The Beginning of a Prayer Warrior
After hearing a powerful sermon on prayer, I felt convicted that I didn't pray enough. Because prayer is a lot of hard work, people prefer to spend their time in Scripture. Scripture gives you a high when you learn something new about God, and you are more highly respected when you have more biblical knowledge. Prayer seems like time wasted that could be used for more productive things.
But Scripture commands us to pray. Not to pray is disobedience. Jesus, who is God, spent chunks of time set aside to pray. On the night before He chose His disciples, He spent the entire night praying and didn't even sleep. (Luke 6:12)
I used to think that quick prayers throughout the day were adequate. Because we are commanded to pray without ceasing (I Thess. 4:17), this would be the only way to do it.
But then I noticed in Scripture how godly people were “devoted to prayer.” (Col. 4:2, Acts 1:14) They actually set aside an hour or a chunk of time to intercede for people. It was considered labor. (Col. 4:12) Labor is hard work. Do I labor when I pray? If all I'm doing is praying two-minute prayers to God, this is not what the Bible is talking about.
I realized I was lazy. I didn't feel like praying. It was boring. My mind wandered. I was angry that God was convicting me of this when I had two toddlers and a baby. My life was a foggy list of chores with three children in diapers. How was I going to find time to pray?
Because of my deep love for Scripture, I always found at least an hour a day to spend in the Word of God. I'm not saying I wasn't interrupted, but when the baby napped in the morning, I would put the two toddlers in a safe, enclosed area with classical music and take out one set of toys that they hadn't seen in a few days. I taught my toddlers to play independently from a young age for up to an hour at a time. During this time that I spent with God, I always learned fresh things about God, which helped me to live the way I ought to live.
Now I decided that I wasn't going to allow myself to read Scripture until I had prayed a full hour. I was going to do this for one month, and then I would see what happened. (By the way, I played Scripture on cassette during breakfast, so I wasn't going to neglect the Word of God. I had been neglecting prayer, and I was going to prayer boot camp, basically.)
Day 1 – I prayed for everything I could think of. When I was finished praying, I looked at the clock. Five minutes had passed. I thought to myself, “What on earth am I going to do for an hour?!” I felt exasperated that I had set such a ridiculous, impossible goal. I felt like I was fighting a spiritual battle. I had to pace the floor and pray out loud to keep my mind from wandering. I cried out to God, “Teach me how to pray! I have no idea what to do. I'm sorry that being with You is boring. You must really be hurt by that. Maybe I don't love You as much as I thought. Please give me a greater love for You. I don't want to run away and learn things about You – I want to know You. I want to hear You. I want to connect to You. I need wisdom. I want Your Spirit in me in great measure. I'm so tired. I don't have enough in me to actually do this. The desire is almost non-existent, and it scares me.”
Then I just shut up and opened my heart to God. I settled in. There was no rush. I had to fill up a whole hour anyway. So I would just be in the presence of God for a while.
I started giving praises to God and magnifying Him. My words all sounded like cliches. I cried.
Teach me how to pray.
He did. Wow, did He ever teach me.