What I Have Learned About Prayer in 40 Years…

What I Have Learned About Prayer in 40 Years…
And Still Wish I Could Get Right!
Rick Harrell

1. Mix it up. Don’t get into a routine that can grow stale. Try new things in your devotionals to bring new energy to your prayer time. For a whole year, each of my daily devotion times involved reading through the Psalms and learning about worship and trust. He expanded my heart for Him that year.

2.  Try online resources for devotionals. I currently use StudyLight.org and go to the devotional section and choose two of these as a part of my day’s start – my two choices currently are “Word for Today” and “My Utmost for His Highest.” My Utmost is in book form in a modern translation, and may be out there in Italian, too, since I am writing this from Italy and you may even be Italian.

3. Pick a special place to have your devotions and prayer.
It may be a chair in a certain part of the house, or a corner of your balcony. I have a friend who has a real closet area, with a window, a stool and small table. He is on his knees more, though. Have your Bible and journal/prayer notebook waiting on you each morning.

4. Make appointments in your diary for time with God. Give Him priority… that means He gets first spot.

5. Always, always, always, start your Bible reading with prayer. We need His help to discover and uncover truth. Put yourself in the story, and picture the people and places. Listen with your imagination to the background noises. Ask God to talk to you and show you what He wants you to take away and apply. Remember to say: “God, this is supernatural in front of my eyes; and I need your Spirit to help me understand it and what I should do in response to it.”

6. If you want to learn how to pray, go on a “treasure hunt.” Read through the letters of Paul and write down the things he prayed for others. Then read through the prayers of Jesus. Most of them were short (“Be healed.” “Come out.” “Be calm.” “Be still.”) Look at the authority He prayed with. Pray like him when you pray for others. “God, calm the storm in his life.” God, make her whole.”)

7. Understand your day’s rhythms. When are you most full of energy and can give your best to God’s call to prayer? Try to fit your time to this – if it’s morning, make it happen then. Don’t give God your yawns! And if you have trouble focusing, keep a list of things you will take care of that come to mind while you pray. Get them off your mind and onto the paper, so you can return to praying.

8. Understand your emotional rhythms. You are uniquely you! Some days of the week or month and even some seasons of the year are just not your best “I really feel great about praying” times or days. Do it anyway. God isn’t dependent on your feelings each time you pray. He really isn’t limited to you getting emotional (even though He wants to engage your passions.) He loves to answer when we are not “feeling it.” So, quit the excuses of “I don’t feel it” and PRAY! Faith in God, His Word, His Promises, His nature, His will – these are fuel of what our prayer life runs on.

9. Some days are time-limited. Make these shorter times count. Worship, read and pray in faith. Don’t try to work up an emotional high before praying since you will frustrate yourself, frustrate God, and probably still not pray in faith.

10. Some days are time-gifted.
You sometimes have “open windows of prayer” when you can take extended times to worship, pray, fall in love with Jesus, journal your heart out onto paper or your digital blog. Look forward to those days, and ask God what he wants to teach you about His heart. Be obedient when He speaks. These times can often change the course of your life or the lives of others. (One time, about an hour into my prayer time, God spoke to me about lifting my hands to Him in worship. I was outside at the time, and I told Him I didn’t worship like that. He clearly said, “If you don’t, you will stop right here in your growth in worship.” My hands went up so quick it was funny. Now, lifting hands to a loving Daddy is a natural response to His love.)

11. Organize your prayer life by circles. This may be my biggest struggle to keep up with, other than the simple let’s just do it attitude I need to have toward prayer. It helps to remember that “praying always” or “praying continually” for someone doesn’t mean you have him or her on your lips all day and all night. Praying continually means that you have a consistent time of praying for them
•    Your most immediate circle should be daily, and include those God has put in your life for an ongoing purpose. (My wife, my three kids; my spiritual leaders – missions, pastor, Bible study; my work leaders – boss, those I work immediate with most of the time; those I am discipling, usually two or three guys; those I am reaching out to, usually three or four people I am trying to strengthen bridges of trust and compassion to them that the Gospel can travel more freely over.) Sounds like a lot on the first list that happens each day – but really only about 10-12 people.
•    My next list is the once a week list. This is usually broken down into Monday-Saturday, and I cover extended family, church members who have needs and ask for prayer, missions partners whom we support, our government/schools/military/economy/culture – that it would all work together to create a spiritual climate open to the Gospel, the persecuted church, extended list of lost or hurting people.
•    My final list is those “one-time” prayer requests that come my way. I pray for them right there with the person, or pray for the need when I get home. But I don’t own this one as my “burden” to pray for regularly. I do pray for these occasionally, and I check in with the person to see how God is answering and to let them know I am continuing to pray (not continuously, but continuing…)

12. Move prayer needs around. Journaling helps me keep up with names, needs, answers to prayer, praise reports. Just because a person or a need is on a certain day or list doesn’t mean you shouldn’t “bump the priority up” when God says so.

13. Begin and end each prayer time in worship and thanksgiving.
As a part of the beautiful conversation God has begun with us, make worship and adoration an essential part of your prayer time. Sometimes, it may be your whole prayer time. Other times worship is the prelude to praying in faith, and thanksgiving is the consummate finale.

14. Use the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer as your extended prayer day pattern.
An hour or more can go by quickly when you take these words Jesus gave us, and you use them as the “diving board” to jump into the deep end of the pool in prayer. I can share more about this if you’d like. I keep an outline of an hour’s prayer time in my Bible most of the time.

15. My favorite Prayer Verses? Ephesians – the whole book. Incredible insight into our position in Christ, the battle we are in, and how to stand faithfully to the end in prayer.

Prone to Pray,