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 event, 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?