Pray with your heart, not your head.

“They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers”. Acts 1:14

Many of us have heard stories about a baby’s first words. Moms had spent time coaching (and possibly bribing) their little ones to say momma, while dads just stood around waiting for the first words. In anticipation, families would gather around the baby coaching those first words from their lips. Often, as all stared excitingly, the baby would start to speak, slowly starting with the sound mmma …. mmma … and then … DADA. All would laugh, and some were surprised. Despite the coaching the baby said what was baby was comfortable saying. Language can be taught and with practice and guidance, the baby will learn more words. But the baby started to talk by saying something the baby decided to say and not what the parents wanted it to say.

How many books exist about prayer?  The answer is many. It seems as soon after humanity could record their thoughts, books on prayer appeared. We can read books on what to pray, why to pray, how to pray, where to pray and even when to pray. Jesus, who lived as a man in a culture where prayer was commonplace, was even asked by His disciples to teach them to pray. So, with all we have available to us, why do we struggle to pray? Is prayer really that hard that we need all these references to understand it?   

When a baby says its first words it does so because it feels right. Soon they learn the value of saying more words because those words draw them closer to the ones they love.  Frankly, some of us might need to grow up and say our first real prayer. Once they come out of our lips, it becomes easy after that. We also find value in going beyond that first prayer and talking with the One who, we read in Zachariah 2:8, refers to us as the “Apple of His eye”. Start by telling God what you want to say and not what you have been coached to say. 

PT 1 – Pray without ceasing.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17)

To “pray without ceasing” means to have our minds always on the things of God, to be in constant communication with him, so that every moment may be as fruitful as possible. How can we learn to “pray without ceasing?” Here is a practical step to consider: 
Plan times for prayer: Striving to have an attitude of prayer can seem overwhelming.

To understand and develop the mindset of continual prayer, we must start with developing the habit of intentional prayer.

  • At meals – If the practice of praying at meals is not something you were taught or do right now, I recommend it as an easy way to pray more. For those of us who follow this practice, it is likely that we quickly thank God for our food and get on with eating. However, being more mindful in our prayer takes little time and can immensely increase the effectiveness of it.
  • When reading Scripture – Pray whenever you have time in the Scriptures. Start your daily Bible reading with prayer for God’s Spirit to give insight and clarity as you read; end your reading with a prayer inspired by what you’ve read. Recite Scripture as you pray and elaborate on how it speaks to you of what God is doing or wants to do in you. Do something similar when you sit down to do in-depth Bible study. Make any time you meditate on Scripture a time of prayer.
  • At the start and end of the day – When you wake up, dedicate the day to God in prayer. Praying at the start of the day focuses your mind on prayerfulness that will help carry you through the day, while developing the habit of constant prayer. When you get ready for bed, thank God for his provision, and pray through your day. This will help quiet your mind and heart as you give over the things of the day to Jesus.

If you prayed at all these times, even for just a minute or two, you would pray at least six times a day. That may be more than you pray now, but it fits relatively easily into an existing schedule, and none of those times need to take too long. 

Find the Quiet Place

“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” Luke 5:16

I am not sure what busyness was like in Jesus’ time, but He found it necessary to isolate himself from His followers and spend time alone with His Father. Since He was God, I imagine He wouldn’t need to go to a lonely spot. He could shut His eyes and close off the world around Him. However, He was a man and a teacher who taught and showed us that it is important to be alone with God. 

Do you have a personal prayer closet? Do you have somewhere in or outside your home to be alone with your thoughts and God? Do you have a place where you can pray and where there will be no disturbances or distractions from computers, phones, and even family? If you don’t, you owe it to yourself and God to find such a place. We all need a place to be isolated from the world to talk and listen to God. 

Our weekly posts have spoken about praying when you wake up or before bed. We have shared the importance of praying with others. We have reminded you to pray for yourself and others throughout the day as good and bad circumstances arise. However, we want to remind you about the prayer practice recorded in Luke 5:16 that even Jesus found necessary: the quiet, alone time prayer. 
What does your alone prayer time look like? Where do you go, what time will you start, and how can you ensure you will not be interrupted? If you do not already have a quiet time or location, consider creating this habit. Don’t take your bible or a writing pad with you. Let this be alone time with God and not a time to study scripture or make notes. Use it as a time for prayer and nothing else. Make it a time to listen to the Holy Spirit and pray for what He puts in your heart. Listen to God. 
We rarely hear from God when we are busy or surrounded by noise and distractions. Put the world aside for a few minutes daily, withdraw to a lonely place, and pray.