And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” Mark 9:29
I am reprinting a few posts that I wrote four years ago during an extended stay at the Cleveland Clinic. The trip involved a helicopter ride, a heart attack, a week in a coma and 6 weeks learning to walk. Many of you know the story and those that don’t can read about it here. Toward the end of the process, I began writing about the experience and this time of year I go back and revisit those posts. I am sharing a few posts from those days that have been helpful to me and others.
If you missed last week, I talked about the importance or praying before the trouble starts. This week, is about developing a simple plan for daily prayer.
There are all sorts of complicated plans that I could have developed for my personal Bible reading and prayer, but I figured that the harder I make it, the less likely I would be to do it. So, I kept it simple. Simple is good for me. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to call this “devotional time.” It is time spent with God talking to Him and reading His word. I will talk in other posts about the kind of Bible study where you dig into specific topics or questions.
Start by picking a consistent time. Many people like their devotional time in the mornings before they start the day. My time is in the evening as I close my day. The reason was more by default than by plan and you can read about it here. [Editor’s note – since writing this, I have changed to a morning devotional time.] If you can take time in the morning, I think that is a good choice. Whatever time you pick, be consistent. You want this to become a habit and that takes a period of consistent repetition.
Open your time with prayer. Putting aside all the theological stuff, prayer is talking to God. Does God already know you and what you need, sure, but He likes to hear from you. Haven’t prayed in a while. No problem, a simple model to get you started is the acronym ACTS.
“A” stands for acknowledgement or adoration. Begin by acknowledging that you are talking to the God of the universe. It doesn’t need to be overly formal. As you read Jesus prayers or the Psalms, you will get an idea of how to start. You may just start with, “Dear God, thank you that you want to spend time with me and that you care for me. Please guide me as I pray because I am new at this.” The more comfortable you become the easier it will be to get started.
“C” is for confession. We all fall down. Even the best people fail and normal people mess up all the time. God’s standard is perfection. He is perfect and he wants us to be perfect. Of course, we can’t be perfect on our own and I’ll write more on that later. I like to think of confession as “clearing the air” with God. He knows where I have failed, I know where I have failed, let’s get it out there and admit. The great thing about confession is that I can ask for forgiveness, cleansing and healing. Tell God where you have failed and where you need Him. Can’t think of anything to confess? Ask God to show you. If you keep in mind the two greatest commandments: love God and love your neighbor as yourself, you will probably think of some things to get started.
“T” is for thanksgiving. What are you thankful for? How has God blessed you? Let Him know that you noticed and you are thankful for it. The Bible teaches that we should be thankful in all circumstances and not just for the good things. You may not be there yet, but there are things in your life to be thankful for. As you grow in this area, you will be able to thank God for the struggles and trials because He will use them to make you look like Jesus. As hard as it may be to believe, that is His goal, that we become more like Jesus every day.
“S” is for supplication, a fancy word for “asking for stuff.” It rounds out the acronym and makes is easy to remember. You may have thought of prayer as only asking for stuff, I hope this helps you see that there is more to it than that. At the same time, you might believe that asking for stuff is selfish or wrong. It’s OK to take your cares and concerns to God and ask Him to get involved. You can pray for yourself and for other people. God wants you to bring your cares and concerns to Him and He will respond. Keep a prayer journal. Write down the things you are praying about and asking God to get involved in and then write down how He responds. It is a great faith-building experience.
I always close my prayer with “In Jesus name, amen.” The “amen” is just how Christians traditionally say “OK, I’m finished praying now.” The “in Jesus name” is important because Jesus tells us to pray in his name. So, I’m not going to change that. Again, there is a lot of theology that supports it. But, basically, it is through Jesus that we have the right to pray and ask God for anything. That’s enough reason for me to close with ‘In Jesus name, amen.”
There you have it. As you grow comfortable with prayer, you won’t need this model. Just like building a relationship with anyone else, as you build your relationship with God, you will find that you have a lot to talk about and that you and God are talking all the time. Pick a time and place and get started. Commit to it now. Next week I will talk about a simple Bible reading plan that I have used for years to get daily input from the Bible.
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