Today I am taking a break from my reflections on James. Those posts will continue in the coming weeks. My goal is to share between six and eight more posts from James. I am looking for suggestions for future posts. If you have an idea, drop it in the comments section below or send me an email.
We all know that prayer should be a regular part of the believer’s life. If you are like me sometimes your prayers become routine and even stagnant. I have found at least five ways to renew my focus in prayer. If you would like to add anything, comment on this post with something you have found helpful.
Here are the five ways to renew your prayer life:
- Pray Biblically
- Pray Theologically
- Pray Specifically
- Pray Consistently
- Pray Missionally
Sometimes we lost focus in prayer because we pray according to habit alone. Habits are good and the Christian should have a habit of praying. We must constantly evaluate our spiritual disciplines to protect against boredom and burnout. When you need help getting back on track with prayer, pray the Bible. Let me explain what I mean.
We can know we are praying according to God’s will when we pray His word back to him. I recommend that you start in the Psalms. Sometimes praying the Bible is as simple as changing pronouns. Where you see phrases like, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof” you can pray, “Lord the earth is yours and everything beautiful and complex within the earth.” Other times praying Scripture might be more challenging yet not overwhelming. Don Whitney’s informative book Praying the Bible will help you understand this concept further. (Amazon has the text listed as unavailable due to quality issues in the source submitted by the publisher.)
One passage I use to teach people how to pray the Bible is Psalm 24. I have edited the Psalm to reflect on how I would pray the text myself. I have omitted some of the Psalm to save space but you can pray through the whole passage.
Lord, the earth and everything in it, the world and its people, belong to You. You laid its foundation on the seas and established it on the rivers. Who may ascend to your holy mountain? Who may stand in your holy place? Only the person who has clean hands and a pure heart. Oh Lord, I come to you through the imputed righteousness of Jesus. Lord, you are strong and mighty. You are the King of glory and the Lord of heaven’s armies.
Praying the Bible is a sure way to regain focus in prayer. Praying the Bible leads to praying theologically. As you reflect on the timeless truths of God’s word your mind will be captivated by some theological element in the passage. Whether you are reading one of Paul’s letters or a historical account you can find doctrinal elements in the passage.
This type of praying will require that you slow down and meditate on the passage. Ask what the text teaches you about any of the major doctrinal points such as God, man, Jesus, or sin. The Biblical writers often included theological prayers in their works.
Prayers sometimes lack a biblical and theological foundation. Even when the Bible and theology are included in our prayers, sometimes specificity lacks. Overgeneralized prayers become boring which results in our being disengaged in praying. We should engage our minds, hearts, and wills in prayer. We need to renew our commitment to pray specific prayers.
Spend time building relationships with those in your church, bible study group, and others you do life with. Get to know them. Make note of their victories and struggles. The more intimately you know someone the more specifically you can pray for them.
We have all prayed and asked God to bless so and so. We need to start praying in more specific ways. If you want to pray for someone but don’t know their needs pray Scripture over them. Consider Paul’s prayer for the Christians in Ephesians 3:14-20 as an example to follow.
Specific prayers saturated with Bible and theology must also be consistent. You can probably quote all or part of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray constantly, 18 give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (CSB)
Sure we can quote these verses yet we struggle to apply them. Consistent prayers are prayers that are prayed throughout the normal activities of the day. A consistent time for prayer each day provides structure to this important spiritual discipline. Jesus frequently separated himself from the disciples to pray and spend time with his father. He often prayed in the early morning hours. Whether your prayer time is in the morning, midday, or evening, the is that you pray consistently. I prefer morning time because fewer distractions are present and my mind engages more.
Missional engagement motivates the church body and encourages the individual believer. Prayer unites the heart of the individual to the heart of God. Praying for missions and missionaries reminds us of the Gospel, the Great Commission, and our need to join Jesus in his restoration plan.
Matthew 9:35-38 points us to the compassion of Jesus. He healed diseases and proclaimed the Good News of the kingdom in the towns and villages. He instructed his disciples to pray because “The harvest truly is plentiful but the laborers are few.” We must not only pray God will call more missionaries but also that he will meet the needs of those already serving.
Please do not merely pray that God will bless those missionaries “over there”. The denomination I serve has two mission entities, the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board. Both entities list missionaries by name and provide specific prayer needs on their websites. If your denomination does not provide digitized prayer lists, call the mission agency and determine if any print prayer cards are available. In today’s digital age you can connect with missionaries through social media. You may also have a mission emphasis each week and feature a people group or nation as listed on Operation World or the Joshua Project.
Here are three prayers you can pray for any missionary:
- That God will provide persons of peace so the missionary can connect with the community.
- That God will provide opportunities for the missionary family to engage in Gospel conversations.
- That missionary children will love God not out of obligation but because they see Jesus alive in the world today.
I pray God uses these five ways to renew and strengthen your prayers. Keep praying even when it becomes challenging. We have not because we do not ask!