Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Teach Me How to Pray - part 2

One of the biggest misconceptions I had about prayer was that I always needed to spend a lot of time at it to do it “right.”

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 ...


  1. Deal.
    Thank you for your words Rachel.

    Have a fantastic day.

  2. DEAL!

    I wholeheartedly agree with your thoughts in this post. Thank you for the reassurance that it is better to pray quickly now, than to put it off till I have more time.

    And thank you for reminding us all of Jesus' example of how to pray and that "The Lord's Prayer" is in fact short and to the point.

    Thank you for the boost! I'm going to go pray while I change a load of clothes I'm washing!


  3. Wow, I really feel a release from this post. I pray the way that Rachel talks about in Part 2 and still felt like I wasn't doing enough. I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself and when it comes to prayer life and spending alone time with God that is a big pressure cooker for me! I realize that God hears all prayer but always feel like I'm cheating. But as you pointed out The Lord's Prayer isn't all that long and touches on all the points we need to make. I have friends that have spent hours with God in prayer and communion and I feel like a Loser for not doing that. But I am coming to realize that God deals with us as individuals and He knows exactly how to work with and through us to get His Kingdom advanced. Thanks Rachel and I look forward to more post on this subject.
    Ingyr, Columbus, OH

  4. Thanks, Rachel,you always know exactly what we need to hear.

  5. Thanks for that Rachel. I think there's room for both the "now" and the "continual" but they are different. "Now" is the response that you made to me, and I to you, for something specific that we each had concerns about. "Continual" is having your name on my list (on my desk at work) and every now and then, maybe not even everyday, quietly saying people's names and asking for God's blessing on them wherever they are and whatever they're doing.

  6. Dear heavenly Father, I thank you for Rachel's wisdom and guidance on praying and I ask that you bless her and grant her her prayer requests to hear your voice, follow your lead, make significant progress on her book this month, and that she get a handle on what You want her to talk about in her upcoming lesson on lust. In Jesus' name I ask this, Amen.

  7. FABULOUS post, Rachel!!
    And you've got a deal! ;)

  8. wonderful post!! I prayED for you and your book and upcoming lesson. Blog on!!

  9. Hi, Rachel. I just saw your comment on Lysa's blog about lust. :)

    You definitely need Is That All He Thinks About? ;) And the Blushing Bride book has a chapter specifically on that topic as well (ch. 10). I'm just sayin'. ;)

    Have a great night!

  10. I like the email suggestion - I most often do say a sentence prayer while reading a request and reply that I will remember in prayer. So now I will reply that I have prayed instead!

  11. Hi rachel.

    That is what i do when someone ask me to pray for them,I usually do it on the spot.Here in Malaysia, we use a lot of our hand phones to sms each other.I think also in the states too.So if someone sends me a text for prayer, i will type out the prayer for her/him via sms and send it to them.My friends enjoy the idea so much that they are also doing it.Its really amazing what technology can do and i think its important like you said to pray NOW.I really live praying and you can count on me to keep you and the others in prayer.

    Sweet Blessings

  12. I can identify with Ingyr13. What a release! I once heard the pastor of the church I was attending at the time asking us as the congregation, how much time we suppose we spend in prayer and I pretty much have felt guilty ever since! I supposed that if my prayers are so fragmented they can't be put together well enough to count it just simply can't be called prayer. In my heart I knew I was communicating with my Father but I still have struggled with the idea that I have to do better. NO more! I will now spend my energy in praying immediately and from the heart and allow myself to be blessed.
    On another note, could I request prayer for the sweet little 3 year old of friends of ours--Kira--who is on life support with no brain activity at all since Thursday the 19th. After a few days of flu-like symptoms she suddenly quit breathing. The doctors have discovered she has a serious bacterial infection which her body was not able to handle. Although the family knows their daughter will be healed--either here or in heaven, they are asking us all to pray for a miracle! Especially ask that no matter what, God be glorified! Thank you!

  13. Pauline, I have prayed for Kira and her family! I pray that God will comfort the family with the knowledge and the hope of Him as the Almighty Healer and the Constant Provider.

    Rachel, thanks for your post. I agree with 5SKIS; DEAL!

    Our women's Bible Study group at church just finished the study by Jennifer Kennedy Dean on Leading a Praying Life (thank you so much for the recommendation Rachel). She also has some very good "quick" ways to pray that ease you into a life of prayer. Her analogy was that prayers are like a deep river that is flowing through you at all times, and you just need to tap into this flow with your conscious thought.

    I pray the Lord's prayer every night, but I pray it like the Amplified Bible; that is I add to each phrase based on the need the Spirit lays on my heart. It goes something like this; "Elohim (God of Gods), El-olam (Eternal God), Yahweh jira (Provider)... Hollowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come (now on Earth through me, and to come with the Your return), thy will be done (in all things, and let my prayers spur your will on earth)..." etc. This I find to be very freeing. If I have nothing to add to a particular phrase that day, I simply state the phrase as given by Jesus. The whole prayer time takes 15 minutes, though Jennifer, at the end of her study challenges us to pray for an hour at a time... I have not made it to that auspicious mark... :)

    Another great resource is “Praying the Names of God” by Ann Spangler. She takes a new name a week (for 26 weeks) and defines its, analyses it, and teaches you to pray it (see the names above… :))

    God be with you as you pray,


  14. Your posts on prayer hit home for me. I always tend to think that I don't spend enough time in prayer. But where are the rules? You are so right about the time element.

    Something I've been doing, because I truly want to honor others when I tell them I will pray for them, is I write on my bathroom mirror with an Expo marker the requests that I know I will be praying for long term.

    It feels so good to follow through.

    Blessings to you, Rachel.


  15. Rachel,
    Thanks for this. I have questioned myself so many times about my prayer life. I love the concept of praying "on the spot" I have done that in the past but never made a habit of it. Will Now!!
    I have prayed for you and Kira and Pauline.

    Love in Christ,


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