Martin Luther once said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
What a statement. When you wake up in the morning with a million things to do, is Luther’s practice something you would ever consider doing first? Do you examine your busy schedule and fall to your knees in response? For many, the answer is no.
Let’s make it simpler, when you wake up on the weekend with nothing pressing on your agenda, do you spend substantial time in prayer? Again, the answer is commonly no. Typically, we take a few minutes to scribble a prayer in the morning or we throw up quick thoughts to God in random situations throughout the day when it suits us. However, we do not diligently commit a significant portion of our time to the act of prayer.
The world we live in today is one that praises continual business and constant distraction. As such, we often forget the value of sitting in prayer and do not dedicate our time to this practice that we are called by God to habituate. But this is one of the most basic and essential Christian disciplines.
Throughout the Old Testament, we see God’s people continually cry out to Him in prayer, and in the New Testament, we can’t seem to go two chapters without hearing someone pray or call others to pray. As if this were not enough to demonstrate the importance of prayer, Jesus did it often.
“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray.” Luke 5:15-16
Jesus, who was constantly busy and fully God, made a regular habit of praying, demonstrating its great value.
It is important to remember that God gives us the opportunity to pray, not to bore us but as a way to grow close to Him. Like musical worship and reading scripture, prayer allows us to know God better and learn His character. It draws us closer to Him and reminds us to rely on Him for everything, alleviating worry and reinforcing out need for Him. It also softens our hearts and allows our desires to become more in line with His will.
With this in mind, set aside time each day dedicated to prayer. Share your heart with Him, your desires, failures and questions. Then, as you’re diligent with this time, expand it. It is a common saying that obedience fuels desire. I encourage you to be obedient in the discipline of prayer because the desire to know God more and a heart willing to come to Him no matter what will grow from your diligence.
Looking for new ideas or a place to start? Here are a few of my favorite ways to pray!
Journaling: This is a good method to stay focused, and it also allows you to look back on your prayers and see what God has answered and how. It’s also a way to measure your time in prayer outside of a time limit: each day, I’m going to journal for a page or three or what have you.
Having an Order: It can be helpful to have an outline that you pray through, and there are many different ways to structure it. Some people go through the Lord’s Prayer, applying each section to their life, or themes like ACTS: adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication.
Praying the Word: Something I’ve done since high school is praying off a bible verse that sticks out from my reading that day. They’re usually prayers of gratitude, identifying what characteristic of God is displayed in the verse and thanking Him for it (His faithfulness, guidance, compassion, etc.).
Fasting: In today’s culture, this rich practice seems to be underrated. People primarily encourage fasting from things we get addicted to like social media or coffee. But there is a difference between fasting from something that is a pleasurable habit and something that is essential to survival. Fasting from food reminds us that God is what we “need” to survive. A group of my friends and I have been fasting one day a week this semester, and I highly encourage it! Pick a specific topic to pray over during that time and remember the goal is not to distract yourself from hunger but turn to prayer when you feel it.