Editor’s Note: Thoughtful guest post today on prayer comes to us by way of Tim Thurman.
A few years ago, I felt like God was gently encouraging me to become a “man of prayer”. I have always respected people who could spend hours praying, and who saw results from their prayers. I have always struggled with unanswered prayer because of the verse in James that says, “the prayers of a righteous man are answered.” (James 5:16). If my prayers are not answered, does that mean that I am not righteous?
I also do not understand the theology of prayer. Beyond being commanded to do it, why do we pray? How is it that our prayers affect a sovereign God? Do our prayers affect things, change things? What is the purpose of prayer?
In answering that question, I know that many people cop out and say that prayer changes us. And that is absolutely true. A huge part of prayer is realigning our hearts with God and submitting to Him daily. Yet, I think that answer is Biblically insufficient. In other words, I think the Bible does actually teach that our prayers change what happens in the world.
In any case, I struggled to become a man of prayer. I would try and spend a long time praying, a long time being 15 minutes. I could not even last 15 minutes before my mind would wander. I would be discouraged, beat myself up, and give up. I figured it was hopeless.
In the last year, however, I have become greatly encouraged by two practices, and finally feel like I have made progress. I do not know if I am now a “man of prayer” but at least I feel like my prayers have made a difference. I really now do believe that beyond changing me, my prayers have altered circumstances. Here is what I have been doing differently:
1. Writing Prayers: I do not remember who suggested it to me or where I read it, but I decided to start trying to write prayers. At first, it was awkward and I did not know what to write. But before long I really started to get into it. I found that it kept my mind from wandering. I also find that I am able to express my feelings more. Some days, my prayers are long; some days, they are just a paragraph. In any case, I now look forward to “prayer time” instead of dreading it.
2. The Prayer Wall: An author I love, Karen Spears Zacharias, posted on her blog a short video of her office. In her office, above her desk, she explained that she had a prayer wall. I immediately loved the idea and instituted it. When someone asks for prayer or I tell them that I am praying for them, I put their name on a 3×5 card with what I pray for them about. I have, frankly, been stunned at the outcome. I have seen so many prayers answered, I have been amazed. I have been praying for two kids with leukemia – they are both doing well. I prayed for a former teacher who had prostate cancer – he is in complete remission. I had a high school friend who attempted suicide – she is doing much better. And the list goes on from people who were / are battling loneliness, chronic pain, moves across country. It has been amazing to see God answer so many of my prayers. I have loved it. Not all the prayers have been answered positively, but such a high number have, that I really feel like my prayers have made a difference.
Those are the two practices that have revolutionized my prayer life. The latest thing I am going to try is a suggestion from a pastor friend of mine, and that is to pray the Scripture. What he suggested was to take only one verse a day, meditate on it, and then write a prayer in response to the verse / meditation. I am excited to try it.
There are still things that I do not understand about prayer. As mentioned above, I do not really understand the theology of prayer. Oh, I could give you a Sunday School answer, but how it could be that my prayer could change a sovereign God – I have trouble wrapping my head around that. Also, one interesting and discouraging observation for me is that God has abundantly answered my prayers for other people, but the two prayers that I pray for myself daily for a long time have, as yet, been unanswered. I am not sure what to do with that.
Nevertheless, I do believe that prayer changes things, not just my heart. I think the world and the Church would be much better if we Christians prayed more. I think that, although there are amazing prayer warriors, God has called each of us to be a man or woman of prayer. Perhaps these practices will help you.
What say you? Do you do something different that helps you pray? Do you believe in prayer? Do you under