When I was in second grade, I learned this song: “Whisper a prayer in the morning, whisper a prayer at noon, whisper a prayer in the evening, to keep your heart in tune.” Many years later, I have not forgotten those words.
Prayer is the way we communicate with God. This can be audible or silent. Either way it must come from the heart. It should glorify God. It is about a relationship with the Almighty. In his book Celebration of Discipline, Richard J. Foster wrote: “To pray is to change, prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us.”
Prayer is a discipline that needs to be exercised.
Prayer is a discipline that needs to be exercised. It is often not easy to take the time, but the more we pray, the more we get comfortable with it; and most importantly, we learn to listen to God. In John 10:27 we read, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” In order for us to hear and discern God’s voice from our own, others, or the enemy, we must spend time in prayer. There are many distractions that can hinder us from spending time with God—media, music, video games, sports, temptation, work and family.
When our children were younger, I used to feel guilty that I was not spending enough time in prayer. I struggled to find a balance between ministry, family and finding time to stop and listen to God. When I shared this with a fellow officer, they encouraged me not to feel guilty, but to remember this was a season that would soon pass and that God understood my situation. These words gave me peace.
I am reminded that even the disciples had a difficult time with prayer. “Then Jesus went with His disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’… Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’ Then He returned to His disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?’ He asked Peter. ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’” (Matt. 26: 36-41). I can identify with the disciples. Many times, my spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak. However, it is important that our prayer time be intentional, even if it is brief. When we are overwhelmed with the urgency of life, God understands.
In a devotional found on crosswalk.com, Jim Burns wrote, “Most of us are not evil and we are not trying to stay away from God on purpose. When we race from morning to night, we are too busy to pray and spend time with God.”
He writes that the following is a conversation between him and God:
God: I’d like to spend some time with you today, Jim.
Jim: Great, I’d love to.
God: How about right now?
Jim: Right now? Uh, I’m already late for an appointment. I’ll catch you later, though. I promise.
God: OK, I’ll be waiting.
Jim: Maybe, I’ll have some time during lunch.
God: OK, I’ll be waiting.
God: Hey Jim, I missed you at lunch. Your body was there but your mind wasn’t.
Jim: I know. I’m sorry. I’ve got so much to do and so much on my mind. I just forgot to pray.
God: Are you ready to spend some time with me now? I know you only have a few minutes before your next meeting.
Jim: Well, uh, I’d like to, but I need to review my agenda. I’ll have to catch you later.
God: Okay, I’ll be waiting.
God: Jim, I love you and I miss you. I’ve been waiting all day to be with you. Let’s just focus for maybe five minutes.
Jim: I know. I’m sorry. I really feel bad. I’m so busy. Thanks for being so understanding, God. Thanks for… (Jim falls asleep.)
God: Oh well, maybe he’ll have time for me in the morning.
God misses us when we are too busy. He is always waiting for us, with open arms. He is faithful, true, and forgiving.
Helps to spending time with God:
- At the beginning of your prayer time, spend two minutes sitting quietly. Breathe slowly, quiet your heart, your mind and then listen.
- Go for a walk and as you do pray for others, the community, the homeless, those caught in the human trafficking, your family and your church.
- Journaling—This is my favorite way to communicate with God, partly because it helps keep me from getting side-tracked. Writing my prayers down helps me to stay focused.
- Memorize scripture—Meditate on the verse all day, asking God to reveal the meaning and how to apply it to your life. You can do this while walking, driving, doing dishes, cleaning the house, cooking, or gardening. Some of my favorites are: Psalm 23, Psalm 18: 1-3, Psalm 121.
A 30-minute prayer exercise:
Sometimes I find it hard to quiet my heart, mind and body. This 30-minute prayer exercise helps me: Divide the 30 minutes, using a timer or your cell phone:
- Sit still and breathe slowly: 3 minutes.
- Adoration: 5 minutes.
- Praise: 5 minutes.
- Confess sins: 5 minutes
- Thanksgiving: 5 minutes
- Pray for others: 5 minutes
- Be quiet before God: 2 minutes
Fasting is another way to fully dedicate time to God. Adele Calhon writes: “A fast is the self–denial of normal necessities in order to intentionally attend to God in prayer. This physical awareness of emptiness is the reminder to turn to Jesus who alone can satisfy.” (Spiritual Disciplines) We can fast from food, shopping, video games, television, anything that may take our time away from God.
“Whisper a prayer in the morning, at noon, and in the evening to keep your heart in tune.” God wants us to keep in tune with Him. He is forever waiting for us. He is not expecting a perfect prayer life but wants us to be intentional in spending time with Him.
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33 NIV)