A Simple Plan for Daily Prayer

I suppose there are all sorts of complicated plans that you could develop for Bible reading and prayer, but I figure that the harder I make it, the less likely I am to do it.  So, I keep 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 have enough 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 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 ultimate goal, that we become more like Jesus every day.

“S” is for supplication, a fancy word for “asking for stuff” that 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 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 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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Pray Now

Mark 9:14-28:  [14] *And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. [15] And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him [Jesus], were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. [16] And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” [17] And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. [18] And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and *they were not able.” [19] And he answered them, “O *faithless generation, *how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.”[20] And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it *convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. [21] And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. [22] And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But *if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” [23] And Jesus said to him, *“If you can! *All things are possible for one who believes.” [24] Immediately the father of the child cried out * and said, “I believe; *help my unbelief!” [25] And when Jesus saw that *a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, *“You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” [26] And after crying out and *convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” [27] But Jesus *took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. [28] And when he had *entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” [29] And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

One of the things I have noticed as we are going through this process is that I don’t worry about the outcome.  [You can read the original series of posts from 2014 starting here.]  At this point, it appears that God will heal me completely and that I will walk again. There have been enough worrisome things happen to us that I might fret a little about what is next or what we will do.  But, instead I find a peace that passes understanding and the assurance that comes from knowing that God holds the future.  He has already determined what will happen and my responsibility is to follow His leading and cooperate.

This conclusion is not based on some blinding revelation from God but, rather, on the years I have spent building a foundation of prayer, Bible study, and studying God’s character.  I believe in an unchanging God who loves me unconditionally and who will work all things together for my good because I am called according to His purpose  (Romans 8:28-30).  All of the truth that I have stored up is now ready to use and God has the raw material to build this situation into the outcome that He desires.  I could not imagine coming into this situation unprepared.  I would be overwhelmed with questions about why bad things happen to good people, why it feels like God is punishing me, and what would have happened if I died.  I will talk about all of those topics over the next days and weeks.

When you go on a vacation, you probably plan for it months in advance.  A journey like I am on starts in a heartbeat.  You must always be ready.  I chose the scripture for the opening because it highlights that important point.  Mark tells us that Jesus told the disciples that they could not cast out the unclean spirit because this kind only comes out with prayer.  But, as you read, Jesus did not pray, he simply commanded it to leave.  The disciples couldn’t command the spirit to leave and apparently did not think to pray.  Jesus, as the Son of God, clearly had authority to simply banish the spirit.  But, Jesus was also a man of prayer.  This event was the day after the transfiguration.  Jesus was undoubtedly up early and in prayer about his day.  He was ready when he encountered the boy with the unclean spirit.  The spirit came out with prayer because Jesus had gone into the situation with prayer.

My goal is to live in a state of readiness.  I don’t know what I will encounter, but I know that there will be trials and temptations along the way.  And, sometimes, there are experiences like I have had that are completely unforeseeable.  On June 12, I never would have expected to be where I am today.  Without the years I spent in prayer, Bible study, and learning about God, I never would have been ready.  This has been the greatest physical challenge I have ever faced.   The spiritual battle has been ferocious,  there is an adversary, and for some reason he does not want me well.  But, I am trusting the grace and mercy of my unchanging God to lead me through this process and bring me out stronger and better because of it.

What should you be doing?  I will talk in my next post about my approach to daily Bible study and a simple outline for jump-starting your prayer life.  Think of it as preparing your “life’s journey emergence suitcase.”  You want it filled with prayer, Bible and a firm knowledge of who God is.  Sometimes you will pull things out of it as you need them and sometimes you may be called to live out of it for a while.  Either way, you want it to be ready.