Praying and Not Losing Heart
This last Sunday we looked at Jesus’ parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8. Jesus’ aim for what He wants the parable to accomplish in our lives is clear: that we would always pray and not lose heart.
I focused a lot of the application for us as a church around not losing heart and less around the practicalities of prayer. I would like to take a little space here to practically encourage us in our prayer life. Most of us, when we hear Jesus’ call to always pray, immediately are discouraged because we know our prayer life isn’t what it should be.
At the end of the day, what I said on Sunday still rings true — if we are not aware of our need, if we don’t have a true view of God before us as a just God who cares deeply about His people, and if we don’t believe that He loves us — then we certainly won’t pray. When those three ingredients are actively true in our life, then we are more naturally driven to prayer.
So, what might it practically look like for you not to lose heart and give up right now in prayer?
1. Plan to pray
We can come to God whenever we feel like it and pray. But, we shouldn’t just go to God in prayer whenever we merely feel like it. If we only go to God when we feel like it, we won’t pray very often. D.A. Carson writes in his very helpful book, Praying With Paul, “Much praying is not done because we do not plan to pray.” Just like we are intentional with everything that is important in life, we need to plan to pray.
Here’s one suggestion. Morning and evening. Before you face the world and after you face the world. Maybe just plan for five minutes to start. I know some of you have hectic and crowded lives to where you might need to just wake up and lock yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes before you face your toddlers. Whatever it takes, just planning a short time before and after you face the world is critical.
2. Get some structure
Attach your prayer times with something. Preferably the reading of Scripture. But maybe for you it just needs to start with your morning drive or while you’re eating breakfast. Ideally, I’d recommend starting your day with reading at least a Psalm or another chapter or passage of Scripture.
Robert Murray M’Cheyne once wrote, “Let God’s voice be the first we hear in the morning.” Oh, how different our days are when the first voice we hear is God’s and the second voice is our own crying out to him in prayer.
Beyond getting structure with some Bible reading, sometimes thinking through a structure for prayer is helpful. I’ve used this acronym a lot in my life because it’s easy to remember:
These words might all be self-explanatory, but it may be helpful to add that taking the passage you read in Scripture and turning it into prayer will really strengthen and develop your prayer life. For example, if you read Luke 18:1-8 (our text from Sunday), you could use it to praise God for being a God who is right and willing to give justice and that He will give it speedily to His people. That’s cause for praise! Then repent of how often you don’t run to Him like the widow in the parable.
Then [ask] bring whatever anxieties or cares that are weighing you down to Him and ask Him to help. “Cast all your anxieties on him, because He cares for you.” - 1 Peter 5:7
Finally, yield. God is not a genie, He is our loving Father who is fully committed to doing us good for His name’s sake. We want to pray what He taught us in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done” right here, right now in these requests, even if it’s not my desire. We entrust ourselves to Him.
One other practical structure would be to use a list, or, I often use prayer cards. I take a little note card and write a person’s name on it. Overtime, I’ll add things to pray for that person on that card along with passages of Scripture I want to pray for them. You can also write down a request or situation on the card instead of a name. Flipping through a few cards a day is a great way to structure your prayers.
If you don’t have a vibrant prayer life, just start small. I start with my inner circle and work my way out. I’ll pray about things going on in my heart and life; then my wife; my kids; GBC members; needs/concerns for GBC; my neighborhood; extended family; friends; world.
If I don’t have a lot of time, I’ll at least pray for Elizabeth, our four kids and major concerns with GBC. Right now, those prayers center around us being unified, growing in our evangelism, and securing a more permanent facility.
3. Don’t Focus On The Task, But On God
Prayer is like working out in a way. Now I know that doesn’t make you more interested in prayer. But, if I don’t enjoy running as an activity, I’m probably not going to run unless I have some desired outcome that will come from running. I will run if running is the means to the end and not the end.
I would highly recommend reading the tiny book by Michael Reeves called, “Enjoy Your Prayer Life.” In it he writes, “When you default to thinking of prayer as an abstract activity, a ‘thing to do’, the tendency is to focus on the prayer as an activity – which makes it boring. Instead, focus on the One to whom you’re praying. Reminding yourself who you are coming before is a great help against distraction, and changes the prayer.”
Prayer is enjoying God and talking to him. When we focus on the act itself, it makes prayer boring. When we focus on the One to whom we are praying we experience the sweetness of the end and not the means: communion with God.
With great affection for you all,