Prayer is one of those spiritual disciplines of the Christian life that I need to work at. I try to return to good books that help me think about and practice prayer, but I've also discovered the importance of meditating on certain Scriptural truths about prayer. These truths, I believe, help renew my mind and keep my prayer life moving in a forward direction.
Here are five mindsets that I've found propel my prayer life, and I'm hoping might breathe fresh life into your practice of prayer as well:
1. Acknowledging that Prayer Is a Priority in the LIfe of Jesus
The more you get to know Jesus through the Gospels, the more you realize what a big deal prayer was to Him. He made sure to build prayer into His life (see Luke 5:16 and John 17:1-26) - even when it was inconvenient and there were other things that could have been done (e.g. Mark 1:32-35). Prayer was important enough to Jesus for Him to spend time teaching on it (Matthew 6:5-13). Jesus was crystal clear on His identity and His mission, but He never saw this as an excuse NOT to pray. Rather, His clarity on these things and His desire for relationship with His Father drove Him to prayer.
2. Remembering Who God Is - And What that Means for Us
God reveals Himself clearly throughout His Word. And the more we get to know Him, the more this understanding of God should lead very naturally to prayer. Very briefly: We learn that God is our Creator and Heavenly Father. These truths help us see that we are absolutely dependent on Him, and that we can approach Him not out of fear but in love (e.g. Matthew 6:9; Luke 18:7). We learn that Jesus Christ is our empathetic high priest, and that we can approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:14-16). We learn that the Holy Spirit indwells believers and fosters an intimacy with God that should invite conversation (Galatians 4:6-7). I love how Paul Miller directs our attention to the importance of letting who God is fuel our prayer life in his book A Praying Life: "Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn to pray because they are focusing on praying, not on God" (p. 20).
3. Understanding that Prayer Does STuff
Throughout Scripture, we get the sense that prayer actually does stuff. Prayer effects change in us (e.g. Matthew 26:36-46). Prayer effects change in others (James 5:16). Prayer effects God's purposes in the spiritual realm (Ephesians 6:10-18). Because of all, prayer all ripples out to effect circumstances. This doesn't mean God is like some divine slot machine or a divine Santa Claus; but it does seem to indicate that there are certain things that prayer effects. This often comes through persevering prayer not once or twice, but over weeks, months, and years.
4. Approach Prayer Interactively - Not as a Monologue
We need to remember that God is a communicating God! Prayer isn't just one-way communication but - properly understood - prayer should be seen as interactive. Yes, prayer is us talking to God. But a full understanding of prayer should allow space for the other Person (God!) involved in the communication to speak as well. And the primary way God speaks to us is in and through Scripture. In this way, our prayer and Bible reading are not hermetically sealed off from each other, but should cooperate together as we understand them each to cultivate communication between God and us - prayer! Bible study and prayer aren't just roommates! A great resource on this is Donald Whitney's recent Praying the Bible.
5. Never Forget the REality of Spiritual Warfare
And then finally, never forget the reality of spiritual warfare. In his famous "armor of God" passage where Paul writes about the reality of this unseen world all around us, I believe it's instructive that Paul concludes by telling us to "prayer in the Spirit on all occasions" (Ephesians 6:18). I wonder how many of our prayers effect change and invite God's protection in ways we'll never see, but in ways that are true and real nonetheless. The reality of the spiritual world should propel our prayer.
What other mindsets about prayer have propelled your practice of this important spiritual discipline? Share them here!
Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor. Learner. Contributor. Reader.