I am often stung by the words of Jesus to his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Could you not keep watch with me for an hour? Watch and pray so that you do not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the body is weak.” (read Matthew 26:40-41). I realize that prayer is one of the most difficult things for many of us to practice and make an important part of our life.
Why do we spend so little time each week communicating with the closest and most important Person in our life? We never purposefully allocate a few minutes to our closest friends (unless we are mad at them) – quality time and intentional communication are what builds intimate and mutually supportive relationships. Allow me to suggest some efforts that can deepen our communication with our Savior:
First, there are many different ways to pray, and many purposes for varied expressions of prayer. The aim of prayer could be confession, repentance, intercession, thanksgiving and adoration, listening, or even solitude. The key is to remember that God hears us and desires to chat with us. Do not get caught up in “categories” of prayer and miss the chance of a simple conversation with God.
Second, Martin Luther, who helped launch the Protestant Reformation, used to structure a time of prayer in what he called a “garland of prayer.” The garland is made up of four strands that you pray through using texts such as the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), the Beatitudes (Mathew 5:3-12), and a Psalm (like 103). Read through a verse of the Lord’s Prayer, one commandment, one beatitude, and a line of a Psalm and ask: 1) What does this text require of me? 2) What does it tell me to be thankful for? 3) What does it tell me to confess, or what temptations does it make me aware of? 4) What does it cause me to pray about? How should I pray for others? Then pray through the verses, one strand at a time. The four questions comprise four strands that when prayed in concert with Scripture, contribute to a beautiful garland, full of significance and beauty.
Third, another approach to prayer is using the acronym ACTS: A = adoration; C = confession; T = thanksgiving; and S = supplication. Begin with praise to God for who he is, move to confession, then to thanksgiving, and finally pray for others and needs outside of yourself. A good source for local/global intercession could be the campus newspaper.
One final idea is to pray using the names of God. Take one day and simply honor the Lord for who He is, not asking for anything. Reflect on a name of God throughout the day, week, or month. Here are some names of God from the Old Testament: Jehovah Tsidkenu = the Lord our righteousness; Jehovah Shalom = the Lord our peace; Jehovah Rophe = the Lord who heals; Jehovah Shammah = the Lord who is present; Jehovah Nissi = the Lord our banner; Jehovah Jireh = the Lord our provider; Jehovah Rohi = the Lord our shepherd; and Jehovah Mekaddishkem = the Lord who sanctifies. Meditating on each of these can aid our understanding of who God is and deepen our appreciation of His character and actions.
Grow devotionally. Each of us can improve our two-way communication with God.
Love is a verb,