Prayer Calendar: Prayer Habits

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Dave is the EFCC’s Prayer and Spiritual Life Catalyst. His regular contributions are excerpted in the monthly Prayer Calendar.

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Habits seldom receive good press. In fact, in today’s culture of suspicion, to speak favorably of them might be labeled fake news. To develop and sustain habits of any kind are viewed by some as burdensome, confining and boring. Many want lives that are spontaneous, unplanned, busy and full, lived in short bursts rather than the long haul. Maybe that’s why people groan when they think of New Year’s resolutions. They take intentional work and seldom last. Resolutions don’t often turn into habits.

Prayer habits are essential to a healthy prayer life.

I had to think after writing that last sentence if I believed it, and yes, I stand by that statement. I’ve become convinced that times of prayer don’t happen easily in our North American culture. Habits help the prayer to flow.

Of course, you already have some prayer habits. Take the following quiz to identify a few of yours.

“For me, prayer happens most often . . . “

  • In times of crisis
  • When I want God to act
  • When I want to spend time with God

 

  • In church
  • In smaller groups with other believers
  • When I am alone

 

  • Whenever I need to
  • At set times of the day
  • When someone asks me to

 

  • With my head bowed
  • On my knees
  • With up-raised hands

In Luke 11, when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he didn’t go into the “how” of prayer, what prayer habits to engage. Instead, he gave them a model prayer for group recitation and taught them to ask things of the Father with a spirit of audacious expectancy.

Yet there were prayer habits in his life, which the disciples would have observed. Scot McKnight in his book, Praying with the Church (Paraclete Press, 2006), reminds us that Jews in the time of Jesus intentionally prayed three times a day (morning, afternoon and evening). They would pray the Psalms, the Shema (Deuteronomy 6), and the Ten Commandments. Jesus probably did the same. Luke 5:16 (and other passages) tell us, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Jesus Christ had certain practices/habits that intentionally brought prayer into his life.

It might, then, be a good thing for us to develop practices/habits that intentionally draw us to pray rather than waiting for the “spirit (ours)” to move!

Prayer Calendar: Strengthening Prayer

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“Strengthening prayer” is not about making your prayers stronger but becoming stronger through prayer.

First, though, allow me to challenge you to do something you might not have done for a long time, memorize some scripture.

Try it with these verses, Psalm 84: 5-7:

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka they make it a place of springs. The autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength till each appears before God in Zion.”

On this journey of life we draw our strength from God, even when going through hard, arid valleys, until at journey’s end we find ourselves in God’s presence.

So, what has this to do with prayer?

Here are some more verses to memorize, Ephesians 6: 10-11; 18-19:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. . . . And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given to me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.”

Ok, you don’t have to memorize the verses to get the point, but don’t miss it. Don’t miss the connection between strength and prayer. On the journey of life and in the battles of life we need God’s strength. Prayer is a means to that end.

And don’t miss the connection to the gospel. Paul needed prayer so that he could with strength (fearlessly) make known the mystery of the gospel. That’s important for us to remember in our season of REVITALIZE: Growing as a Gospel Sharing People!

When you pray for yourself and others, ask God to give us the strength to be strong.

Prayer Calendar: The Long and the Short of Prayer

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If you are looking for a prayer mentor, allow me to suggest Nehemiah as a candidate. I know he’s known for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its walls, but if you overlook his prayer life, you’ll miss the secret of his success. He just didn’t know about prayer, he prayed.

I am not technologically savvy, functional but far from genius status. Even talking about it in the next few sentences will reveal just how limited I am, but bear with me. I am not on Twitter; I barely understand it. My main electronic communication tool is email. I know that in communicating today, less is best. Long emails might not even be read, let alone merit response. Twitter is limited to 140 characters.

In its most basic idea, prayer is communicating with God.

Our lives are so full and we have been so conditioned by culture and society to value brevity, I believe most of our praying has become “twitter-like.” Less is best.

Not that that’s inherently wrong. Nehemiah prayed in twitter prayers at times. “Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king.” (2:4-5) That meets the twitter limit. But what if most of our praying is 140 characters or less? Is that a good thing?

Nehemiah also prayed long and deep, working up prayer sweat. “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” (1:4) Nehemiah knew both the long and the short of prayer. His twitter prayers were outcomes of his long prayers not a replacement for them.

This is not about the length of our prayers but the character of our praying.

The short of prayer is more about need and asking God to do something. The long of prayer is more about relationship. Both happen, both are needed; but if one is to eclipse the other, let it be the long over the short.

Prayer Calendar: Team Prayer

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LDCat

Dave Acree is our Prayer and Spiritual Life Catalyst. This is a welcome to the monthly Prayer Calendar which we publish to promote prayer throughout the EFCC family. If you would like to receive the Prayer Calendar by e-mail, you can sign up for it on this page, or you can see the latest copy here.


Let’s get to the point right at the start. I have a “big ask” to make. Would you be willing to become part of a team praying for the EFCC, that we would fully enter into Revitalize, asking God to help us all become more and more a Gospel sharing people?

That’s the “ask”, now let me explain. I’ve become convinced that solo praying is not enough. It’s good, even important, but it minimizes the power of community. Right before Pentecost and after, the early church prayed in community. “They all joined together constantly in prayer.” (Acts 1:14) “They raised their voices together in prayer to God.” (Acts 4:24) We seldom do that today.

If you say “yes” to the challenge and “sign on” we will set up an electronic network joining us together across the EFCC through which we will pray regularly “together” for the EFCC to be “Revitalized!”

We will pray for your church and the churches of the EFCC. Read these passages: Matthew 22:37, 39; Acts 1:8; Philippians 2:14-16; Luke 10:2; and Colossians 4:3. We will pray for our churches that we will have love, power, character, harvesters and opportunities to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

We will pray for the people of our churches. Read Ephesians 6:19; Colossians 4:4-6; and
1 Peter 3:15-16. We will pray that our people will be bold, gentle and respectful in sharing the Gospel.

We will pray for your “neighbours”. We will pray together with you that God will reveal himself to them and be involved in their lives in such a way that they will recognize him. We will commit together to seek tangible ways in which to express Christ’s love with them. We will ask God for opportunities to share with them what Jesus means in our lives.

Now the hard part. If all of this resonates with you, email me at dave.acree@efreelethbridge.ca and join the team.

Prayer Calendar: Wordless Prayer

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LDCat

Dave Acree is our Prayer and Spiritual Life Catalyst. This is a welcome to the monthly Prayer Calendar which we publish to promote prayer throughout the EFCC family. If you would like to receive the Prayer Calendar by e-mail, you can sign up for it on this page, or you can see the latest copy here.


Who’s got your back? All of us need someone watching out for us, whatever our life circumstances. It is good to know there is someone paying attention, ready to step in and help when we are unable to handle what life is throwing at us. Sometimes friends, family, work or schoolmates, or others step up to fill that role. When it comes to prayer, they pray for us, but there are times when that is not enough.

That’s when “wordless prayer” comes into play.

Perhaps you have been involved in group prayer when an “unspoken request” is thrown into the mix. That’s when an individual asks for prayer for someone but can’t name the person or tell the specifics of the need. Perhaps they don’t have permission to ask or are afraid that stating the need might cross the line into gossip. So knowing that God knows, even though we do not, we pray a generic prayer without specific words. That’s not what we are talking about.

Have you noticed all the groaning going on in Romans 8? First, all of creation groans waiting for that time when it will be liberated from its decay and returned to the glory God intends it to have (v. 22). Then, we Christians groan waiting for God to bring us into the fullness of our salvation and to redeem these frail broken bodies of ours (v. 23). Neither we nor the creation can hardly wait!

The third groaning (vs. 26-27) is where the wordless prayer takes place. This happens when we are so overwhelmed that we are struck dumb. There are no words. We don’t know what to say, what to pray, what to ask for. We are not even sure at times what to expect from God.

That’s when the Holy Spirit intercedes for us through wordless groans. What’s that? I don’t know but when we can’t, the Holy Spirit can, and takes up our prayer challenge and does it better than we could ever hope to do. He knows God’s will and prays towards that end on our behalf.

So, when it comes to prayer, who’s got your back? The Holy Spirit does. There is a strange unexplainable comfort in that.