The Journey: Personal Prayer

The Journey is an exploration of my spiritual condition and practices based upon the proposition that:  We can only disciple other people through the overflowing of our own discipleship. So it follows that it would be wise to examine our own state of discipleship (maturity). For more thoughts on this proposition, read my earlier post.

The most transformational practice in my personal spiritual journey is daily personal prayer. I have posted on this topic countless times here, and yet I have recently come face to face with the fact that even for otherwise very mature Christians, this is a rare practice, at least on an intentional level.  I met a surprising number of Christian leaders this past weekend for whom daily personal prayer is a random 929 112-LRevent, more of a concept than a practice; I was surprised and saddened.  I believe that intentional, structured daily personal prayer is the single most important thing any Christian can do to grow in their relationship with the Lord, change their outlook from self-centered to Christ centered and change their entire outlook on life.  Certainly that has been the case for me, and I hope you will prayerfully consider what follows here.

There are many ways to go about it, and what follows is not the only way to approach the subject, but I would suggest that if you don’t already have a method that has been life-changing, you might want to give this one a try. It is based upon the fact that in the Bible there are four types of prayer: Thanksgiving, praise, intercession and supplication; all are involved in this model.  It is also based upon the fact that Jesus prayed early in the morning as a practice.  My thinking is that if Jesus is our model, then we should do what He did.

Here are the “action steps”

1. Take a piece of paper (or a new computer document) and make a list of everything you are thankful for.  Don’t skip writing it down! Having a written record is key.

2. On another page, make a list of everything that you would like to give God praise for.

3. On a third sheet, make a list of everyone who needs your prayer support; give this some thought, it might include a lot of people, churches, and/or institutions who need prayer.

4. Make a list on another sheet of the areas in which you ned prayer yourself.

5. Schedule a time, preferably as soon as possible after you get up, to pray, a time of quiet and solitude. If this means you need to get up earlier each day, then do so; trust me, you’ll be glad you did. If this seems too hard for you, please ask yourself how hard this is compared to what Jesus has done for you; your perspective will change!

6. Get started!  Force yourself if you have to; I had to force myself too.  I found that this was much like a workout regimen; for the first week or so I force myself, and then it becomes my favorite part of the day.

Begin each session by giving thanks for all of the things you are thankful for; mention each and every one.  Then move into praise, which should be real easy to do after giving thanks.  Next, pray for others by name whenever possible, really let yourself get into it.  Then and only after the first three, pray for your own needs/concerns.

At first, many people find that they have a hard time concentrating, that their minds want to wander and be distracted, but don’t give in to this; remain focused.  This will go away with practice. Take your time, this is not a race!  Remember, you are in the presence of the Most High God, addressing Him directly, don’t rush your way through as though you have more important things to get to: You don’t! By taking your time and keeping your focus, you will discover after a few days that you might just begin to be able to hear that “still soft voice” in your prayers, so be ready to listen.

As time goes on, you will discover that your prayers will be answered.  When this happens, cross them off of your intercession and supplication lists (pages 3 and 4) and add them to your thanksgiving or praise lists (pages 1 and 2).  In a few months you will have an amazing list of how God has worked in your life and in the lives of those around you, fully documented! When you have a period of doubt or trial, go back and look at this record; your problems will seem to melt away, and you will be able to withstand pressures that you couldn’t withstand before…

You will also soon discover that each day is a little easier to deal with, for your perspective on things will begin to change; Christ-centeredness will start to take over.  Things that used to drive you off the path will have less and less impact as you continue down your journey with Christ.

One last thought for today:  I have been teaching this to students and people that I have discipled for many years.  For the most part, they do not take my suggestion about daily individual prayer.  They usually say that they can see how good it would be, but that they don’t have the time, or they can’t focus.  However, those who do actually try come back to me later and say that their lives were changed by it… for the better.  If you haven’t gotten a daily prayer practice that has blessed you already, will you blow this off, or will you give it a serious try?

What is God saying to you in this post, and what will you do about it?

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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40 Responses to The Journey: Personal Prayer

  1. Sheree says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Don.

    We have family devotions together, but this year my sons are starting personal devotions. I’ve been working through how to help my little son deepen his prayer life and love your suggestion of writing these things down. I have a prayer journal and can see how God answers prayer over time. But, organizing it this way is not only helpful in keeping us focused, it’s a great reminder of answered prayers and how God truly is personally involved in each of our lives. I appreciate this post very much.

  2. dirofpr says:

    Ouch… you stepped on my toes! Thanks 🙂 I make time for reading and studying His word but it’s hit/miss on the prayer. Got any tips for how to keep our prayers fresh? I mean, after a while, I run out of different ways to say the same requests. It becomes a “save Johnny and Susie and Jack and Jill” kind of prayer. It’s hard to keep my prayer language from becoming rote. Sure, I could personalize it and describe for God each person’s unique need, but even that becomes rote after a while. What do you think? Is prayer a way of convincing God to act? Is prayer just calling to HIs mind the people on our list. I confess 48 years of being a Christian and I’m still perplexed about prayer. BUT, I’m definitely on board with prioritizing prayer – it’s about time!

    • Don Merritt says:

      Sorry about your toes, I didn’t know your foot was there! Great questions; we’ve all been there with you.We should all keep in mind that God doesn’t need our persuasion or our reminders; He already knows the needs and isn’t prone to memory problems. Intercession has much more to do with moving focus away from ourselves than anything else. For me, prayer that begins with thanksgiving and praise in large batches normally takes care of the dry spells, because as I go along, my heart is filled with his presence and His strength. Yet I must admit that on certain occasions it is hard to get into the whole thing because of my focus being on my own situation, say in a time of trial. When all else fails, I tend to ask forgiveness for my inattentiveness and ask God to lead me to where I need to be praying, and you know what? Most of those times require extra innings, for there are so many things to pray about.

  3. janjoy52 says:

    I was struck by your comment that being hurried is actually a devalueing of God. There is nothing of greater importance than showing up for an appointment with our Heavenly Father. We have His undivided attention. How can we offer less?

  4. vwoods1212 says:

    Hey this is awesome; I felt your frustration some years back when I realized that God was calling me to get to know Him at a deeper level. This just builds on the fact that there is a calling on your life and there was misdirection early on in life, but when God has a mark and calling for your life, no one else can accomplish it.

    I love this. I feel your frustration and I know that you can agree that when you started seeking Him, He made time for you and met you at the times you arranged, and also created a deeper hunger for the things pertaining to Him. Omigoodness, its just weird when you think you are in a boat by yourself and someone else says the same thing.
    Keep pressing, He will take you deeper yet.

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  9. isaiah41v10 says:

    I’ve had a prayer system that was working pretty well, but I didn’t really include thanksgiving and praise. Oops! I like your idea and will try this system. It can hard getting up early especially after a disturbed night with children, but it’s definitely worth it! It always makes the whole day go much better.

  10. Elaine says:

    My prayer life always seems to be hit or miss unfortunately, despite good intentions but we know what they say about the road that is paved with good intentions! Going to work very hard at putting your suggestions into practice! First item on page 4 of my list will be to ask God to help me make daily prayer a habit that is not broken!

  11. Zestwriter says:

    What a wonderful lesson on personal prayer and a most blessed way that God give us to communicate with Him ..personal prayer!

  12. Dr. J says:

    I “just happened upon” this wonderful lesson on personal prayer. Your systematic approach to prayer is the practical application to the exhortation in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18:

    16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

    What a blessing. Thanks also for the “likes.” I appreciate the encouragement.

  13. Patricia Ann says:

    Hi Don: “Make my life a prayer” is one of my mantras and you write about prayer and what I call “the Biblical life” so beautifully. I wish more people would get it, that the Bible is life’s training manual. Thanks for liking some of my blogs. I am enjoying sharing my life in this way and reading about yours.

  14. Thanks for this challenge for us to pray. While it seems so many things want to crowd out my time for prayer, I have found that the more I do pray the more God uses me in other people’s lives and the more I see God working. I have found that keeping a list of my prayer requests and praises really helps, and I am glad you addressed keeping a list of these. Thanks so much, and God bless.

  15. clairet703 says:

    Great posting! I totally agree. I’d add one item (perhaps you have it else where) pause and listen to what Jesus has to say back. I began to do this while living in a difficult situation working with Kurdish refugees. It transformed a sacrificial duty (I had to get up before sun rise in freezing conditions with no heating) to the equivalent of creeping out of bed to meet a secret lover. Although I was more tired it gave me strength and grace in trying and intense circumstances.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Amazing story, thank you! Yes, listening, you’re quite right about that, and yes I’ve blogged about that a number of times; listening to Him in prayer is a life changing thing!

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  17. Hi! May I ask why don’t you include forgiveness/repentance sections in the personal prayer? Isn’t that the most vital before you pray bout other things? And I would like to ask how do you ‘give praise’? Do you worship in songs? Or just like say it out? Thank you!

    • Don Merritt says:

      As for me, i would include forgiveness and repentance as a supplication, praying for myself. As to praise, for me it’s more of a “saying” thing than a “singing” thing, but it could certainly be either.

  18. Irm Brown says:

    I have to confess, I struggle a bit with these types of lists. I have tried it and it feels like skimming. Is it really a prayer to say the names: Timmy and Tommy and Johnny etc. And yet, if I give these individuals more time, place them in a cocoon of light and love and imagine them within the arms of Christ, and so on (a wonderful practice, I might add), I would be at it all day. I’m just sayin.’

    I don’t know the solution either, but I’m no longer convinced that God requires my repetitive lists. Instead, I am leaning to a single prayer of some depth for the person and their situation and then a request that God multiply its effect and so forth.

    However, I do agree that noting such prayers through journaling would be a good idea. I need to get back to that habit. IB

    • Don Merritt says:

      I understand your point. I really doubt that God needs us to nag Him all the time constantly repeating names and specifics, but sometimes we need to do it for, as you said, it can be a wonderful thing.Personally, I vary things; sometimes more detail, other times less, as He leads. Often, things are quite informal, just a chat…

  19. sheppaja says:

    I have to admit that for some months now my prayer life has been as strong as it was. I have kept journaling my prayers but my efforts are not what they need to be. This was a good reminder.

  20. Dearest Brother, we ALL no matter our maturity, no matter our ministry and no matter our gifts need to be reminded of this. Just as you I have taught much on prayer in the past as it is often, believe it or not, misunderstood act of communion with “our Heavenly Father, through His Son, Christ Jesus, and empowered by the Holy Spirit!”

    I want to quote something you stated and expand just a bit, “You will also soon discover that each day is a little easier to deal with, for your perspective on things will begin to change; Christ-centeredness will start to take over.” Never a truer statement has been said; Christ-centeredness will start to take over, and this is the goal that each of us wants to attain on the way toward spiritual maturity! This considerably not just changes your perspective on Christ and your place IN Him, but you become aware on a deeply spiritual way that He truly is never far away but as Proverbs 18:24, “But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” He becomes always just a thought away. Your prayer or communion life with the Lord then becomes an extension of your “scheduled” prayer and you are ever conscious of the presence of the Lord and His Holy Spirit!

    I also use “lists” to keep things centered and especially as you begin praying for more and more, you need to write things down especially if you truly are serious.

    Love this Brother! You know my prayers are definitely going out!! AND – my heart and spirit remain attentive!

  21. hearmorefromgod says:

    Thanks for the like. I think I will accept your challenge. Prayer may be the easiest part for me as I agree that it is the most important discipline when it comes to my relationship with God the Father, Jesu Christ and the Holy Spirit. and not just talking to then, but taking time, making time to listen.
    The purpose of my blog is to help people be more intentional and consistent in their prayer life. Each daily prayer offers a starting point for talking with God.
    Thank you for this challenge. I pray peoples lives will be changed by it.

  22. I’m not as devoted as Daniel, but I thank and praise when I wake every morning and thank and praise every night

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