Though I highly recommend a set prayer time, prayer is something that cannot be partitioned to one part of the day. Part of being renewed, refreshed, and spiritually connected during the day is a life of unceasing prayer. But how do you accomplish this without a million unfinished thoughts?
In Paul Miller’s book A Praying Life, he comments on Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Miller asks:
“What does it feel like to be weary? You have trouble concentrating. The problems of the day are like claws in your brain. You feel pummeled by life.
What does heavy-laden feel like? Same thing. You have so many problems you don’t even know where to start. You can’t do life on your own anymore. Jesus wants you to come to him that way! Your weariness drives you to him.
Don’t try to get the prayer right. Just tell God where you are and what’s on your mind. That’s what children do. They come as they are, runny noses and all.”
That’s how I have to come. I couldn’t pray if I had to come with all my thoughts lined up and coherent. I want to come reverently, but I can’t come perfectly.
Because I do have trouble keeping my thoughts all in a row, I find it very helpful to have a prayer schedule (a specific area of prayer for each day) and a prayer journal (to write out my thoughts) during my scheduled prayer times. Another way that I structure my prayer time is with a prayer box of 3×5 cards.
- Short prayer themes, just like short Bible verse studies, help to keep my prayer for the day fresh on my mind. I’ve experimented with a few methods, all of which have been helpful. For praying for my husband, a couple of resources include Stormy Omartian’s book The Power of a Praying Wife, and a prayer calendar (scroll to the bottom of the linked post to download). The same blog also has a calendar for praying for children.
- Set a schedule for regular prayer times throughout the day. For me, this is best if I connect it with certain activities–every time I wash dishes, do laundry, etc. If your schedule is regimented by a timer, try praying the first 10 minutes of every hour, every couple of hours, etc. If you are on a computer throughout the day, set a schedule of reminders on your computer calendar. Whatever your system, find a way to keep prayer a part of your routine.
- Seek opportunities to pray with, for, and over your children. Although this seemed a little awkward for me when I first began doing this, it has become a vital part of my day–especially on “those” days, if you know what I mean. Pray with your child after discipling him, pray for your child when he’s frustrated, pray over your children when the day just comes to a climax. There are difficult days when I have gathered my children in my arms and just wept that the Lord would free all of us from a spirit of heaviness. (Anyone else have those days?) I’m learning that if I want prayer to be a part of my children’s lives, they must see it as a part of my life. And if I want a vibrant life with God, prayer has to be our connecting point–even if it doesn’t happen hours at a time in a prayer closet.
- Prepare your sanctuary to be your prayer closet. Whether this includes a copy of your prayer calendar or a helpful Bible verse, have your retreat prepared for these emergency meetings with God. My bathroom tends to be my place of retreat. Right now, I’m reading Lydia Brownback’s devotional on Joy, and it is a perfect prayer retreat as well. To read about the joy of the Lord and it’s purpose, to couple with that with a prayer for joy in that moment and that particular situation of the day, is often exactly what I need to face the challenges of the day with a renewed spirit.