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Making Life Matter Ministries and Christ Church Global have published and released a new practical guide to prayer entitled, 'I Am How I Pray'.
Prayer is one of the most important interactions in all of humanity. Prayer, as defined by both Scripture and many secular works, is a ‘core discipline’ of most any expression of spirituality. Every major religion includes prayer (or some form of meditation) as part of the spiritual journey or routine. And, for most religions, prayer serves as a major connection between the adherent and the religion’s deity/spiritual authority.
But, for Christians, prayer is more than a ‘discipline’ or ‘journey’. Recently, I finished a study of the prayer life of Jesus of Nazareth as described in the Scriptures of the books, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts. There are over 60 times in Scripture when Jesus would go away to pray, meditate, pray for a particular circumstance or situation, or respond to the need of a brother or sister. For Jesus, prayer was at the center of his relationship with the Father God, and he organized and lived his life as such.
Before you begin this short focus on your prayer life, I want to ask you some rather direct questions. I don’t ask them to press you or cause you any discomfort. Quite the contrary… I believe so much in the power of what you are about to read and commit yourself to doing that I want you to be fully AND honestly prepared to make the trip.
As mentioned above, I wrote a book entitled, ‘What the Prayers of Jesus Tell Us About the Heart of God’. When I wrote the book, I had been in ministry for over 20 years. I had written 10 books before that one. I thought I knew the most important principles about prayer. I WAS WRONG!
I am not the same person after spending time with Jesus while he spent time in prayer. My heart for communicating with the God of Universe is different, more aware of what a privilege and honor it is for me to be in God’s presence AND then to have a chance to ‘ask of him anything’.
Thirty years ago, I contracted HIV and Hepatitis C through blood transfusions used to treat my hemophilia—a condition that keeps a person from clotting or healing correctly. The only treatments for many years were those transfusions of human blood. Thus, over 90% of my generation of hemophiliacs died from AIDS due to the transfusions. Since then, I have dealt with serious complications and other medical issues—from open-heart surgery, diabetes, loss of my eyesight in one eye, etc. It has not been an easy journey. But, I learned from an early age the importance of prayer, and I can say honestly that prayer has sustained me throughout my life.
And, yet, with all I thought I knew about prayer, learning how Jesus prayed not only re-engaged my prayer life, it changed it. I realized that prayer was not static or just a powerful experience when or if we really decided to put our minds to it. No, it is dynamic and organic in nature, springing up from the deepest places in our lives, reminding us that God is always present whether we realize it or not.
That is what I want you to consider before you begin this conversation. Are you prepared for a dynamic experience of prayer, not just a religious rite that you use from time to time (or maybe even daily)? And, do you truly want prayer to be something that exists ‘between’ you and God or that allows God to live IN you? These are important questions, and they sit at the heart of what it means to truly ‘be how you pray’—instead of just communicating.
The following are some questions I asked myself as I began my time ‘away’ with Jesus during his prayer life. These questions formed not only my approach to the moment, but even more important, framed how the residual power of prayer affected the whole of my life from that moment on. They became important for the health of my spiritual journey, and I believe they will be just as important for you.
Take your time with these questions and faithfully respond to them. I believe it will make an incredible difference in your journey.
1. Have you chosen a journal, and are you prepared to make your entries every day? No process for prayer is more important than being able to ‘look back’ and see how God is answering and responding to your prayers.
2. Do you have a time/place/routine that allows for you to pray uninterrupted with your focus on Christ? Prayer is not a static event, but you will need to begin the process with the ability to put your complete focus on God so that you can learn how prayer shapes and molds your conversations with him. One of the biggest mistakes I made in my previous prayer life was spending a great deal of time ‘talking’ but making no provision for ‘listening’.
3. Make sure you have your Bible available and present during your prayer time. Most people pray with a devotional guide or a notebook but without their Bible present. Even if you don’t plan to use it, the Bible is the ‘Word of God’ and is still the primary means for God to speak back to us. Why would we want to move God’s Word to the side when ‘conversation’ is the very experience we are wanting with him.
4. Chose an accountability partner in this process—someone who can hold you ‘in check’ as you pray and go through the process of being in God’s presence. I am not asking you to pray with anyone but to have someone who will hold you accountable for your presence in prayer with Christ.
5. Finally, and this will sound a bit unusual, but worship will be of huge importance during this journey. I have found over the last few months, that my worship both informs and serves as an outlet for my time with Christ. Prayer experienced in such close connection with Christ fills you in ways most of us are not prepared. We need the ability to respond, share our emotions, raise our hearts and lives in what we are hearing, saying, feeling. THAT is what worship is all about. Find a time and place of worship that allows for you to not only be in God’s presence but to celebrate the presence of God throughout the whole of your life.
As I have said, I want nothing more than for you to be knocked off your feet by the power of what prayer can do in your life. I can’t wait to hear how these moments with God affect both the religious and, yet also, the normal everyday experiences of your life. Again, this is more than the discipline of prayer—you are spending time with Jesus—your friend, Lord, and Savior. Get ready.
Be Salt and Light... You Matter!
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Taken from 'I Am How I Pray' (Jericho Springs 2015).
Shane Stanford is a pastor, teacher and author committed to sharing the hope of Jesus Christ with the world.