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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, May 02 2024

Making prayer a priority

If you have trouble staying committed to time with God in prayer, you are not alone. The author of this article tells us her parents set a wonderful example of daily prayer and Bible study. She knew she should be praying regularly, but had never gotten into the habit, as she was always "too busy."

I always knew I needed to improve my prayer life. When I got married I thought it would get better with my husband’s guidance, but the truth is our spiritual life is always our personal responsibility.

After the birth of our child, I realized I needed to set an example about how to love and develop a relationship with God, and I knew I was not doing a very good job. I have always wanted to please God, but my devotion has always been in "spurts," with periods where I would stay connected to God and periods where I would not do very well at all. Since I began to really focus on making prayer time a habit, I have learned a lot, and would like to share some of the ideas that have helped me with you.


All or Nothing

One thing I realized is that I am an "all or nothing" kind of person. I would pray consistently for a while, but when I got off track, I would feel ashamed and embarrassed. So instead of praying again as soon as possible, I would avoid prayer, all the while feeling more and more guilty. I needed to realize God wanted me to develop a relationship with Him, and was not waiting to "punish" me for not praying. He just wanted me to repent and talk to Him again. When I realized this, it really helped me to overcome this barrier in my prayer life.


The Only Way to Bear Fruit

The second idea that really changed my perspective on prayer was John 15:5. Here Jesus tells us: "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." In order to remain in Christ and have Him remain in us, we must stay in communication with Him, and this can only be accomplished through regular prayer and Bible study. Jesus goes on to say when we remain in Him, we will bear fruit, but if don’t we can do nothing.

This was a wake-up call for me. I realized that even though I may be checking things off my to-do list faster if I skipped prayer and Bible study, the truth was I wasn't really accomplishing anything worthwhile. Instead of trusting God that I would be able to accomplish what needed to be done, I was thinking in physical terms and relying completely on myself.

The Bible says we are to put God first in our lives and He will give us everything we need (Matthew 6:33). This includes putting our commitment to spending daily time with Him as our top priority. We have to step out in faith and take an hour to pray and do Bible study even when we have 24 hours of work to accomplish in 12 hours. Then, even if you don't complete everything on our list, we are still at peace because we have kept our priorities in order and realized that in the end, it's our relationship with God that will outlast our daily to-do list.


My Prayer Plan

The most vital key to changing our habits in this area is asking God for help. If we admit we have a problem and show God through determined effort we are willing to strive to improve, the results can be amazing.

After I began to understand these concepts I realized I needed to develop a specific prayer plan. Based on my past experiences I knew that praying silently in my bedroom led to nothing but daydreaming and sleepiness. While kneeling by your bed may work for some people, it did not work for me, so I made a radical move to take my prayer time to the kitchen table (with its hard wooden chairs) during a time in the day when I could be alone.

I also began to write my prayers down in a journal, being specific with my thoughts and feelings instead of making generalizations. This really helped me to focus on what I was talking to God about. In the past, I would pray for a bit and then start daydreaming and completely lose my focus. For some people, simply praying out loud may be the trick that keeps their prayers focused. I also put together a "prayer basket." In it, I keep my Bible, my prayer notebook, and any church materials I have been studying, as well as cards and stamps if I need to send someone a card. I also keep a second notebook in which I list the people I am praying for as well as their needs.


An Appointment With God

Once we have developed a specific prayer plan, the hard part begins—sticking to it. We need to make a commitment to put God first in our lives each and every day. They say that a new habit takes six weeks to establish, but sometimes I think it can take longer. I still struggle with this. When I have a million things to do, it is still a challenge to just stop and take an hour to do prayer and Bible study.

For me, it helped to think of my prayer time as an appointment with God, with a specific time and place to meet Him. After several weeks of this approach, I began to look forward to my prayer time each day, and it became easier to stop thinking about my to-do list. The time we devote to God can be any time during the day when we are uninterrupted. What is important is that we are consistently spending time in respectful communication with our Creator.

Disruptions to my normal daily schedule tend to throw me off track. This can include situations like having houseguests, going on a trip or having an illness in the family. I found that planning when and where I am going to pray in advance helped me deal with these situations.


Embarrassed to Talk About Prayer?

One final thought is that we should not be embarrassed about our prayer life. God tells us to pray in a solitary manner and to not "show off" when we pray, but we should not be embarrassed to mention praying to others, while guarding against giving the impression of trying to look "super spiritual." Husbands and wives need to discuss making time for prayer, as well as roommates or anyone who lives together in close quarters with others. We should support one another as we each strive to have a healthy relationship with God. I thank God for helping me to make progress in this area of my life, and realize that without the gift of His Holy Spirit I would probably never even want to try and certainly would have never been able to get this far.

If you have trouble staying committed to your prayer time with God, know you are not alone. God wants to talk with us and He knows what we are going through, whether it is a lack of time or other limiting factors affecting our prayer life. However, He expects us to make the changes necessary to pray regularly to Him, by disciplining ourselves to overcome any prayer barriers we may be dealing with. If we miss a day, we must repent and get back into our prayer habit as soon as possible. If we commit to a daily prayer time with God, He will help us to get everything else done.