World catastrophe's. Wars. Personal battles being fought in board rooms and bedrooms. Misunderstandings. Scraped knees. The car wreck you just saw. The siren you just heard. All reasons to pray.
As a new Christian in my early 20's, I never was a "prayer closet" kind of pray-er. I know that God loved it when we spend time with Him, communing in Him, meditating on His Word. Maybe I'm claustrophobic? To combat that, I met with a great group of young women on Saturday mornings at the beach. We would pray, bare feet in the cool sand, sound of God's created Pacific crashing wildly on the shores of Seal Beach, gulls calling above. It fostered in me the desire to be in His creation as we sang songs of praise and lifted prayer needs up for each other. Sweet times of fellowship and community.
A few years later, newly married and in a new church, I heard that our pastor surprised his wife by taking the strip of land between their house and their neighbor's, and turned it into a place for prayer and meditation for her. WOW! Now THAT appealed to me (and still does, although here it would be constantly disturbed by the running of air conditioners - not ideal for a peaceful place!!). I LOVE the idea of the hymn's lyrics, "I come to the garden alone....". So when I learned that prayer could truly take place ANYWHERE, my prayer life took off with a new fervency.
THEN I learned that prayer isn't just talking to God, but letting God talk to me too. Huh. A TWO way conversation. Go figure. And God uses His Word to speak to us too? And we can't listen when we are talking - so SILENCE is ok?? Even when "2 or 3 are gathered"? Those awkward times of silence in group prayer soon metamorphosed into beautiful times of waiting on the Lord.
Lots of folks use different "recipes" for prayer, some based on scripture (following the Lord's prayer in the garden as an example), or an acronym. I like to make sure that certain elements are included in prayer times, but don't hold to it hard and fast. Here's one recipe I use to include all the elements of a good prayer time:
PRAY (a recipe for prayer):
- P - Praise: Thanking God for who He is, and what He's done. Often I will include a section of scripture to start this off, and frequently this comes from Psalms, but not always. Many times, as I'm reading, it will inspire me to come to Him in prayer, just from reading what He's done over time and recorded in His Word. Sometimes it is a song of worship, honoring His power, submitting and accepting His love. Often times it starts with "counting my blessings" and thanking Him for what He has done, and is doing, in me, around me, or through me.
- R - Repent: It's hard to ask for things when we've allowed sin to creep into our lives. Sin is an instant barrier, and while He hears us and sees us, we still have to own up to our short-comings and failures. We might be struggling in circumstances - be honest with Him and ask for forgiveness and His help, His intervention. Don't stuff it aside and pretend it doesn't exist. When I don't see my sin in that moment, I ask Him to reveal it to me. Draw me closer to Him. Refine my walk, change my attitudes, make me more like Him. Sometimes it's as simple as asking Him to remove my doubt, my unbelief. It's good to clear the air.
- A - Ask: "Make your requests known to God." It's as simple as that.
- Y - Yield: Wait on God. Be still. Silent. He may make a move, and He may just bask in your silence like we rest in the sunshine. Enjoy His presence. Often I will find myself yielding many times in my time of prayer, in the midst of one of the other areas, and that's ok! Enjoy being with Him!
This doesn't mean that I follow this "recipe" each time I talk with Him; as I'm a "pray without ceasing" kind of girl. I talk to God all the time. ALL.THE.TIME. As a new Christian I fostered the habit of prayer driving; praying for people I drove by on the street, for the ambulance that sped off in full alarm, for the people that cut me off in that fast-paced-SoCal traffic. I prayer drove with my kids, teaching them to pray their way through the day (I don't know if they still do that or not!), and always believe that "A day hemmed in prayer, seldom unravels!".
Now I've learned to prayer walk too, and I hope to instill this in the lives of my grandchildren during this season that we are all living together. To have them walking around our neighborhood with me is a great joy, and I want them to become aware that we can lift up anyone to our Father. Even if we don't know of His Presence, we can pray for them to be drawn closer to God, to know Him deeper, more intimately. It's also wonderful to prayer walk with other believers in other neighborhoods! I've done this with groups of people (MANY groups at one time - DO NOT do this alone!!), going into a troubled neighborhood and prayer walking their streets, praying for the folks that are coming and going, standing on their corners, bbq-ing in their yards. It's wonderful to do in areas where there is a lot of ethnic diversity, and I've seen God open a lot of doors for fellowship and extending His love to some that have never heard of or met Jesus.
We have a small group that meets together on Monday evenings for just ONE HOUR, to pray specifically for our missionaries "here, near, and far away". It's usually a VERY SMALL GROUP, just two or three, but that's all He's asked for! We are really blessed when more than that show up, and we'll break back down into groups of two and three, so we can get more praying done. We have a calendar set up ahead, with a weekly rotation, praying for just one or two fields or missionaries each night, and a little time set aside at the end for any special requests for any missionary, whether it's someone we financially support, or someone we know with any agency, anywhere in the world. I treasure our GO Pray nights!
On "here" nights we pray for one of the several ministries our church is involved with around our community, such as Habitat for Humanity, the crisis pregnancy center, and the local shelter. Our church has the idea that "we don't have to do it all" - meaning that if another church or group is doing a great job at reaching out in community, we can join in on their work and assist them, instead of creating a competing ministry. It was one of the first things that I LOVED about our church!! It's an honor to join in and pray for them, their upcoming events, their ministry needs. I usually can find enough on the ministries web site to pray about, so we don't have to look far to find things to lift up to God, and we always include praying for Him to lead people through that ministries doors to find the help they need and meet Jesus there.
The nights we pray for the "near" ministries we support, we lift up our in country workers; a couple with a prayer ministry, a missionary sending agency, a couple living and evangelizing on an Indian Reservation, people that work to equip and train others to go to wherever God sends them, a community of believers that live within the city of the largest Muslim population in the U.S., and other workers. Sometimes these fields are harder to reach, and hardest to work in, because they are inundated with our own self-serving culture. They may have a church home, but they may travel a lot and not have a sense of community, and often times our workers here are under supported financially, so we pray that as other people and churches learn of their work, that they will join in and partner with them. Often times these are the people that are raising up our next generation of missionaries! They NEED our prayers!!
The "Far Away" prayer nights are set aside to pray for our field workers that are out of country, and we pray for the workers, the people they work among, and His harvest. We usually include prayers from any monthly newsletters we've received, and be sure to pray for the parents of our Global Workers and their families here in the U.S. We lift up language learning, for cultural barriers to be removed, for travel and life in a foreign field. Some have financial needs, especially for one time purchases like a vehicle, and often there are health issues to lift up. We pray prayers of spiritual warfare, especially if they are at a hard to reach area where demon and spirit worship has been deeply ingrained in their history and culture. It's never hard to find things to pray for on "Far Away" nights.
My prayer NOW is that this will encourage and inspire you to kick-up your prayer life a little. Encourage a friend to pray with you ("where 2 or 3 are gathered in My Name...") and don't get discouraged if someone says no...keep asking! That could be your first prayer - to ask God to send someone into your life to pray with!! I'm praying that for YOU NOW!! :)
God, I'm so grateful that You desire to hear from us, to speak to us; that You created us for fellowship with You. I ask Lord, that You will draw us into prayer - that we will pray without ceasing, and also take intentional time to be alone with You. Help us to be sensitive to the prompting of Your Holy Spirit, as You speak to our hearts and call us to You. Increase our faith in prayer, and as we receive Your gifts teach us to use them. We love You, and desire to know You more, to see You at work IN us and THROUGH us. In Your Name we pray, Jesus....amen....
(NOTE: You can find some GREAT prayer resources through the ministries of Harvest Prayer, Team Expansion and if you want to pray for a least reached or unreached people group, try Pray 4 Tunisia, Pray 4 The Mien or Joshua Project's Unreached People Group of the day.)