FOUR R’s FOR PRACTICAL PRAYING
by Trevor DeVage
We’ve all been told we ought to pray. Some of us pray often. More of us struggle to pray. Many Christians feel embarrassed or guilty when they’re urged to pray, because they already knew they don’t pray like they should. Often they don’t pray because no one has taught them how.
As I’ve mentioned here before, I’ve been praying most mornings as I walk a giant circle around our church property. I take at least three laps, and for two of those I talk out loud (more about the silent lap below). I wear ear buds so passersby will think I’m talking on the phone instead of babbling incoherently.
Through the weeks, I’ve developed a process for prayer that helps me stay on track. It’s not complicated. (I need something simple!) Anyone can do it. I encourage you to try my four R’s.
First, I take time to ask myself questions about myself: “What happened in my yesterday? What’s God doing in my life? What have I done that’s good? What have I done that I now realize was bad? What have I neglected to do?”
Sometimes I reflect on the more distant past: “We’ve been in this Covid thing since March, God. How have I led well? What have I not done that needed doing? What have I done wrong? How should it change?”
This helps me see how I haven’t been the father, pastor, husband, or friend I need to be. That leads me to the second part of my prayer.
“God, I see how I’ve come up short, and I’m sorry. Help me do better. Help me change direction. I see some things that need to be different.” This part of the prayer fills about one of my three laps. But some days I’m sure I could stay with “repent” prayers all day if I would just keep walking!
This is challenging for sure, but it’s not enough. A 180-degree turnaround can’t happen without action. Wallowing in shame is not healthy or productive, but it’s where too many stop. That’s why we need the third step.
“God, what do you want me to do today? What steps should I take today that will lead to the action you want in the future? What do I need to stop? Show me the good things in my life that are distracting me from the best you have for me?”
I listen for God’s response to those prayers. For a whole lap I shut up and seek God in the silence. I’ve been amazed how the answers have come.
Then comes the biggest test: the choice to act on what I’ve decided. I must obey God’s call if I want to be faithful. Maybe there’s an issue to address if I want to be a better father. Maybe there’s an apology to express if I want to be a true friend. Maybe there’s a difficult action I must take if I’m going to lead as the church needs.
WHY I PRAY
I’ve come to see that prayer is the lifeblood of a healthy church, and it won’t flow till we get serious about prayer. Too many miss the power of prayer till they face a crisis. The minute someone gets cancer, they become a prayer warrior. (Think of all the praying that’s happened because of Covid.)
But God wants a day-by-day relationship with us. My kids won’t respond if I talk with them only once a week. My wife and I will drift apart if we share our hearts only every now and then. Moses was a man of prayer, and more than once he persuaded God not to unleash punishment on Israel in spite of the people’s rebellion. (Study Exodus 32 and Numbers 14.) Prayer changed God’s mind! I don’t think this would have happened if these had been isolated prayers. God knew Moses’ heart, and Moses wanted God to be praised even among the pagans. So God relented and granted Moses’ request.
I can only imagine what might change in individual lives and in the ministry of our church if we became so intentional about our prayers. My four R’s are helping me to move in that direction. How about you? What format do you use to pray and connect with God?