Once upon a time, there was a farmer who had 100 acres that he was ready to plant. He cranked up the tractor, plowed the soil, spread the seed and watered the entire farm thoroughly. Then he put away his tractor, packed his suitcase and left on a 3 month vacation to Hawaii. He returned rested and tanned and ready to harvest his bounty… Yeah, right. That’s not how a farm works.
For a crop to grow, it must be planted and watered. But beyond that, it must be fertilized and weeded and watered again. Then more weeding and more watering. To harvest a good crop takes a balance of nutrition from the earth and rain and sun from the heavens. Much the same way, if we are to grow spiritually, we need to contribute to our spiritual lives a healthy balance of prayer and Bible study. And often, in the busy lives that we lead, in order to have this spiritual food, we must make a plan to see that the time is there for both.
Prayer is simply talking with God. And because we know that God is with us at all times, we know that we can talk with Him at all times. It isn’t necessary that we kneel, close our eyes, fold our hands or any of the physical elements that often can be associated with prayer. If you drive, you may have had a close call when you only have time to say, “Jesus, help me!” Often I have had a person come to mind that I haven’t seen in many years, and I have felt impress just to whisper a prayer for them, not knowimg what situation they may be in. And, yes, all these are prayers, because we are talking to God. But we still need dedicated time, that we can focus on God and have a more in depth conversation with Him. Here are a few points to consider when making that plan for feeding your spiritual side in prayer:
1. Find a place to pray: Jesus set a great example for us by doing this. He would often go away alone to spend time talking with His Father. If the Son of God needed to get away from the distractions to pray, it’s probably a good idea for me to do the same. Praying is both talking and listening. You have to be able to hear God’s voice. That can be hard to do in the live loud lifestyle that so many of us have. Getting away from the computer, the tv and the family allows us to listen to His voice.
2. Make time to pray: For you, praying may be most beneficial first thing in the morning. It may be the way for you to end your day, reflecting on what has happened that day and anticipating the next. It may be in the calm of an afternoon when all the rest of your family will be other places and you can find a quiet time to focus on God. Whatever time is best for you is when you should pray. If you are a night owl and you try to pray early in the morning, you may spend most of your time nodding off. If you can set aside the same time each day, that’s great. But some people’s schedules change, so that isn’t possible. As long as you find time each day, that’s the point.
3. Keep a prayer journal: This can be a bound journal, a spiral notebook, or a brown paper bag. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just a place to record your requests and the answers God provides. Jot down your prayer request, people who you are praying for, situations that you bring to God and any other needs or dreams. Also, note any ideas that God puts in your heart during your prayer time. It is very encouraging to look back over those requests and see how God has answered and moved in your life and the lives of those for whom you are praying.
4. Balance your prayer time: Prayer time includes praise to God, reflection, requests, thanksgiving and last, but certainly not least, listening. It’s not a time to provide God with a list of things you want. It’s time to spend in conversation with Him.
5. Corporate prayer: Most of our prayer time is personal time that we spend one on one with God daily. But it is a good practice to engage in corporate prayer time, as well. Having a prayer partner that will meet with you weekly to share needs and pray with you doubles the encouragement that comes from spending time with God. Prayer groups are another way to do what the Bible encourages, “Bear one another’s burdens” and it makes the burdens lighter and the victories sweeter as we share them with others that are journeying with us.
James 5:16 “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective”