Lessons from the School of Prayer
The following eight lessons may help us put into practice this summons to “pray without ceasing.”
First, we must plan to pray. No one drifts into disciplined prayer. Daniel, Jesus, Paul, and believers in the early church all clearly set aside specific times for prayer (see Dan. 6:10; Luke 5:16; Acts 2:42; Eph. 1:16). To grow in our practice in prayer, we must build into our schedules consistent and intentional times to do nothing but pray.
Second, adopt practical ways to impede mental drift. Vocalizing our prayers and typing out our requests to various biblical passages are two specific and simple strategies for remaining focused and avoiding mental drift.
Third, if possible develop prayer-partner relationships. Meet regularly with a small group of committed prayer warriors. If you’re married to a believer, build consistent times of intentional prayer into your schedule.
Fourth, carefully choose models for prayer. Don’t try to imitate their phrasing or mannerisms, but study the content, breadth, and passion of the prayers of some mature godly men and women.
Fifth, develop a system for your prayer lists. You may employ a prayer journal, a folder filled with updated prayer letters and notes, a prayer calendar on your smartphone, a church membership directory, or a prayer guide. Whatever the system, use prayer lists.
Sixth, combine praise, confession, and intercession. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 calls for regular rejoicing, petitioning, and thanking God. Some believers follow the pattern of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication (ACTS). It is wise and helpful to tie your requests and intercessions closely to Scripture.
Seventh, those in positions of spiritual leadership should work at their public prayers. As with many aspects of Christian discipleship, mature, biblical praying is more easily caught than taught. This means that we should choose our models wisely. At the same time, when we have occasion to lead others in prayer (whether in corporate worship or around the dinner table), we should take that privilege and responsibility seriously and seek to be effective models for other people.
Finally, pray until you pray, as the Puritans often said. That is, we should seek to pray long enough and authentically enough that we move past formalism and unreality and begin to delight in God’s presence and esteem His will.