As I counsel people in all walks of life, I have become very aware that I am not alone in my struggles to grow in the area of my prayer life. I have read books. I have made commitments. I have had people hold me accountable. I have used a list to help me. I have not used a list so that I can cry out from my heart. I have focused on a set-aside time of the day. I have tried praying throughout the day. I have tried to pray for certain lengths of time. Maybe you can identify with my desire to grow in the practice of prayer. Bottom line: I long for the discipline of prayer to become my passion for prayer. When I get to heaven, I want to know Jesus as someone with whom I have spent significant time in conversation.
I have grown in prayer through the years, although there have been numerous ups and downs. As a result, there are certain practices that have helped me. I want to share one of them with you today, and perhaps add another in a later blog post.
Perhaps you have heard of the “ACTS” approach to prayer: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. God used that approach early in my Christian life to help me grow in prayer. However, as the years have past, I have developed my own unique way of thinking about how to approach prayer. Rather than breaking prayer down into parts (like ACTS) and following each step, my approach helps me to think about what I am doing as I pray. I have developed six “R”s, which I think outlines what I try to do naturally in prayer:
*Reflecting on life
My most effective prayer flows out of clear and honest reflection of my life. How am I living? What am I struggling with? What do I desire? What difficulties are around me? What do I love or hate? I want to make sure that I am in tune with my life as I pray. I want to feel what I am going through, the compilation of my experiences. And I want my prayer to flow out of true reflection, rather than to be hurried expressions of dependency. This naturally leads to…
*Repenting of sin
Repentance is a growing void in the Christian life. So much has been categorized as “gray” that we lack an understanding of wrong. We have become quick to embrace victimization or to blame sin on the physical or psychological issues that we have lost a sense of agency, that we are sinners. I find that reflecting on my life actually surfaces hidden emotions or makes my actions more clear. Repentance is the natural outflow of this reflection. And, as I repent, this necessitates…
*Rejoicing over Jesus and the gospel
Repentance can easily be condemnation-focused if we are not careful. We must be mindful of Jesus and the gospel. Remembering the gospel is freeing, not to sin more, but rather to enjoy the wonderful gift of forgiveness. I love the words to the song, “Lord, I need you,” by Matt Maher. Consider one of the verses, along with the chorus:
“Where sin runs deep Your grace is more. Where grace is found is where You are.
And where You are, Lord, I am free. Holiness is Christ in me!
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You. Every hour I need You.
My one defense! my righteousness!
Oh God, how I need You.”
“I am free.” Yes, repentance must lead us to rejoicing over Jesus and the gospel. We are free. And this leads to…
*Remembering God’s goodness and greatness
As my heart opens up to God, I am reminded of the many ways that God is at work in my life and in my world. I am drawn to adore him, to rest in him, and to express love to him. The psalmist exclaimed: “He is great. He is good. Come, let us worship and bow down” (Psalm 95). And, as I bask in his presence, amazed by who he is and what he is doing, it leads to…
*Re-orienting my heart to God’s purposes
I want to abide in him. I want my life to be in him. The likely response to God’s goodness and greatness and Jesus and the gospel is to live a life of gratitude to him, wholly devoted to his purposes in this world. So I refocus. Life has beat me up and my heart has been tempted, so I re-orient myself once again to my purpose in living. And this leads to…
*Requesting God to work in my life and the life of others
I want to be faithful in all things, and I want to encourage others to do the same. So I turn to God and ask for his help. I must depend on him as I await the soon return of Jesus. That is my hope, and it is what gives me strength day by day.
For me, this is not a step-by-step approach to prayer. I find that it is simply what I do when I pray. I hope that it can help you grow in prayer. May we each be faithfully depending on our most-amazing Savior. Be faithful as you await his soon return.