Through prayer and thanksgiving, we acknowledge that God is the one who gets things done.
Editor’s note: This post was updated on October 15, 2018.
When I was first getting to know Christ, one of the things that drew me to him was that he gave my life purpose. Up to that point, my life had been characterized by apathy and directionlessness. I wasn’t sure what actually mattered, and there wasn’t much that kept my attention. But when I came to Christ, my life suddenly had purpose. Souls mattered and the choices I made here had eternal ramifications. The moments of my days meant something, and I desperately wanted to use those moments well.
To have direction and purposefulness is a very good thing. But I’ve also found that, because of my fleshly tendencies, purposefulness can morph into an unhealthy restlessness. The kind where it’s hard to be still. The kind where I get fidgety if I don’t think I’m doing something that matters. I know some of you can relate — those of you who, like me, see yourself as too important to sit still. We figure the world will fall apart if we’re not milking every drop of productivity out of every minute of our day.
It struck me recently that this kind of restlessness is one of the biggest enemies of a vibrant prayer life. Now, I’ve always seen prayer as vital. The Bible won’t let me deny its importance. There are few activities that Scripture emphasizes like it does prayer. We’re to be devoted to prayer (Acts 2:42, 6:4; Romans 12:12, 1 Corinthians 7:5, Colossians 4:2) and to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But it’s hard to actually do. For some reason, it’s a constant battle for me to spend both quality and quantity time in prayer. And I think one of the reasons is that I think I’m more important than I am.
Prayer seems so unproductive. We’re told in the Bible that thanksgiving is supposed to flavor our prayers, but thanksgiving doesn’t seem to do anything. Many of the prayers I’m encouraged to pray in the Bible are for other people’s maturity and spiritual understanding. But the effectiveness of those prayers is hard to measure and often is not seen immediately. For those of us who are into productivity, we want to spend our time doing things that yield tangible, measurable and immediate results. And unfortunately, I’m often unwilling to sacrifice my important time to do something that doesn’t give those kind of results.
But prayer reveals so much about my walk with God because it reveals where I place my trust. If I take time in focused, undistracted prayer, I’m prevented from doing other things. If that feels unproductive, it means I’m assuming that I’m the one who makes things happen. Prayer, however, places trust fully in God. It declares that God does things better than I do.
Martin Luther was said to spend an hour in prayer every day, except when he was busy, in which case he spent two hours in prayer. He was quoted once as saying, “Work, work, from morning until late at night. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer!”
Few of us have this perspective. Self-importance and “productivity” squeeze out prayer. But if you believe it is God who accomplishes things, and not yourself, a full slate of important tasks will, as it did Martin Luther, drive you to pray more.
We have to understand this. Prayer is not a negotiable activity; it is life support. Responsibility without prayer is death, so we must make it a priority. Here are a couple of ideas to stimulate your prayer life.
1. Ask for prayer. Take a week and share a prayer request with someone each day (it doesn’t have to be the same person each day). Sharing prayer requests is a great way to strip yourself of pride by admitting need, and it typically prompts both people to pray for each other. Let’s be like Ephaphras (Colossians 4:12) and always be struggling for each other in prayer.
2. Go on prayer walks. At different points in my life, I’ve felt it necessary to commit to going on a prayer walk each day of the week. I’ll pick a route, typically not very long, and simply make sure I don’t go to bed until I’ve walked my route and prayed. Sometimes I’ve realized that I haven’t gone on my walk for the day until I’m lying in bed at night; I’ve had to pull myself out of bed, throw on some clothes and go pray. But those seasons when I’m committed to getting in my prayer time are rich. So try a prayer walk for a week. Find a route, set aside 15 minutes and bring your requests to God.
3. Pray with other Summitviewers on Thursdays. Join us on Thursdays, October 25 through November 15 at 12 p.m. for an hour of thanksgiving, gratitude and praise to God. Praying for an hour may sound like a long time, but such times typically go very quickly. In these extended times of prayer, there’s true, deep connection with God. Especially when we meet to offer him thanks for his excessive generosity. You can learn more about Thursday prayer here.