Prayer as a Daily Habit

I’ve talked to you before about habits. We usually view them as being negative—behaviors we’ve subconsciously picked up and then repeat without thinking about them.

That’s not always true.

I blogged about habits a couple of weeks ago, and I’ll take it a step further, pulling from my teaching at Kairos.

Developing habits of prayer are essential to the disciple’s life. It looks like this:

1. Find a place and a time, then start showing up there every day. The experts tell us it takes 21 days to fix a habit in place. Show up at the same time and place for 21 days and you’ll develop the holy habit of prayer.

2. What do you do when you get to your place and time of prayer? Focus your mind by reading Scripture. The Psalms are the prayer book of the Bible. It’s a great place to start. If you’re new to reading the Bible, begin with the Gospel of Mark. It’s a quick, easy read and you’ll find out a lot about the ministry of Jesus in a very short time.

3. Pray using the acronym ACTS:

A = adoration
C = confession
T = thanksgiving
S = supplications (praying for what you need)

Remember—every day at the same place and same time. We want to get to the place where we can stop thinking about speaking to Jesus and actually start speaking with Him.

If you miss a day, don’t worry about it. Get back into it as soon as you can. Soon the day will come when you never think about missing it.

Now you have the plan. All that’s missing is a little willpower from you.

Sometimes Praying is Hard Work

Most of us wouldn’t ever think of prayer as hard work. When the main problem isn’t falling asleep in the middle of our prayers, we’d hardly classify prayer as a demanding physical effort.

I think Jesus would disagree. The Gospel writers told us Jesus was sometimes exhausted after praying. And once in Gethsemane, Jesus prayed so intensely He sweat blood. If I was ever sweating during my prayers, something was wrong with the air conditioner.

We pray at different levels.

The first level is to pray about what we do. We want:

  • Help not to do something;
  • Help doing something;
  • Or Jesus to tell us what to do.

That’s where most of us stop. We keep our prayers on our behavior:

  • If we’re doing well, we’re grateful.
  • If we’re being bad, we’re sorry.

Jesus sounds more like Santa Claus—rewarding good little girls and boys and punishing bad little girls and boys.

The Christian faith is more than just behavior modification. The goal of Christ is to transform the individual—not just change our outward behavior.

This is where prayer gets hard—when we get past the surface issues of our lives down to the bedrock foundation of who we are.

When we recognize that our behavior is nothing more than the expression of our being, then prayer gets a little tougher.

When we understand the goal is to live like Christ because we are like Christ, then you can see the challenge.

Prayer at this level is hard because it deals with the essence of who we are. The more time we spend with Christ at this level, the more we become like Him.

No, it’s not easy—but nothing worth having ever is.

Prayer That Matters

Once, while giving her testimony, a friend of mine thanked God for her “godly husband.”

Those of you who knew her husband had to put our hands over our mouths to keep from laughing out loud.

I put my head in my hands, knowing that if I saw any of my friends looking at me, I would’ve burst out laughing

Now, don’t get me wrong. My friend’s husband is a great guy. In fact, he’s one of my best friends. But godly? That’s not a word I would’ve chosen for him.

After the service, several of us good-naturedly confronted our friend.

“We’ll let you get away with a lot,” we told her. “But we’re not going to let you get away with that. We know your husband, and there’s no way you can call him ‘godly.’”

We were all laughing—including her. Then she got quiet.

Slowly she began her answer, “You guys don’t understand. When I started going through my treatment [she was undergoing chemo at the time], I couldn’t sleep. One night, when I was unusually restless, he got up and came around to my side of the bed and he prayed over me. I went to sleep, and every night since, I’ve gone to sleep listening to my husband pray for me.”

We were all stunned. None of us said anything else. We just walked away quietly.

But I’ve never forgotten that conversation.

What difference would it make if our wives went to sleep listening to us pray for them?

What if husbands went to work after hearing their wives pray for them?

What if children heard their parents call their names in prayer?

The old saying goes, “The family that prays together stays together.” It’s true, you know. Why? Because you can’t pray long for someone without coming to love them too.

Learning to Pray

In Luke 11, we have his version of the Lord’s Prayer. To introduce the prayer, Luke tells us the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him to teach them how to pray.

I’ve always been fascinated with their request.

For one thing, I’m not sure it’s what I would’ve asked Jesus.

Knowing me, I would’ve asked Him to teach me to walk on water (we know how that worked for Peter) or to raise the dead. I would’ve gone for something impressive, something flashy.

But this isn’t what the disciples wanted.

Why?

I think they could tell there was something powerful yet intimate in the way Jesus prayed. Things happened when Jesus prayed. People changed when Jesus prayed.

And the disciples knew if they could learn to pray like this, they would be able to do more than they had ever imagined.

Too many times we treat prayer casually. It’s something we do before we go to sleep or before we eat, but we rarely pray knowing there’s potential in our prayer to change the world, to change someone’s life.

This is what the disciples wanted to learn how to do.

It’s what we in the postmodern church need to learn as well.