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Posts tagged ‘Prayer’

When You Say You’ll Pray After a Prayer Request

Have you ever gotten a prayer request from a fellow brother or sister in Christ asking for immediate prayer? Perhaps he is facing a temptation for which he needs help resisting. Or maybe she is feeling overcome by grief or sorrow and is desperate for peace. It might be that your friend has a need and is seeking the Lord’s provision.

We often respond to such prayer requests in the affirmative. We may even say “I’ll pray for you”—as a common and almost automatic response we give without even thinking. But then we go on our way and forget the prayer request altogether. But saying such things without actually praying about the person’s need is worthless. Meaningless. And does more harm than good.

Perhaps the problem is that we fail to grasp the power of prayer; rather, we’ve forgotten the power of the One to whom we pray.

The Power of God in Prayer

The Apostle Paul wrote several prayers in his letters to various churches. These “Apostle Paul prayers” are a treasure trove of insight into the practice of prayer. Paul prayed for each of the churches he ministered to and asked them to pray for him and his ministry as well.

In Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, he shared two prayers for the church: Ephesians 1:15-19 and 3:14-19. In both of these prayers, Paul focused on the power of God. He wanted the Ephesian church to know God’s power toward them: “and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:19-20). In Paul’s second prayer, he asked God to strengthen the Ephesians “with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:16).

The same power that raised Christ from the dead is the same power at work in us as believers. It is the same power that brought us from death to life in Christ. It is the same power that united us to Christ through faith. It is the same power that resides within us, teaching, training, correcting, and encouraging us. And it is the same power that will change and transform us into the image of Christ, until the day when our faith becomes sight.

When we pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we pray to the God of all power. Perhaps this is why Paul ends Ephesians 3 with this benediction, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (vv. 20-21).

Responding to That Prayer Request Immediately

This is why we ought to be quick to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ. As adopted children of the Father, we are united to Christ and one another. We pray to the same Father on behalf of our siblings in Christ. And we can come before our almighty God with our prayers and petitions, knowing that he hears us. Not only does he hear us, but he uses our prayers to carry out his will in this world.

To act on a prayer request immediately takes not only an understanding of the power of God at work in our prayers, but it also takes intentionality. It takes a willingness, desire, and discipline to follow through. So how can we practically respond to immediate prayer requests?

Once we receive the request, we can pause whatever we were doing and pray for the person’s need.

We can keep a prayer journal where we keep a list of prayer needs. When we receive a new request, we add it to the list and spend time in prayer about that need. We can also mark when a prayer was answered.

We can write the request on a sticky note and post it where we are most likely to see it, so that whenever we see it, we pray for that need. The note could be posted on our computer, on the car dashboard, on the bathroom mirror, at the kitchen sink.

We can set a reminder on our phone to remind us to pray for the need.

There are prayer apps we can use to keep track of prayers, as well as the answers to those prayers.

Whatever method we employ, the important thing is that we serve our brothers and sisters in Christ through prayer. We also need to let our friends know we are indeed praying for them and even follow up to learn how the Lord is answering our prayers. What an encouragement that will be to their faith! And perhaps, like Paul, we can even share with them the specifics of our prayers on our friend’s behalf.

“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:9-12).

This article about responding to a prayer request originally appeared here.

 

Raise Your Prayer Sights – Constant Prayer

Prayer 9God’s ambassador, as Paul referred to himself, wrote his letters to the churches of Ephesus, Colosse, and Philippi from prison.

But his upbeat emphasis is on evangelism, discipling, and prayer. In this paragraph (and a parallel one, Colossians 4:24) he lets his readers know why intercessory prayer is vital.

Interact with God’s Word

Ephesians 6:18-20

  1. How can anyone pray at all times?
  2. How does the Holy Spirit empower your prayers?
  3. Are you praying for the growth of Christians you know?
  4. How can you pray for believers around the world?
  5. What two qualities did Paul single out (in. v. 18) as key in intercessory prayer?
  6. Why do you think these qualities are essential?
  7. What two prayer requests did Paul present for his own ministry?
  8. What lesson is there for us in what Paul did not request prayer for?

Spend Time in Prayer:  Ask God for the resolve to be alert and persistent in your prayer life, experiencing His power working on behalf of believers both nearby and at a distance.

Ephesians 6:18-20

18 Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere. 19 And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words as I boldly explain God’s secret plan that the Good News is for the Gentiles, too. 20 I am in chains now for preaching this message as God’s ambassador. But pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.

Prayer for the Week: Lift my prayer horizons, Lord, above my own welfare to the expansion of Your kingdom.

Raise Your Prayer Sights – …and More

Prayer 9

Key Bible Verse: I assure you, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. Matthew 21:21

Bonus Reading: Matthew 21:18-22

[continued from yesterday] President Museveni asked Bob to help organize a prayer breakfast for Uganda. People of every tribe, religion, and station attended. Speakers admitted the hate they’d held for others, and told how much they’d been changed by God.

Back in his office, Museveni asked Bob how he viewed the situation in South Africa. Bob replied that the country was heading in the right direction after releasing Nelson Mandela from prison. Museveni agreed. “I’m now chairman of the Organization of African Unity,” he said. “I want to send a delegation to South Africa to say that love and reconciliation are the answer to the bloodshed predicted for their country. What do you think?”

“That sounds like a great idea,” said Bob.

“Can you go? We need a white in the delegation to demonstrate our point.”

Bob went and met with Mandela, de Klerk, Buthelezi, and other leaders. He read 1 Corinthians 13, the Bible’s love chapter. Christians from Kenya, Zambia, and Uganda spoke of how forgiveness was critical to South Africa’s success. This message proved pivotal in that nation’s bloodless transition from white to majority rule.

Bob Hunter’s little group is still meeting to pray for Africa. And mountains keep moving!

—Luis Palau in It’s a God Thing

My Response: What “mountain” have I witnessed being moved in response to prayer?

Thought to Apply: Our prayers lay the track down which God’s power, like a mighty locomotive, can come.—Watchman Nee (Chinese pastor)

Adapted from It’s a God Thing (Doubleday, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: Lift my prayer horizons, Lord, above my own welfare to the expansion of Your kingdom.

 

Raise Your Prayer Sights – One Mountain…

Prayer 9Key Bible Verse: If you had faith … you could say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it would move. Nothing would be impossible. Matthew 17:20

Bonus Reading: John 17:20-21

[continued from yesterday]  Bob took his first trip to Uganda to visit the hospital just as dictator Idi Amin was being pushed out. Convinced that helping the hospital was futile without working on reconciliation in the ravaged country, Bob met the parliamentary leaders friendly to the new president, Milton Obote, and those who opposed him. He found each side willing to meet with him but not with each other.

“Lord, how can we get these guys to sit together and heal their land?” he prayed.

The answer came quickly. Waiting for his plane during a layover at the Nairobi airport, Bob sat next to an American missionary. She was the daughter of Andrew Young, then mayor of Atlanta. She suggested that Bob call her father and ask him to visit Uganda. Bob called. Andrew Young agreed.

They started a process of reconciliation that included opposition rebels, one of whom, Yoweri Museveni, became president in due course. A Museveni adviser who believed in Jesus Christ met with Bob; they talked about forgiveness, reconciliation, and love for one’s enemies. President Museveni was persuaded to attend the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, where he acknowledged his own faith. [continued tomorrow]

—Luis Palau in It’s a God Thing

My Response: A time I sensed God using me in answer to prayer was …

Thought to Apply: History belongs to the intercessors who believe the future into being.—Walter Wink

Adapted from It’s a God Thing (Doubleday, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: Lift my prayer horizons, Lord, above my own welfare to the expansion of Your kingdom.

 

Raise Your Prayer Sights – Cover a Continent

Prayer 9Key Bible Verse: The longing of my heart and my prayer to God is that the Jewish people might be saved. Romans 10:1

Bonus Reading: Matthew 9:35-38

“Pray for something bigger than yourself,” Doug Coe told Bob Hunter, a new Christian who asked his friend how to pray. “Pick a city like Washington, a state like Virginia, a country like Russia, or even a continent like Africa. If you stick with it for 25 years, you’ll see God move mountains.”

For some reason, the thought of praying for Africa stuck with Bob. He and one other man studied a map to learn the names of countries formed since they were in high school. Then they began praying for this vast continent. A couple of other men soon joined them.

Back in the 1970s Idi Amin was executing thousands in Uganda. So the group prayed in earnest for Uganda. They asked God to raise up a worker from its capital, Kampala, whom they could support.

Then Bob attended a retreat at a hotel. A group gathering after lunch to pray for Africa was joined by a missionary nurse not attending the retreat. It turned out she worked at Mengo Hospital in Kampala! Bob invited her to visit his family and go to church with them for “Missions Sunday.” When the scheduled missionary speaker failed to show, the nurse from Kampala took his place. Bob’s church soon made the hospital its ongoing project. [continued tomorrow]

—Luis Palau in It’s a God Thing

My Response: Something bigger than myself that I feel led to pray for is ____.

Thought to Apply: More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.—Alfred Tennyson (English poet)

Adapted from It’s a God Thing (Doubleday, 2001)

Prayer for the Week: Lift my prayer horizons, Lord, above my own welfare to the expansion of Your kingdom.

 

Raise Your Prayer Sights – Target Your Boss

Prayer 9Key Bible Verse: I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people … for kings and all others who are in authority. 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Bonus Reading: 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Bad-mouthing a manager is commonplace today. Employees crack jokes and bash their leader out of lack of respect, distrust, and dislike. But this behavior only worsens what might already be a bad situation.

Imagine what work would be like if, instead, all the employees began praying for their leaders. If we all chose to lift up in prayer the people we feel at odds with, great things could happen, not just for them but for us as well.

Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 that we’re to pray for everyone. He singled out governmental authorities; but his directive could also apply to leaders in virtually all organizations.

Why pray for your boss? Because God allows us to help Him change people and situations. The more we acknowledge others in prayer, the more God will work in them and the circumstances surrounding them. God helps you through your prayers to see your boss through His eyes—and your heart will begin softening toward this person for whom you’ve previously felt anger, bitterness, or contempt.

Before you leave for work each morning, pray for your boss. This could avert a snide remark or words spoken in anger.

—Stephen Graves and Thomas Addington in Deep Focus

My Response: I’ll commit to pray weekly for ______, my supervisor.

Thought to Apply: God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede. —Oswald Chambers (British teacher, chaplain)

Adapted from Deep Focus (Jossey-Bass, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Lift my prayer horizons, Lord, above my own welfare to the expansion of Your kingdom.

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Raise Your Prayer Sights – Bless That Bozo?

Prayer 9Key Bible Verse: And so we keep on praying for you, that our God will make you worthy of the life to which he called you. 2 Thessalonians 1:11

Bonus Reading: Colossians 1:9-12

I became close with five guys in a Bible study on our campus. But one evening a 6’5″ football player burst into our quiet gathering, extended his hand in all directions, and bellowed out his name. Big Wally was joining our group. During the weeks that followed, I listened resentfully to this primitive extrovert boom out his airhead religious views. Wally had ruined our tranquil, reflective atmosphere.

Fortunately, our study leader altered how we opened our sharing time. He asked us to pray silently for each group member, thinking of their needs and claiming God’s assistance in their lives. I prayed for the person on my right and left and then came to Wally, sitting across from me. I tried to pray about the biology test he was facing and the girlfriend who’d dumped him.

That simple act jolted me awake. I just couldn’t think of Wally in the same way. He required my help, and I needed his. I began to see things I admired in this guy. The more we prayed together, the more I came to like Wally, until one evening I found myself jumping on a sofa with him, wildly celebrating an answer to prayer. His raw enthusiasm had become infectious rather than offensive.

—Steven Mosley in Secrets of the Mustard Seed

My Response: Starting today, I’ll pray for _____, who rubs me the wrong way.

Adapted from Secrets of the Mustard Seed (Nav Press, 2002)

Prayer for the Week: Lift my prayer horizons, Lord, above my own welfare to the expansion of Your kingdom.

 

Raise Your Prayer Sights – Visible and Vulnerable

Prayer 9Who Said It…John Stackhouse Jr.

John teaches theology and culture at Regent College, a graduate school of Christian studies affiliated with the University of British Columbia. He frequently comments on contemporary religion and culture in the news media.

John enjoys skiing the Vancouver-area mountains with his wife and three sons, and playing basketball and hockey with his students. He also loves to play jazz—on piano, guitar, or electric bass.

What He Said…Visible and Vulnerable

Are those currently riding high in Christian esteem immune to the sins that beset the rest of us?

Even in spiritual matters, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. The very traits that help people succeed make them vulnerable to pride, lust, and greed.

I remember a bishop respected for his compassion for the poor who confessed to financial mismanagement—and a Christian pop singer whose affair with another performer broke up her marriage. I’ve prayed for these and other disgraced heroes, those they hurt, and those left to pick up the pieces.

But I’ve resolved to pray regularly for several leaders who’ve blessed me and have not fallen. I pray that they’ll remain morally upright, care properly for their families, discern how God would best use them, and enjoy walking with Him more and more.

Whose ministry are you glad for? Your pastor? A local writer, speaker, or singer? A renowned Christian whose work has impressed you?

Why not select a few leaders to protect with your prayers?

Adapted from Faith Today (7-8/00)

Prayer for the Week:  Lift my prayer horizons, Lord, above my own welfare to the expansion of Your kingdom.

 

Back-to-School Prayer

Learning is a gift from God.

As we begin this new school year, we give thanks that God has given us the ability to learn many things in many ways.

Loving God, sometimes a new school year seems exciting or scary or both.

Help us remember to show our thanks for your gifts of learning by doing our best every day.

We ask that you bless our schools, teachers, classmates and friends.

We ask that you bless those who prepare our lunches, those who drive us to school, and those who keep our schools clean and safe.

We ask God’s blessing on this new school year, that it may be a time when we appreciate and fully use God’s gift of learning.

Amen.

 

10 ways to improve your prayer life

Listening for God is central to prayer, according to the great saints. It's so critical that St. Benedict began his famous Rule with this command for monks:

Photo by Ronny Perry, UMNS

Listening for God is central to prayer, according to the great saints. It’s so critical that St. Benedict began his famous Rule with this command for monks: “Listen with the ear of your heart.”

People who've established prayer routines have much to teach those wanting to draw closer to God. Seek out those who can help guide and encourage your prayer life. Photo by Ronny Perry, UMNS.

Photo by Ronny Perry, UMNS

People who’ve established prayer routines have much to teach those wanting to draw closer to God. Seek out those who can help guide and encourage your prayer life.

By Susan Hogan*

Moses went to a mountaintop to hear God. Jesus fled to the desert.

But for many Christians, their most regular place for praying is whatever pew they sit in on Sundays. Work, children, chores and other duties make stopping for prayer seem a luxury.

In today’s culture, some even joke that that Charles Wesley’s quote “pray and never faint,” refers to passing out from an overloaded schedule.

“We forget to intentionally make space for prayer,” said Betty Kay Hudson of First United Methodist Church in Lancaster, S.C.

That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. Souls, like vines, tend to grow wild and weak when untended.

No matter the season on the church calendar – Advent, Lent, Easter, Pentecost — or all of the times in between, prayer is the gasoline that fuels Christians.

“Prayer is the catalyst,” says the Rev. Jeffrey Kersey, a United Methodist minister in Lexington, S.C.

Prayer, like tennis, takes practice to become accomplished. Spiritual guides and sages, pastors and other church members are filled with advice and counsel.

Here’s some of that wisdom condensed into 10 tips about prayer:

You are worthy.

Do not feel guilty about the quality of your prayer life, or fall victim to doubts and despair about your worthiness to talk to God. Each of us has a spiritual gift. So remember John Wesley’s words: “In Christ we gain more than in Adam we lost.”

The more you pray, the richer your prayers become.

To deepen your prayer life, don’t be a slacker. Like anything in life, to become good at prayer you must be disciplined. Just as running is an exercise in physical fitness, prayer is a spiritual discpline.

Prayer is active.

Prayer involves action; namely being attentive to God’s voice in your life. Listening for God means stopping and sitting still. It means paying attention to what God may be saying to you at any point in your life.

Prayer should not be an afterthought.

Prayer was the backbone of Jesus’ ministry. Often, he broke away from his disciples to spend time with God. In the same way, prayer is essential to individual lives and to the life of the church. Break away from your daily routine for quiet time in prayer.

Surround yourself with people who are seasoned at praying.

People who’ve established prayer routines have much to teach those wanting to draw closer to God. Seek out those who can help guide and encourage your prayer life.

God doesn’t require eloquence.

Don’t worry if you fumble for words when you pray. God is not looking for Toastmaster’s graduates, but sincerity (not that you can’t have both at once). If the words won’t come, God still knows what’s in your heart. Lift up that desire.

Prayer need not involve words.

The great Christian saints all write of prayer as a time of sitting quietly with God. Jesus even went off for 40 days of prayerful solitude. Take a deep breath. Exhale. Follow the breath as it flows in and out of your body. Think of it as the spirit of God breathing life into you.

Prayer is a time for conversation with a friend: God.

Whether you see that friend routinely or just every once in awhile, know that whenever you turn to God, you’re turning to someone who loves you.

Ask God for help if you get stuck.

Maybe you’ve hit a dry spell. There’s no shame in asking God to guide you to pray in a new way.

The three Ls of prayer: Listen, listen, listen.

Listening for God is central to prayer, according to the great saints. It’s so critical that St. Benedict began his famous Rule with this command for monks: “Listen with the ear of your heart.”

And remember, prayer can happen anywhere — it doesn’t have to take place in a church.

*Hogan is a freelance writer based in Chicago. Emily Cooper and Jan Surratt of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate did reporting for this story.  This story was originally published in 2009.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Too busy to pray? See tips to find more time

Members of Luz del Pueblo pray together. Photo courtesy of the Rev. Olinda Salazar-Veliz.

Photo courtesy of the Rev. Olinda Salazar-Veliz

Members of Luz del Pueblo stand and pray together.

A UMC.org feature by Joe Iovino*

Many people wish they could spend more time in prayer but are concerned about squeezing it in to an already crowded calendar. This advice from United Methodist pastors and church leaders will help you move toward a deeper prayer life.

Make prayer a priority

Those hoping to find time for prayer will likely fail. You have to make time. “I like to compare it to exercise,” said Jan Reed, leader of the Centering Prayer Group at University United Methodist Church in Austin, Texas. “We need exercise to keep our bodies healthy,” she continued. “We need prayer to keep our souls healthy.”

Those hoping to find time for prayer will likely fail. You have to make time. #UMC #prayerTWEET THISTWEET THIS

Reed recently asked her prayer group “what they would suggest for newcomers to prayer, and most of them said, ‘Just do it!,’” a slogan of a brand of apparel one might wear while exercising. The connection to our health may be stronger than we know.

Make an appointment with God

Set aside a specific time to pray. It may be first thing in the morning, in the evening, during your lunch break, your commute, or time spent waiting for the kids. Be creative. Then put the appointment in your calendar and keep it.

The Rev. Joseph Kim

The Rev. Joseph Kim welcomes a new member into the congregation of Manlius United Methodist Church. Photo courtesy of the Rev. Joseph Kim.

Find a sacred place

The Rev. Joseph Kim of Manlius United Methodist Church in New York encourages us to have a place to pray as well. “My closet,” as Kim calls his prayer space, “is the front of the altar in the sanctuary.” But not all of us have daily access to our church buildings. “Wherever this would be,” Kim continued, “whether it is home, work, or in the car, finding your closet and time are important to deepen your prayer life.”

Turn off the television

Remove distractions and pray. Reed reminds us, “We often spend at least 20 min a day doing insignificant things – checking emails, puttering around the house, watching TV, surfing the internet, etc.”  We could instead invest that 20 minutes in deep communion with God.

The Reverend Olinda Salazar-Veliz, Pastor of Hispanic Ministries at White Plains United Methodist Church and pastor of Luz del Pueblo in Cary, North Carolina, encourages us to pray through this struggle. She offers this example, “I want to grow more to follow you in better ways… Please, forgive my distractions, putting as excuses my daily chores. Allow me to approach more actively in your teachings and in the practice of them.”

Be sure to add the alt. text

The Rev. Olinda Salazar-Veliz (holding chalice) assists in serving communion to children in the community during Vacation Bible School in Raleigh, NC. Photo courtesy of the Rev. Olinda Salazar-Veliz.

Pray with a group

Being part of a group may help motivate you to pray. Hixson United Methodist Church in Tennessee saw a group of moms come together to pray for their school-age children and the schools they attended. Years later, though most of their children have graduated, the moms still pray together every Friday morning. If you cannot find a group to join, start one by inviting some friends to pray with you.

Pray as a family

Another group to pray with is your family. Send the children off to school with a moment of prayer. Give God thanks in the evening for all the blessings of the day. Pray with your spouse as you read the morning paper over breakfast. Pause to pray as you watch the evening news.

Keep your Bible and prayer journal handy

Many people miss exercise classes because they cannot find their yoga mat or car keys in time. We can also significantly cut into our prayer time while looking for what we need. Keep your Bible, journal, and other tools where you can quickly locate them.

Keep the conversation going all day

The Rev. Ginger Pudenz, Associate Pastor at Platte Woods United Methodist Church in Missouri, encourages people to pray throughout the day with Twitter prayers. “I occasionally use Twitter to send a reminder to pray,” she reports. “A few faithful followers have shared that it is a pleasant interruption to see that tweet and know that they are being called to pray with others in real time.” Short prayers throughout the day are a great way to increase your prayer life.

Pray your calendar

If you are concerned about having time, pray for it. Pray through what the day ahead will bring – your meetings, children’s events, doctor’s appointments, and the like. A few moments in prayer may be just the right medicine to still your spirit despite a hectic schedule.

Use resources

Getting a time of prayer started can be challenging. The Upper Room provides helpful resources like their wonderful daily devotions , an online Living Prayer Center, and print resources on prayer.

J.D. Walt who writes a daily devotional called The Daily Text for Asbury Theological Seminary’s Seedbed.com says his daily posts are a “way of sowing the seeds of Scripture into the people of God in ways that are sprouting up into all sorts of creative prayer and work in the Kingdom.” Experiment with some helps to find what works for you.

Experiment with different methods

There is no right way to pray, as there is no right way to have a conversation with your best friend. The Upper Room Living Prayer Center offers examples of several different methods. Experiment with fresh ways to connect with God.

Enjoy it

Kim warns against viewing prayer time as just another box to check on a spiritual to-do list. “When you approach prayer as your Christian duty, you would not enjoy its time,” he said. “You need to see prayer life as special time for dating with God.” He continued, “God who loves you dearly wants to spend time with you and to hear everything about your life.” Change your mindset from having to spend time with God, toward getting to.

#UMC pastor, “God who loves you dearly wants to spend time with you and to hear everything about your life.”TWEET THISTWEET THIS

Jan Reed and her Centering Prayer Group

Jan Reed leads the Centering Prayer Group, one of the fastest growing groups at University United Methodist Church. Photo courtesy of Jan Reed.

Keep going

Change takes time. There will be days when you will fall short. When that happens, forgive yourself and keep going. Remember the benefits of the deeper prayer life you seek. As Reed pondered her prayer group she said, “I think [its popularity] reflects the need for us in our hectic and busy society, to slow down, let go of frustrations, anxieties, and any of the crises we might be facing in our lives, and reconnect to God.”

Setting aside more time for prayer will change every other part of our day.

*Joe Iovino works for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications. He may be reached at jiovino@umcom.org or 615.312.3733. 

 

We can pray anywhere. Where’s your favorite place?

We can pray anywhere, but some spots are special. Photo illustration by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications.

Photo illustration by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications

Finding a special place to pray can be a great addition to your spiritual journey.

A UMC.org Feature by Joe Iovino*

We know God hears us wherever we pray, but some United Methodists find special places where they most like to spend time with Jesus.

We recently asked followers of The United Methodist Church Facebook page to share their favorite places to pray. The beautiful, personal responses affirm that wherever we are, God hears us when we pray.

Many like to pray surrounded by nature.

Many United Methodists like to pray surrounded by the beauty of Creation. File photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications.

At home

Many return to a room in their house. Brenda Grundrum, for example, prays in her den. “That is my turf,” she shares, “Me and my Lord’s space.”

Some like Fran Wheeler are a bit more specific. “A particular chair in a particular room,” is her special spot for prayer. “It seems to have been sanctified over years of use.”

Others have special pieces of outdoor furniture where they enjoy time with God. “I pray and chat with Jesus on my swing in our backyard,” Simone Sutter shares. “All I see is nature. All I hear is birdies and frogs… I feel so very close to Him there.”

While active

Melody Daily also pauses for prayer in her backyard, but she doesn’t sit still. Melody prays while working in her garden. “There’s not much that’s as holy as that to me,” she writes. “God is right there in the earth and the sounds of the birds and crickets and the breeze rustling up some little patch of dust.”

Similarly, Lee Cole prays, “While riding the farm tractor while mowing or plowing.”

Robin Hamm prays while walking her dog, and Lisa Hughes and her husband “pray together as we walk in our neighborhood park every morning before work.”

“Deep in the woods while hiking,” is a special place for William White, and Rhiannon-John Thomas prays while running. “Clearing the mind and focusing on the Word while I run,” Thomas explains, “helps immensely in my faith walk.”

In nature

Whether active or still, nature is an important element of many special prayer spots.

Charlotte Johnson Bennardo has a meditation garden that sounds like a wonderful place for prayer. “No one bothers me there,” she writes, “and I have as long a chat with God as I need. The beauty of the flowers, trees, birds and such, calms me.”

Lilia Mopas beautifully describes “quiet places where I can feel the presence of the Lord every time I want to talk to Him. In those places where you can see the beauty and amazing creation of God.”

Pat McClain Thomas looks for “private, quiet, tranquil surroundings,” and Verlyn de la Cruz says it “doesn’t matter where I am as long as I’m alone and without any noise.”

Bodies of water are also popular nature spots for prayer. Lakes, beaches, and oceans were mentioned by several. Jan Coulbourne likes to pray while walking on the beach, adding, “I’m sure Jesus tucked a few pieces of sea glass in his robe pockets too.”

Paul Sebastian Gomez’s special spot to pray.

“This little spot,” Paul Sebastian Gómez shares, “has become a safe place where I know God has called me to be.” Photo courtesy Paul Sebastian Gómez.

Some like Paul Sebastian Gómez have specific spots to which they return. Gómez found his special place when he was 15 years old and his father became pastor of Red Mountain United Methodist Church in Mesa, Arizona. “I remember taking a short drive on the Bush Highway just a few miles north of the church, and seeing these cliffs. It was the most comforting thing to see in a completely new world. Throughout the years, this little spot has become a safe place where I know God has called me to be.”

While driving

Praying behind the wheel is another popular spot among respondents. The quiet alone-time makes the car a substitute “prayer room,” as Dena Kea Jackson describes it.

Lenna Mullins pauses for prayer at the end of her driveway in the morning. “It faces east. The sun is rising. Birds are singing. The air is fresh. We get to start the day with a clean slate.”

Sandra Elaine Pyles Parker prays during her commute. “I like to pray in my car while headed to my teaching job in the mornings. I feel God’s presence as I call out to Him. It makes my day!”

Deb Overdahl likes “to pull over by a peaceful lake or pretty scenery,” to pause and “thank God for such a beautiful site.”

In churches and chapels

Others drive to a church or a camp for special times of prayer.

Skippi Posey travels to Dooly Campground in Vienna, Georgia, where, “I went to Emmaus and worked many walks… When I drive on the grounds I can feel the presence of our God.”

Other United Methodist camps like Lakeview in Palestine, Texas, and Sky Lake in Windsor, New York, were mentioned as favorite prayer spots by those who had been campers as children.

Churches are also favorite places to pray. Small chapels and empty sanctuaries are favorites, but others like Alex Byrd find smaller, nearly secret spots. “There’s a hidden hallway behind our stage for access to the baptistery. The way it’s laid out and the feeling I get from praying there is like the holy of holies.”

United Methodist camps are also favorite places to pray.

United Methodist camps are great places for quiet moments with God. File photo of Cross Point Camp Ampitheater by Ken Long.

In bed

After a full day, many take time to close their day with prayer in their favorite spot… bed.

“Every night, I get on my knees, by my bed, and humble myself before my Lord,” Sharon Gilbert says. “I can’t crawl into bed, no matter how tired I am, without my time with Him!”

Cynthia Fuller, who gave us her age to assure us she wasn’t “a little kid,” was more descriptive. “I meet with my father in my bed. I sit in the middle with the covers over my head and we have a wonderful time. I pray. I talk. The wonder and the richness of Him being there with me is amazing.” She then rhetorically asks, “When you think of spending most of your life there… Where oh where would you want His Presence more?”

Special places are wonderful additions to our prayer lives, reminding us that God is ready to hear us wherever we pause to pray.

“The Lord is close to everyone who calls out to him,
    to all who call out to him sincerely.” (Psalm 145:18 CEB)

*Joe Iovino works for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications. Contact him by email or at 615-312-3733.

Re-energize your prayer life with a new practice

“Lord, teach us to pray,” the disciples request of Jesus (Luke 11:1 CEB). Many of us who lack confidence in our prayer lives ask the same of our pastors and others who seem to have a better handle on that spiritual discipline.

As United Methodists we know the value of works of piety like prayer. The third of John Wesley’s three rules for the Methodist Church was to continue “attending upon all the ordinances of God.” The list of examples he offered with this rule included “Family and private prayer.”

Learning to pray is like learning to ride a bicycle. What we can learn from a book or class is not enough. Proficiency comes through practice.

Additionally, because prayer is a form of communication, there is no one-size-fits-all technique. Each of us needs to find our unique style.

Spending a day or season invigorating your prayer life is time well spent. Experiment with some new-to-you ways of praying. You might be surprised to find what works best for you.

Praying while holding a candle.

Prayer is placing ourselves in the presence of God. This does not always require words. Photo by Courtney Carmody, courtesy of Flickr.

Be still

You don’t necessarily need words to pray. In Psalm 46 God tells his people who were busy trying to please him, “That’s enough! Now know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10 CEB). Sometimes we need to stop performing for God and simply “be still.”

This can be hard at first because it is so unfamiliar. Set a timer for 3-5 minutes, or find some relaxing music or sound effects that will mark the time. Then be quiet and rest in the presence of God.

Breath Prayer

Breath prayers are another way to become more aware of God’s presence. The Holy Spirit is as near as the air we breathe.

A common way to practice breath prayer is silently repeating a single-line prayer with each breath. As you inhale address God with something like, “Jesus, Son of God.” Then, as you exhale, express a request to God such as, “be merciful to me, a sinner.” Other examples are, “Creator God, allow me to see your beauty around me,” “Holy Spirit, let me feel your joy,” “O Lord, show me your way,” and “Holy One, heal me.” Repeat the prayer with each breath for several minutes. Listen for God.

Multi-sensory Prayer

Engaging other senses in prayer proves effective for many. Through the centuries, Christians have looked at candles, smelled incense, and held onto beads, crosses, and more as they prayed.

A creative way to do something similar is to pray while working a piece of clay in your hands and contemplating your humanity and sinfulness. The clay reminds us that God is constantly shaping us into vessels of the Holy Spirit. As Jeremiah watched a potter shape and reshape clay, he heard the voice of God, “Like clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in mine” (Jeremiah 18:6 CEB).

A labyrinth marked with candles

A labyrinth like this one marked by tealights, invites us to pray as we walk. Photo by Urmelbeauftragter, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Labyrinth Prayer

A labyrinth is another helpful tool for focusing prayers. A labyrinth is a path marked out in a field, painted in a parking lot, or shown on a carpet that you walk while you pray.

While a labyrinth may look like a maze, it is not. It is a single path leading participants into the center, and back out.

While entering the labyrinth, prayers are focused on confession. Participants then pause in the center to read scripture, sing, or worship another way. On the way out of the labyrinth prayers for others, self, and anything else that occupies the mind are offered.

Since labyrinths are not readily available, a finger labyrinth makes a great substitute. You can pray this three-part prayer while slowly tracing the path with your finger. Print a finger labyrinth and give it a try.

Or, if you would rather walk, pray similarly while strolling around your neighborhood or on a nearby hiking trail.

Praying scripture

Another great source of prayer is the Bible. Praying the scriptures has a long tradition among the faithful.

Hands in prayer over a Bible.

Praying while reading the Bible can expand the topics we lift in prayer. Photo by Lance Cpl. Austin Goacher, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Prayerfully read a passage by stopping every line or so, and praying what comes to mind. This can stretch us to bring before God petitions we might not think of on our own.

Praying the Psalms, for example, calls us to address every emotion. Praying Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) will lead us in prayer for the poor and oppressed. Many scriptures such as Jesus’ healings and parables, Paul’s letters, and others, may deeply speak to our needs, help us to praise, or remind us of a promise of God.

Pray by checking in with God

You may also pray by simply checking in with God at the end of the day. As you might call a friend or family member just to chat about what is going on in your life, you can have the same conversation with God.

Ignatius of Loyola, a 16th century cleric and theologian, taught what he called the Daily Examen. The Examen asks the believer to share with God that for which you are thankful, moments you recognized God’s presence in the events of the day, your shortcomings, and to ask God to prepare you for the day ahead.

Find your way

As there are many ways to communicate with those closest to us, so too there are numerous ways to pray. This list is not comprehensive, but rather a place to begin exploring prayer methods.

Spend some time developing a richer prayer life by finding what works for you. This will allow you to re-energize your conversations with God.

Spend some time developing a richer prayer life … and re-energize your conversations with God. #UMCTWEET THISTWEET THIS

*Joe Iovino works for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications. He may be reached at jiovino@umcom.org or 615-312-3733.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

 

 

Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – Earth-Shattering Shout

Heaven 2Key Bible Verse:  God says, “At the time I have planned, I will bring justice against the wicked”.  – Psalm 75:2

Bonus Reading: Revelation 6: 10-11

Many of the students in the makeshift little Ugandan Bible school lived with horrendous reminders of what they’d endured during the murderous reign of Idi Amin.

Some of these pastors of village churches were missing an eye or an arm.  Several had bulging red scars from deep machete wounds.

The professor was lecturing from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, in which the apostle is teaching about Christ’s return to reign forever in glory, wiping away every tear and setting straight every injustice.

A student’s hand went up when he came to Chapter 4, verse 16: “The Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God.”

“Yes?” said the professor.

“What will the Lord shout?” the man asked softly.

The professor didn’t know what to say.  Yet the accumulated suffering of the students in that classroom seemed to demand some kind of answer.

What will the Lord say when he finally humbles all his enemies?  “I don’t know,” the professor admitted. “What do you think he’ll shout?”

A student’s voice came from the back: “I think he’ll shout, ‘Enough!'”

That’s a good answer.  Justice will come when God’s inexplicable wisdom and love have determined that there has been enough suffering for the sake of his name.

—Ben Patterson in God’s Prayer Book

Adapted from Prayer Power (Revell, 2009)

 

Prayer for the Week:  Dear Heavenly Father, help me to pray more consistently, more fervently, and more selflessly.

 

 

 

Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – No Frills, No Flair

Simple PrayerKey Bible Verse:  O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.  Psalm 139:1

Bonus Reading:   Psalm 139: 2-18

There was a time in my life when it seemed as if everyone wanted me to pray aloud at group gatherings.  So I would pray, in properly respectful yet down-to-earth tones, choosing my words carefully.

I found myself mimicking my public “performances” in my private times with God.  It was during one of these times, late at night, that I felt God speaking to my heart: Mike, exactly who are you praying for?

For months I had been so bent on shaping my prayers for audiences that I’d forgotten I was whispering directly into the ear of God.

I learned something that night: When we come to God in prayer, we must come as we are.  No amount of flowery words will impress God.

He knows our sinful thoughts and secret desires better than we do.  We can’t fool him with impressive praying.

No, if we want to be people who passionately pursue intimacy with God, we must first and foremost have the courage to approach him honestly, completely revealing who we are, what we’ve done, and how we feel each time we call his name.

To do less than that is an insult to God and to the miracle of prayer he’s given us.

—Mike Nappa in The Courage to Be a Christian

 

My Response: When I pray, am I always aware that I’m “whispering directly into the ear of God”?

 

Thought to Apply: In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words, than words without a heart—John Bunyan (British writer & preacher)

Adapted from The Courage to Be a Christian (Howard, 2001)

 

Prayer for the Week:  Dear Heavenly Father, help me to pray more consistently, more fervently, and more selflessly.

 

 

 

Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – Noteworthy Distractions

Jotting Down a NoteKey Bible Verse:  The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.  – James 5:16

Bonus Reading:  James 5: 13-18

For a long time I had been disturbed about the problem of a wandering mind during my time of prayer.

I would be trying to pray and suddenly my mind would jump to a business appointment I needed to make or something else I had to do.  For years I had forced these things out of my mind to get back to “spiritual things.”

But now, thanks to a suggestion from my friend, Donn Moomaw, I began to keep a notebook by my side; and when the thought came to me to call someone, to make an appointment, or to do something for the family, I would jot it down and then go back to God.

I was at last realizing that God is interested in my total life and that these things which came into my mind during my time of prayer might be significant things for me to do, or places for me to go.  This also made it easier for me to get my mind immediately back to my other prayers.

Sometimes a vision of someone I resented would come floating into my prayers.  Instead of trying my best to suppress it, I began to ask God to make my thoughts about this person more like His.

Before I knew it, I discovered that God was touching more and more of my life through this time of prayer.

—Keith Miller in The Edge of Adventure

 

My Response: I will strive to include all aspects of my life in my prayers by …

 

Thought to Apply: I beg you to see how absolutely vital prayer is.—Charles Spurgeon (British preacher)

Adapted from The Edge of Adventure (WaterBrook, 2005)

 

Prayer for the Week:  Dear Heavenly Father, help me to pray more consistently, more fervently, and more selflessly.

 

 

 

Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – Just Stammer Away

Prayer 6Key Bible Verse:  We don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.  – Romans 8:26

Bonus Reading: Psalm 63: 1-8

We don’t like to stand speechless or stammering before God, but that doesn’t mean God holds it against us when we do.

I remember a vacation with my parents in France when I was in high school.  I had just completed two years of French, hardly enough to make me fluent.  Still, there we were, tourists wanting to make the most of our time.

So when we needed a bathroom, when we wanted to find a cafe, or when I lost my eyeglasses on the steps of L’Eglise du Sacre-Coeur, I falteringly used my butchered French.  I was trying—to the politely suppressed laughter of others—to speak the language.  But I remember more than the townspeople’s bemusement.

I remember how they warmly received my efforts.  They strained to hear past my fractured sentences.  They honored me by responding.

Is God any less generous?

He hears all that arises from us—the words of our mouth, the longings of our hearts, the thoughts of our minds, the intentions of our wills.  Regret, grief, thanksgiving, hope—God hears our emotions, not just our grammar.

Because of his grace, not our eloquence, we can pray.  Even if we stammer.

—Timothy Jones in The Art of Prayer

 

My Response: I know God hears my feeble words and stammered prayers because …

 

Thought to Apply: Prayer is weakness leaning on omnipotence.—W. S. Bowden (Methodist bishop)

Adapted from The Art of Prayer (WaterBrook, 2005)

 

Prayer for the Week:  Dear Heavenly Father, help me to pray more consistently, more fervently, and more selflessly.

 

 

 

Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – Guilt Free A to Z

Prayer 5Key Bible Verse:  I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people.  Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.  1 Timothy 2:1

Bonus Reading:  Daniel 9: 1-19

Have you ever created a massive prayer list and then broken it down for each day of the week?

If you have, you’ve probably discovered that this approach works well—at producing a whole lot of guilt!

The first day you miss your prayer time, you decide to double up the next day so that no name gets skipped.  But this requires that tomorrow you pray for a boatload of people.  Eventually, you’ll let dropped days stay dropped—and then feel guilty about all those people for whom you failed to pray.

Let me offer you a guilt-free approach.

I keep an A to Z list of friends on one page, front and back, in a notebook I use to record my daily insights from Scripture.  I stick a little Post-it note under the person’s name I last prayed for.  Some days I have the time to pray for five or six people.

Other days I’m in a hurry and may get to only one or two names.  And occasionally I miss interceding for others altogether.  I just pick up where I left off and continue down my list.  It may take a few weeks to cover everyone, but there’s a steady thoroughness to this approach that gives me a sense of deep satisfaction.

—James Nicodem in Prayer Coach

 

My Response: Without increasing guilt, how might I improve my own intercessory prayer times?

 

Thought to Apply: Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men!—Phillips Brooks (American clergyman & author)

Adapted from Prayer Coach (Crossway, 2008)

 

Prayer for the Week:  Dear Heavenly Father, help me to pray more consistently, more fervently, and more selflessly.

 

 

 

Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – Crank Your Engine

LentWho Said It … Peter Lundell

Peter Lundell is a former missionary to Japan and currently pastors Walnut Community Church in Walnut, California.  Along with publishing articles in numerous magazines, he’s the author of Armed for Battle, When God Bursts In, and the recently published Prayer Power.

Peter’s hobbies include woodworking and surfing the Pacific with a specially designed “surf kayak.”  He has a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Missiology from Fuller Theological Seminary.  Peter and his wife, Kim, have one daughter.

What He Said … Crank Your Engine

When the automobile was first invented, no one had conceived of a starter.  So while one person sat at the wheel, another person stood in front of the car and cranked a handle connected to the engine.  

Round and round they’d heave the crank until the engine started.  This led to phrases like “crank the engine” and “crank it up.”

Sometimes prayer may feel like a dead engine, and it takes deliberate cranking to get the communication started.

Too many times I have experienced the truth of Jesus’ words: “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Mark 14:38).  I may sit or stand or walk while I try to talk with God, but my mind is like a dead engine.  These are times when I “start in the flesh and end in the Spirit.”

Starting in the flesh and ending in the Spirit means that we may not feel like praying, but we go ahead and pray anyway.  As we do this, our prayer starts to flow naturally.

Adapted from Prayer Power (Revell, 2009)

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Prayer for the Week:  Dear Heavenly Father, help me to pray more consistently, more fervently, and more selflessly.

 

 

 

Jumpstarting Sluggish Prayers – At a Loss for Words?

Prayer 4Key Bible Verse:  Never stop praying.  1 Thessalonians 5:17

Bonus Reading:  Psalm 86: 1-7

Some Christians may dismiss written prayers as leftovers of a formal church style they’d just as soon bury.  Yet when we feel down or dull, reading a prayer may get us going when otherwise we wouldn’t pray at all.  When we read the prayer and truly pray it as we read, the written prayer becomes our own expression to God.

The largest source of written prayers is the book of Psalms.  With 150 to choose from, we can always find one to start off our prayer (like Psalm 86: 1-7).

We have psalms of praise, comfort, and encouragement.  Most of all we find laments—over a third of the Psalms begin with complaints.  (People are often surprised to discover that God actually lets us complain to him.)

Psalms of lament start with expressing sadness, frustration, or even anger to God.  Then they generally progress toward finding hope and comfort in God.  They’re a great example of dumping our problems on God and turning to the path of faith and optimism.

Reading written prayers can also stimulate our own prayers when we internalize the words and express them as if they were our own.  This gets the flow of our thoughts going.  Then we can set the written prayer aside and go on praying.

—Peter Lundell in Prayer Power

 

My Response: How might written prayers enliven my own times of prayer?

Adapted from Prayer Power (Revell, 2009)

 

Prayer for the Week:  Dear Heavenly Father, help me to pray more consistently, more fervently, and more selflessly.

 

 

 

Prayer

Prayer 8