prayer List/Cards. Keep a running prayer list, with specific requests to direct your prayer time. Specific requests help us see when God has answered our prayers and encourages us through the process. I teach in a seminary and have students come through my classes each semester. I have each of them fill out a card with their family information and any specific prayer requests. These cards (hundreds of them now) are a special and important part of my prayer routine. Establish prayer cards or reminders helpful to you in your personal prayer time.
2. Have a plan for your family prayer life
Christian families ought to be praying families. Life is busy, and if we are not careful, there can be seasons of weeks, months and even years where the only time you pray with your family is at the dinner table before a meal. Even these prayer times are in great danger in our culture because of the busyness the world demands from our families. How can we redeem the focus of prayer in our Christian families?
- Be intentional. If you do not make family devotion and prayer time a priority, it normally will not happen. Think through what works best for your family and take the steps necessary. Family devotion is most effective in our home around the dinner table. The benefits of this time are many, including guarding family meal time, we are less tired than in the early mornings or late at night, and we save money by not eating out as much.
- Be specific. I know this sounds incredibly simple, but take prayer requests before you pray with your spouse or with your family. Maybe it is just me, but if I am not incredibly careful, my prayer times can fall into a vain repetition. I am not talking about trying to use fancy words or overly repeating the same phrases, but without specific prayer requests, many of my prayers begin to sound the same. Take time to listen to what is going on in the lives of your family members and then lead praying through those issues specifically.
3. Be involved in your church prayer life
Does your church family have an organized prayer ministry? How involved are you and your family? We make time for what is most important in our lives. In many ways, we have not recognized with our time, energy, and resources how important prayer is to the believer’s walk individually but also corporately. If your church has a prayer ministry, you should make every effort to be faithfully involved. If your church does not have a prayer ministry, maybe God will lay a burden on your heart to start one.
The month of January is a Call to Prayer throughout the Southern Baptist Convention. I pray the Lord Jesus strengthens us to heed the call and grow as men and women of fervent prayer.