Have you ever met someone who is really good at their job? My wife and I went on a pizza tour of Chicago a few years ago. I was very impressed with the pizza (of course!), but I was also impressed with our guide. He did not just talk to us about pizza. He also talked to us about the history of the neighborhoods that we were passing through as we moved from pizza to pizza. He made the tour more than just riding in a bus and eating pizza. The tour became a discovery of Chicago in a way that I was not expecting.
How did he do that so well? He does it every day, twice a day, six days a week. He is constantly practicing his spiel. Every day he has the opportunity to tweak it and make it better and better. His job depends on it. The better it is, the more referrals he gets. The more referrals he gets, the more business he pulls in. It is a circle that reinforces itself.
When I think about becoming a person of prayer, I realize that the same thing is true. Very few of us start out as prayer giants. I read about people who are known for their praying, and I am amazed by their persistence and power. Yet, none of them started that way. They started as children and young people who had to develop their passion and skill in prayer. How did they do it? At the heart of their prayer lives, these giants of prayer believed in the power and necessity of prayer. Many of us share that belief, but we struggle with consistent prayer lives. This leaves us with a question – how do I move from belief to action? On Sunday, we talked about the practice of prayer we see in the Bible. From that study, we see 4 practices that are consistent in the Bible with people who pray. We see the same practices in the history of the church. If we are people who believe in the power of prayer, then following these examples will move us to becoming the people of prayer we long to be.
1. The first practice of prayer is to be intentional. Consider Daniel. The envious governors of the Medes and Persians knew that the only way Daniel could be accused of any crime was to attack his obvious commitment to God. What was the easiest way to do that? It was by attacking his commitment to intentional prayer.
10 Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God.Daniel 6:10-11
Notice the bold words… “as he had been doing previously.” Daniel had an intentional time and place for regular prayer. It was so intentional that it was predictable. Do we have that?
Action step: Pick a time and place for regular prayer.
2. The second practice of prayer is to be purposeful. Consider Paul. When we read about his prayers, they are not generic or general. They are specific. They have an agenda. In other words, Paul didn’t pray for general blessings or a “good life.” He prayed specifically because he believed that God answers prayer. If He answers, why wouldn’t we be specific?
9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God…Colossians 1:9-10
Paul knew what he was praying for. He was specific and passionate : Knowing why we are praying is one of the two most important principles of prayer. First, is don’t worry about others. Second, is know your purpose.
Action step: Pray for specific needs with specific prayer.
3. The third practice of prayer is to be consistent .
Notice the always language of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18…
16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
In Luke 18, Jesus tells a parable about an unjust judge and a mistreated woman. The woman demands justice. The judge doesn’t care. Her response? She demanded justice daily until he gave in and heard her case. Jesus asked, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find such faith on the earth?” Consistency is encouraged by God.
Action step: PUSH – Pray Until Something Happens.
4. The fourth practice of prayer is be genuine.
Jesus is clear in Matthew 6, don’t try to impress when you pray. Prayer isn’t about being cool. It isn’t about impressing God either. When we approach prayer that way, it becomes fake. It’s hard to get excited about fake stuff. However, real things excite us. Real things matter. So, be real when you pray.
Action step: If you believe that God is real, then speak to Him like a real person.
Practice makes perfect. Let’s practice praying with this in mind.
Something to think about, Pastor John