‘Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Most areas of life require some kind of discipline. Sport, study, learning a musical instrument; all of these require regular training that moulds us and helps us to grow. The same is true of the Spiritual Life.
We will best grow as followers of Jesus when we actively decide to invest in our spiritual lives. This may involve saying ‘no’ to certain things, and choosing to commit our time to others.
Here are some practical suggestions for how you may want to intentionally choose to pray this week:
Praying by Yourself
We all have rhythms of life – morning routines, journeys to work, sports clubs, meal times, story time with the kids, reading, checking the news, checking the finance reports… Some of these are conscious decisions we have made and some have just become part of the fabric of our lives without us even being aware of them.
Why don’t you take some time to map out the rhythms of your day. Perhaps print off a blank diary and chart what you do each hour. Then ask yourself if there are ways you could incorporate prayer into some of those activities. For example:
- Pray in the shower. And if you feel like your brain isn’t engaged first thing, praying in tongues may be a great idea, since you can do that while your mind is unfruitful!! (1 Corinthians 14:14)
- Pray before meals. Thank God for His provision, for food, for health and for those you are eating with.
- Pray at your desk. Bishop Ric Thorpe made the great suggestion of praying before you begin work. Place your hands on the desk and quietly commit your day to God, asking Him to be present in all that you do.
- Pray in the ‘wasted moments.’ There are so many moments that we waste. Why not reclaim them. Try praying whilst waiting for a tube, or for the kettle to boil, or during advert breaks, or while your computer is loading.
- Pray before you sleep. Take a moment to cast your mind back over the day and thank God for His blessings. Often when we stop and think about it, we find God has been far more present in our lives than we realised.
Sometimes we don’t pray because we don’t even think to pray. So you may find it helpful to set some prompts, which will help you think about praying. For example:
- Set an alarm on your watch or phone for particular times – perhaps once an hour. When the alarm goes off, just take a couple of seconds to acknowledge the moment and say a short prayer, inviting Jesus into that next hour.
- Leave prompts in particular locations. Post-it notes on the fridge, or on a door in your house, or a lightswitch, or the coffee jar.
- Use technology to help you. Perhaps take a photo of a Bible verse, or a list of things to pray about and then set it as the lock screen on your phone.
- Try downloading an app such as Daily Prayer
- Set yourself reminders on your phone. Perhaps even set location-specific reminders, so that when you arrive at a particular place (home, work, the station) you will get a prompt to pray.
In Sunday’s sermon Andy Tilsley spoke about the theme of fasting. You may want to try fasting this week, or at some point this month. There are plenty of ways to do it. For example, you could forgo food, or food and drink for 24 hours. Or fast something else for a week or month – for example chocolate, coffee, TV, or social media.
The important thing is to remember that fasting is not about depriving yourself, or about forcing God to respond, like a hunger strike! Rather it is intended to remind you of your need for God, to cause you to depend on Him, and to devote the time to prayer.
To find out more about fasting, check out the recording of Andy’s talk, or A Hunger for God by John Piper is a helpful, if slightly dense, book on the subject.
Praying with Others
Prayer doesn’t have to be done alone, and neither does fasting. In fact, there are many occasions in Scripture where groups of people prayed and fasted together (e.g. 1 Samuel 7:5-6; Ezra 8:21-23; Nehemiah 9:1-3; Joel 2:15-16; Jonah 3:5-10; Acts 27:33-37).
This week, you may want to decide as a Connect Group to fast on the day that you meet. You could forgo food during the day, and end your evening by breaking your fast together. Perhaps share a meal, and maybe communion as well.
Why not encourage others in your Connect Group or Serving Team, prompting them to pray. You may want to set up a whatsapp group, and take moments to remind each other to pray, or to text round prayer requests, or prayers for one another.
Or list all the members of your Connect Group or Serving Team and assign a day, or half day per person. Then everybody in the group should commit to praying for that person, so that across the week everybody is covered.
Praying with Children
This week the children continued looking at the Lord’s Prayer, considering the phrase ‘your kingdom come.’ You can download the take home sheet to find out what they covered.
We saw that Jesus’ Kingdom will be perfect and free from sadness, and we used this prayer activity, which you may want to try with your children this week.
Draw a big heart on a piece of paper and then write down all the people and places where you would like to see God’s love and His Kingdom. Imagine all the good things that would happen if God’s Kingdom came, and then take it in turns to pray out loud for God’s love to come to each of these people or places.
When you have finished, draw a big cross over the whole heart and pray, ‘Thank you, Lord, that you love these people and places with all your heart.’