I didn't consciously believe this was true - had you asked me if that was biblical truth I would've said "no." Yet I operated with this perception that I needed to pray for a long period of time, in some deep state, for it to have real power or impact.
Does that stem from some over-achieving tendency? Or maybe a warped perfectionist mind-set? Or maybe it was really just an excuse? I dunno. But clearly I'm not the only one duped by this line of thinking.
So do this, pause right now, and look at the nearest clock.
Note the exact time it is, and then recite the Lord’s Prayer:
'Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil ... for Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever, Amen.
Look back at the clock now - how long did that take you?
It takes me less than one minute to pray the VERY PRAYER that Jesus suggested we pray in Matthew chapter 6.
Jesus did not say, Well first you’ve got to clear your schedule for a couple of hours. Then you have to meditate on scripture until your heart and mind are totally focused above. Then begin praying and pray for an hour, or until you see angels – whichever comes first.
Nope, He simply said do it like this, and then with a handful of paragraphs He praised God, affirmed that God’s will is best, and asked God for provision, forgiveness and protection.
Would we dare assume that because that was quick and easy-to-say prayer that it isn't effective or pleasing-to-God? It was Jesus' illustration of how to pray! So what does that tell you about needing to pray long prayers?
I'll post some more on this train of thought in my next post, but for now I want to echo 5SKIS and Cyndi and others and tell you how I'm now freed to handle those little needs or requests for prayer that I encounter from people through out the day. You know, the ones that I used to wind up feeling guilty about for not getting to.
If a friend sends me an email with a troubled story or prayer request, I do not respond by saying "I'll pray for you." I pause, pray for her right then (it usually takes seconds), and then I hit reply and write, "I have prayed for you." At that point I may or may not pray again for her later, depending on if the Spirit brings it back to my memory.
If someone calls me on the phone, or tells me in person about their prayer needs, I offer to pray with them right then and there. This is all the better anyway because two people are gathered and praying together in Jesus' Name. Jesus promised, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matt. 18:20).
If I hear a prayer need expressed while I'm sitting in church, or I encounter one while reading the newspaper, or just whatever may trigger an impulse in me to pray over something, I do it quickly right then. My aim is not to be lengthy and elaborate with these prayers but rather, like Nike, to "just do it."
So my goal now is to be able to tell people I have prayed for them, rather than I will pray for them. I guess you could say I've made a pact with myself to be honest with and about prayer. Rather than promising to pray, and then possibly not doing it, I now do it in the moment and then I am able to move on clear-minded and guilt-free.
I just don't have a lot of mental space to carry around all those requests for a later prayer session. I might forget important details, or I likely won't feel as passionate about it as I do right then after hearing the need. Besides, I'm sure they'd rather have a short, immediate prayer than a vague promise for lots of prayers that may or may not be remembered later. I know I would!
Honestly, which makes you feel better, having someone tell you they will pray for you, or actually having someone stop and pray for you right then? My guess is you ususally take your biggest prayer requests to those you are certain will actually remember to pray for you.
If I do feel the need to verbally commit to praying for someone repeatedly or over time - which I'm less inclined to do now unless the Spirit prompts me to - I truly follow through with my carefully considered promise because I've gotten more intentional about this prayer thing.
Girls, there is more to prayer but I started here because I think committing to praying short, in the moment prayers is a great place to begin. It is very doable. It helps relieve a lot of feelings of failure, pressure or guilt. It makes you instantly successful, so to speak, in your endeavors to pray for people, and sometimes a little success is what we need to compel us on. Most importantly, it ensures that people's prayer needs are in fact getting prayed for - which is the ultimate goal, right?
Plus, it gets you praying through out your day ... keeping you connected to God rather than procrastinating until a later time when you have a big plans to connect with Him in a big prayer session (which doesn't always materialize).
I'm convinced the Enemy keeps us from praying at all by getting us to put it off until later ... making us think we need more time to do this thing right. Yes, at times I pray for people at length or over a long period of time but that's a topic for another post. I don't let that possibility stop me from pausing and praying the moment I encounter a request or a Spirit-led impulse to pray.Martyn Lloyd-Jones once advised, "Always respond to every impulse to pray. The impulse to pray may come when you are reading or when you are battling with a text. I would make an absolute law of this – always obey such an impulse."
So friends, if ever you see me post a prayer request here - like the one I wrote the other day for my book "Can You Keep a Secret?" and for an upcoming message I have to give on lust - what I'm hoping you'll do is pause and pray just a few seconds on my behalf about those things. And you can rest assured that when you post a prayer request in the comments here, I will do the same. Deal? Together we can move the hand of God through prayer! Stay tuned ...