The Power of Prayer
I know I’ve talked about prayer in the past but I really had a great reflection of how much my prayer life has changed recently and how I wish I had known these “secrets” earlier. See, I have always enjoyed prayer but about two years ago the Lord got a hold of my prayer life and showed me how I had been on autopilot. You know what I mean? My prayers were either for the big, overwhelming issues or consisted of a “Now I lay me down to sleep…” or a “God is great. God is good…” I was definitely NOT being intentional and I was almost being selective in what I thought was worthy of the Lord’s time which is definitely not how prayer works. In fact, I was completely missing the power of prayer because prayer IS powerful when we actually use it.
Several things occurred in my life that helped me change how I approach prayer. First, I live in the Bible Belt so anytime something goes wrong everyone says they will pray for you. This includes your church family, coworkers, that random person on Facebook and the cashier at the Piggly Wiggly. We have prayer lists, prayer walls and other ways to communicate our needs but does this mean we actually carry it out? I would like to think yes but I know we often get busy in our lives and forget. I had a mentor several years ago say that if someone speaks a need to you stop right there and pray for them. It will probably throw them off a little but it will also let them know you really mean that you’ll pray for them. It doesn’t have to be fancy or grandiose but there’s so much intentionality in approaching prayer in this manner.
Second, I started picking up my church’s monthly prayer focus. I’m fortunate to belong to a church that has a strong prayer ministry and I find these daily prayer focuses help me to have a “starting point” for my prayer time. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know what to pray for so having an intentional topic helps. There are also all kinds of books, journals and pins that can help you find a focus for the month or you can use the tried and true ACTS method of adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication to get you started. It’s amazing how one prayer can open the floodgates of conversation with the Father.
Third, the Lord laid on my heart that I should start prayer journaling. I’ve talked in the past about how I tried journaling but it never really meant anything until recently. In the last two years I’ve journaled but I’ve also gone back and “reviewed” these requests. I highlight all those that have been answered and even make notes on some that get special answers. This has shown me three major things. One, the Lord is INCREDIBLY faithful. When you look back over my journals all you can see is a rainbow of colors. Two, it has helped remind me that my timing and the Lord’s timing are not the same but that doesn’t mean He isn’t listening. There were some prayer requests that I made in January but didn’t get to highlight until December and some I am still waiting on. He is faithful but you have to be patient and continue to bring your requests before the Lord. Third, I had to accept the fact that I would never get to highlight some prayer requests because in the end it wasn’t my job to know the outcome but rather to be faithful in praying.
The fourth thing that has revolutionized my prayer time is praying specifically for someone each month and I don’t mean the missionaries on the other side of the world though that is important. I mean people here that are a part of my life. Some months my person is random and sometimes there is a very specific choice behind it. For example, last March I prayed specifically for my brother and sister-in-law as they were getting married that month. In April, I prayed for my best friend, Lauren, who was having her first baby and last month I prayed specifically for a sweet friend in my Bible Fellowship who has faced numerous health struggles and was undergoing tests and procedures in search of answers. Yes, I pray for these friends anytime they have a need but choosing someone to focus on and cover in prayer is such a personal and impactful thing that requires you to think outside of a generalized prayer and to really be intentional in what they need. I’ve never told these people that this is what I’m doing but I have seen the Lord answer in some amazing ways.
Finally, I think one of the biggest lessons I have learned in the last year is to pray specifically in words and with confidence. I’ve mentioned this before but this was a hard process for me because I have the tendency to not want to be disappointed so I don’t write down the specific details of my prayers or I just generalize a request. See, this goes back to being disappointed when God’s plan doesn’t reflect my own which is a faith problem but we really are told to boldly approach the throne of God so why am I scared? Gideon laid a fleece out. Bartimaeus asked for sight. Solomon asked for wisdom. These were all very specific requests and as I recently heard it put they show an unwavering reliance on God. God gives us full permission to make our requests known to Him and yet there are times when I write a request in my journal and quickly close the cover like I just sent a risky text or something. This is the God of the universe who knows every hair on my head and yet I often feel embarrassed or silly with what I want to say to Him.
In the last year I have tried to step out in faith and ask for very specific things, some trivial and some monumental in my eyes. The Lord has answered many of these requests in amazing ways and some have required a wait and if I’m honest I’ve been more shocked by the specific answers than by the waits. Why do we try to fit God in our little box yet want Him to do big, God things? And then why are we shocked when he does the things we ask for? I know for me this is a testament of my wavering faith which is why I so often pray like the father in Mark 9 who says, “I do believe but help me overcome my unbelief.”
So, as you celebrate victories and face challenges remember the Lord wants to be a part of your life. He knows your needs and has so many blessings He wants to bestow on you. Just talk to Him!