Prayer is like exercise and I don’t like to do either one. Everyone always tells you to pray and to exercise, but it is so hard! Faithful intercessors (such a small proportion of the world’s population) compare to those who are Olympic or professional athletes. They are people whose feats are superhuman and who seem to set the standard. It’s sort of like models and movie stars who make our ordinary beauty and body shapes seem less than best. Sigh.
But enough of this whining and moaning. It is clear that I am to “pray with out ceasing,” “give thanks in everything,” and “have no anxiety about anything, but . . . let your requests be made known to God.” No wiggle room in the Scriptures about the importance of expected, habitual, faith-filled prayer—for the superhuman and the regular human!
Principles that apply to exercise for the normal ordinary person seem to transfer to prayer, too. Exercise requires a commitment and a plan. So does prayer. You get the best results from regular training versus the weekend warrior approach to exercise. The same is true of prayer. Once someone has established a pattern of exercise and has experienced the benefits, it is easier to look forward to the time of exertion. This is also true of prayer practices.
Here are some regular prayer actions I take. Recently a study of the Holy Spirit has led me to lift my arms to the heavens when my feet hit the carpet and as I stretch out the nighttime kinks to say “Lord, as I yield to you, please fill me with Your Spirit today.” When I turn on our bedroom light and see the “be thankful for small blessings” written on the switch plate I am reminded to state the many things for which I’m grateful at the moment. I’ve been surprised how often this simple act tugs up the corners of my sleepy mouth and fills me with warmth and encouragement.
I’m a list person, so in the front of my Bible I have several prayer card lists that have requests and promises to bring before the throne each day of the month that direct my thoughts to productive prayer — for my children, their schools, and several missionaries we know and love.
For more focus, my husband and I have chosen a meal each week to fast and pray through. The topics vary according to what is going on in the world, our community, neighborhood, circle of friends and family. It has been a steady time of centering our attention on the Lord and His priorities, as well as deepening our trust in Him. We often learn what the Lord has been doing in each other’s heart at a different level when we meet in prayer—that deepens our relationship and builds our faith.
Also, a couple books have shaped my approach to prayer. Conversational Prayer, by Rosiland Rinker, saved me from trying to sound holy to instead “talking with God” in normal conversation as it would occur around a dinner table. Listening Prayer, by Dave and Linda Olsen, challenged me to ask the Lord a question and taught me to sit in silence until becoming quiet enough to hear His answer.
Learning that the Lord wants me to labor alongside of where He is already at work has helped me to focus on a few requests at a time. This lesson has shortened my Please Save and Heal and Straighten Out lists of people/situations! This month the Lord encouraged my heart with a visible return. A neighbor I’ve had on my Please Save spot in my heart (a neighbor who I seldom see and who is clearly bitter towards God) recently bumped into me at a store, asked to have lunch together, and stopped by to hug me when our cat died. Isn’t that just God at work? Guess I need to keep on keeping on in prayer . . . it’s an exercise with results that can’t be beat!