We recently finished a four-week prayer series as a church, which, in addition to Sunday messages, included a prayer guide leading us in intentional times of prayer each day and ended with an amazing night of prayer and worship. It was a special time. It was an important time. It was a short amount of time. But our time focusing on prayer as a church was never meant to be just an isolated time in our past but rather a propelling time for our future.
We want to be a church devoted to prayer. At the heart of that is not just prayer guides, prayer services, prayer series, and prayer books in the resource center. A praying church is made up of praying people. Our hope is that focused time on prayer would continue in our lives, leading us to be a church devoted to prayer because we are full of people devoted to prayer.
But let’s be real: the prayer guide is finished, kids' activities are in full swing, work is busy, football season is here, there’s a game to attend most every night, and on top of all that, the holidays are coming. Maybe, looking back now, that devotion to prayer is looking more like a season than a new lifestyle. How do we not lose that momentum? How do we continue our devotion to prayer?
Consider these 3 Ps of a lifestyle of prayer that can hopefully turn a season of prayer into a culture of prayer in your life and our church. Plan - Persistence - Partners.
We do not drift into a life devoted to prayer. That is not just going to happen on its own. To have a lifestyle of prayer, we need to have a plan for the when, where, and what of prayer. Make a plan. When are you going to pray each day? Where are you going to pray? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about space in his instructions on prayer. “...when you pray, go into your room and shut the door…” Matthew 6:6. Is there a space where you won’t be interrupted? Designate it. And then, what will you pray when you pray? Often prayer never gets off the ground because, in the moment, we don’t know what to say.
Some people follow the ACTS model. Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. Some people keep a journal, writing down what they are praying for. There are prayer apps that can help. The bottom line is if you want a lifestyle of prayer, you need a plan for praying. Pick a time, pick a place, and have a plan. For example: I will pray at 6 am, before anyone else gets up, in the rocker in the living room, using the ACTS model.
Elijah prayed for rain seven times before the first cloud appeared. Jesus’ parables about how to pray were a guy pounding on his neighbor's door in the middle of the night until he would get up and a widow who kept pestering a judge until he would deal with her case. Once you make a plan, you have to keep showing up. And if you miss a day or two, jump back in. Master the restart. Just keep going. Keep praying. Stick to the plan.
But persistence in prayer is not just about sticking to the plan, but also persistence in your actual praying. This isn’t heaping up empty phrases and using many words, which Jesus warns us about, Matthew 6:7. That has to do with thinking we can manipulate God through our prayers as if we are reciting spells that conjure up answers. We are to authentically communicate to our Heavenly Father, which will demand times of prayers that exist longer than the quick one in traffic or before the meal.
The Puritans would say, “pray until you pray.” They meant Christians should pray long enough and be honest enough to get past the formalities of praying to real honest communion with God.
Persist in your plan to pray. Keep showing up. And persist in your actual praying. Talk honestly with your Heavenly Father.
Let someone else in on your prayer life. Tell someone your plan. Tell someone what you are praying for. Tell someone how it’s going. We need encouragement, accountability, and support to maintain a lifestyle of prayer. Those who exercise do so longer and more consistently when they have others they exercise with. The same is true in prayer. You will be more consistent in your prayer life when you have a prayer partner, someone you discuss your prayer life with.
Just like the church in Acts 2, we want to be devoted to prayer. And a church is devoted to prayer when its people are devoted to prayer. The season of intentionally focused time on prayer that we recently went through was a sweet time for our church, but let's let that propel us toward an ongoing devotion to prayer.
Make a plan, be persistent, and find a partner. Because we desperately need God to move among us, and we know he can, and there is a chance he might, and there is a greater chance he might through our prayers.