“For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.’’
“Sweet hour of prayer! Sweet hour of prayer!
That calls me from a world of care,
And bids me at my Father’s throne
Make all my wants and wishes known.”
William Walford – Author of Hymn Sweet Hour of Prayer
A good friend of mine once told me that while in college, he would have to drive several hours every other weekend to visit his wife (then girlfriend). The drive to her place was easy because he was so excited to see her. But the drive home was the worst. Since they didn’t see each other that much, they would hang out until the last minute Sunday night. That meant my friend would have to drive late at night. The route home was mostly back woods so there was not a whole lot to keep his attention. My friend said it was the hardest thing to do to stay awake. He would blast the music, put all the windows down, and drink a big coffee. But he said his body still just wanted to sleep.
Have you ever felt this way in prayer? It could be the middle of the day and you haven’t felt tired all day. But as soon as you go to pray, you find yourself dozing off. I know I have! And the disciples did as well.
Jesus found His disciples asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane. He had asked them to pray for Him, but they fell asleep. He asked them a question they never forgot. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” (Matthew 26:40) Jesus was saying, “Here I am being crucified tomorrow – is one hour too much to ask?”
Yesterday, we said the issue is not the amount of time you pray. God doesn’t need for you to talk a lot, but being in His presence for any length of time will do amazing things for your life. Today we are going to talk about how you can do that. I would like to present one possible plan to you from Dick Eastman, who wrote a book entitled The Hour That Changes The World. He describes a way you can pray for an hour in 12 periods of about five minutes each. As you become more comfortable praying about each segment, it will be a challenge to contain all you want to say in five minutes per segment. Once you do this a few times, you may not want to go back to your old prayer life.
- Start your prayer with praise and worship. The Bible says, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 115:1) Just as in the Lord’s Prayer when you start by hallowing God’s Name and praising His Name, you will start this prayer by lifting Him up. He is your Creator, how could you not praise Him? He is your Savior, the One who has given you salvation. He is a great God; He is omnipresent, omniscient, all-knowing, He is amazing! Pick a different theme of praise each time you pray.
- Wait on the Lord. This is an act of surrender and love. When you are in the Lord’s presence, spend some time in silence. The Bible says, “Be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10) Just be in God’s presence; knowing He is there; knowing you are with Him. Experience His love and surrender to Him in those moments. It gets you ready for the rest of your prayer time.
- Confession. This is a time of introspection, when you say, “Search me, O God; know my heart; know my thoughts; and if there is any wicked way in me; test me where I am anxious,” (Psalm 139:23) Confess any sins to the Lord as it says in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” It is only because of the cross that we can be forgiven.
- Pray Scripture. That means you take your Bible and pray back to God what you read. You might find a warning and say, “Lord, keep me from this.” You might find a promise and say, “Lord, I claim this promise.” You might say, “Lord, thank You for the faithfulness You showed to Hannah when You gave her that baby boy.” Or “Lord, thank You for how You delivered David from Goliath, from the bear, from the lion.” Whatever you find, just talk it back to God. That is praying scripture.
- Watch. The Bible says in Colossians 4:2, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Watching means you are going to ask the Lord, “What is it that I have to watch out for in my life spiritually? What are the things that could come into my life and trip me up? What is going on that I am not seeing?” The things that are unseen are just as real as the things that are seen. They may even be more real. “Lord, help me to see the unseen.” That’s watching.
- Intercede. 1 Timothy 2:1-2, “I urge, then, first of all, that
requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for
everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” We pray for other people, other believers, those in authority – we intercede for them. Later we’ll talk about a prayer list, but you might need to make a list for intercession because there are so many people who need our prayer.
- Petition. This is asking for things you need. “Give us this day our daily bread.” You only have five minutes in this 60 minutes of prayer to pray for yourself – better make it quick.
- Give thanks. 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” God’s will is that you are thankful, so take five minutes of your prayer time and express your thankfulness for what He has done in your life; for what He has done for you.
- Sing. Psalm 100 talks about this. This is serious! You are probably snickering, saying, “God doesn’t want to hear my song.” But He does! “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” You can make up songs, or sing a song you know. Find a solitary place where you can be alone and just pray and sing to the Lord. It will change your worship.
- Meditate. Psalm 1:1-2, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” You are going to be firmly established in your faith when you meditate on the Lord. Think about Him; think about who He is; think about obedience to Him; maybe take a portion of Scripture and meditate on it for five minutes. Meditate on God in His presence.
- Listen. Ecclesiastes 5:2, “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” In other words, listen to God. You will be amazed how God can speak to you.
- Praise. We end our prayer with praise, just as in The Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:13, (King James Version) “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.” End your prayer by thanking God for who He is and praising God for who He is.
- Remember my friend who had trouble staying awake while driving home? Remember how on his way to his girlfriend’s he didn’t have any trouble staying awake? Well, my hope is that these 12 prayer tips will help make your prayer life more like his trip to his girlfriend’s house. When we learn how to pray and learn its importance for our lives, we can get excited! That excitement can help us fight against the distractions we face while praying. So today, give these 12 prayer periods a try and allow your time in prayer to increase.