By now in this study on prayer, you’ve realized it’s not that easy to stay in prayer. We have enemies known as the flesh and the devil that want to keep us disconnected from God. They are the greatest adversaries to prayer. They like to whisper things like, “You’re too tired to pray. You don’t have time. Just skip it. You have better things to do anyway. Why should God take notice of your prayers anyway?” One of the things that I find distracting to my own prayer life, especially when spending any length of time in intercessory prayer, is the to-do list that comes to mind.
It’s comforting to know that we are not the first people to struggle with prayer. The Apostle Peter, if you’ll remember, kept falling asleep on Jesus while praying in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:42-43). Jesus told Peter to watch and pray that he might not enter into temptation because though the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak (Mark 14:39). Peter clearly learned from his sleepy episode in the garden of Gethsemane, for in 1 Peter 4:7 he says, “Be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.” In 1 Peter 5:7 he says, “cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. You adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Prayer is a connection with God that is crucial to living a victorious life over despair and temptation, so it’s important we learn to stay connected. I just want to give you a couple of personal tips that I use to stay connected during extended periods of prayer. As I share these two tips, understand that these are not something I use daily, nor are they tips that I think everyone must do. I just find them helpful at times. Take them or leave them.
Staying Persistent Tip #1 - Pray with a pen handy.
Like I said, when I pray, the to-do list starts to come to my mind, and I’m tempted to quit praying and get with it! First let me say, this is totally normal. It’s expected when we’re praying about things going on in our life and the things we are going to work on that day. Maybe, through prayer, we sense God’s prompting to do something that we hadn’t previously thought of. One of the things I do to stay connected in prayer rather than start the to-do list, is to keep a pen handy so I can write those things down. This way, I know I won’t forget and I can move on with the rest of my prayer time. If you don’t have a pen handy, maybe punch the thought down in the notes application on your phone. Just about all of us have a phone handy.
Staying Persistent Tip #2 - Try using prayer cards.
I have 3x5 cards with things that I need to be praying for regularly. I have cards for different areas of my life such as a husband, father, and pastor. I have a prayer card for my wife and things she asks for prayer for. I have a card for our church, and one for special requests. I have one for each of my kids. On these cards I have both long and short term requests. The long-term requests I link with Scripture and pray the Scripture. For example, “Lord, help me to love my wife like Christ loves the Church” or “Help me to bring up my children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, being careful not to exasperate them.” When I see patternable unChrist-like tendencies in my kids that I know may take decades to overcome and only by the Spirit of Christ, I pray Scripture for them. “Lord, keep my children from a love of this world.” We pray regularly(!), “Father, help us to be at peace with one another and look out for each other’s interests and not our own.” I don’t use these cards every day, but I do find that they keep me on track with long-term, eternal matters and in those times when I just don’t know what to pray for. Also, if I don’t write some requests down, I often don’t pray for them at all. These cards keep me from saying, “I’ll pray for you,” and then later asking myself, “What was I going to pray for?”
Staying Persistent Tip #3 - Try something different.
Maybe you're sitting up and praying and looking around and you feel yourself distracted, trying switching positions or locations. Try praying on your knees if you are able. The Apostle Paul, I think, was a man who liked to pray in a humble posture on his knees. In Ephesians he talks about bowing his knees before the Father. In Acts 20, him and the Ephesians elders pray on their knees on the beach before Paul sets sail again. Sometimes just trying something different can help you stay in prayer longer.
We are in a spiritual battle. This battle involves prayer. The flesh and the devil don’t want us to pray, so Paul, complementing the “armor of God” in Ephesians 6:18, says this: “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for the saints.”
In Christ with you,
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