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Day 1: You Are Called to Pray
As it is the business of tailors to mend clothes and cobblers to make shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray.
- —Martin Luther
We begin our journey of growing in prayer (and intimacy with God) by acknowledging that prayer is not only for beginners but also for mature believers. Otherwise, there would be no point in trying to grow in it! The Lord calls every believer to a life of prayer—no matter how long he has been saved or how experienced he is in this discipline. The best thing all of us can do to improve ourselves, our lives, and our relationships is to grow in prayer.
Jesus made it clear that we cannot walk in the fullness of our destinies in God without growing in prayer. He said that unless we abide in Him, we can do nothing related to bearing fruit for His kingdom or maturing in our spiritual lives (John 15:5). How do we abide in Him? The core activity of abiding in Christ is prayer—simply talking to Jesus.
Because we are not the source of spiritual life ourselves, we cannot generate it, nor can we receive it unless we abide in Christ. Just as it is impossible for us to jump a hundred feet even if we push ourselves, it is impossible for us to generate spiritual life. It is not an issue of practice; we were not created to be able to jump a hundred feet! And neither were we created to have Spirit-life while living independently of the Spirit. We must abide in Christ and grow in prayer to make our lives work.
The Holy Spirit will move in a new and powerful way in your heart and life as you take time to grow in prayer. The change may not happen overnight, but it will most certainly happen. The discipline of prayer will eventually become delight in prayer. Dryness in prayer will gradually be replaced by a vibrant dialogue with God that will change your life and result in many answered prayers.
I invite you to begin the next stage of your journey in prayer right now. There is no better time than today. Do not wait for a special spiritual experience to begin to grow in prayer. We grow in prayer by actually praying. Beginners in prayer mature simply by praying more. It is the same principle we embrace when learning to play a musical instrument—we become better the more we practice.
What Can I Do?
One step you can take that will help you grow in prayer is to set a schedule for regular prayer times. A schedule establishes when you will pray, and it will help you to be consistent in talking to Jesus. You must not limit your prayer life to your scheduled prayer time, and you may never keep more than 70 percent to 80 percent of your scheduled times of prayer. But I have found that I pray much more consistently if I block out time on my schedule that is devoted to spending time with Jesus.
“He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
- Lord, forgive me for not realizing how essential prayer is to my spiritual growth and for not making it a priority in my life. Help me to set aside time daily for focused communication with You.
Day 2: From Duty to Delight
He who has learned to pray has learned the greatest secret of a holy and happy life.
- —William Law
In my younger days I loved Jesus but dreaded spending time in prayer. I saw prayer as a necessary duty I had to endure if I wanted to receive more blessing.
In the summer of 1974 one of my youth leaders exhorted me to set aside an hour every day for prayer, and I determined to try. I was a freshman at the University of Missouri, living in a student apartment with three other believers. I told them, “I will pray an hour a day, even if it kills me.” My announcement brought an element of accountability, knowing that each night they would watch me to see if I actually kept my commitment. So I set my prayer time from nine to ten each night. I referred to it as the “hour of death” because it was so boring I felt as if I was going to die.
At 9:00 p.m. I began my hour of prayer by mentioning everything I could think of to God. I exhausted my entire list in about two minutes: “Thank You, Jesus, for my health, for food, for my friends. Please help me score touchdowns on the university football team, and help me make good grades . . . ” I looked at my watch, and I still had fifty-eight minutes to go! Some of those prayers were never answered. I did make the university football team, but I never made any touchdowns, and I made only average grades.
I endured that dreadful hour night after night. I did not like it at all. I enjoyed activities such as going to worship services and attending Bible studies to hear teaching. I liked engaging in ministry activity and going on missions trips. But when I got alone to pray or read the Bible, I found it confusing and boring. However, I really wanted to grow in God, so I knew I had to stick with this “prayer thing” until I developed a real life in prayer. I was determined—but not very hopeful that it would work for me.
My friend Larry Lea encouraged me by declaring that when we persist in prayer, our prayer life progresses from duty to discipline to delight. I was not sure how it would happen, but I fiercely resolved to find out. By the grace of God, it “worked.”
To be successful, I needed a new perspective on prayer: I needed to know what prayer is and why the Lord insists on it. Isaiah prophesied that the Lord would make His servants joyful in His house of prayer (Isa. 56:7). Here Isaiah referred to a new paradigm for prayer: prayer characterized by joy. It is what I like to call “enjoyable prayer.” The Lord desires that the church be surprised by joy in communicating with Him.
What Can I Do?
Start with a manageable amount of time set aside for prayer each day—maybe fifteen minutes—and stick to it. As you persist, ask the Holy Spirit to help you progress from duty to discipline to delight. Eventually your prayer time will increase as you are caught up in the delight of communing with your heavenly Father.
“I will bring [them] to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer” (Isa. 56:7).
- Lord, I long to progress from duty to discipline unto delight as I spend time with You. Take me by the hand and lead me into Your house of prayer so that I may experience prayer that is enjoyable. Oh, that I may experience the joyful delight of communing with You today.
Day 3: A Place of Encounter
Prayer should not be regarded as a duty which must be performed, but rather as a privilege to be enjoyed, a rare delight that is always revealing some new beauty.
- —E. M. Bounds
First and foremost, prayer is about encountering God and growing in relationship with Him. In prayer we position ourselves to receive fresh insight into His heart as new desires are formed in our hearts, enabling us to commune deeply with Him. Prayer positions us to be energized to love—to love God and people. Yes, it is biblical to pray to get answers and to see God’s power. But prayer is first of all an opportunity to commune with God.
The call to prayer is a call to participate in the love that has forever burned in God’s heart. From eternity past, the Father has loved the Son with all His heart, and the Son has loved the Father with the same intensity. This love is the foundational reality of the kingdom of God. It is this very reality that we participate in as we grow in prayer, and it is what prayer is mostly about—that is, participating in the family dynamics of the Godhead.
God created the human race to share His love. Why? Simply because “God is love” (1 John 4:16).
God’s heart burns with love, and He calls us to experience it—to enter into what I refer to as “the fellowship of the burning heart.” Salvation is an invitation to this fellowship.
What Can I Do?
As you pray today, actively position yourself to receive the love of God, and ask the Holy Spirit to draw you into the fellowship of the burning heart.
“And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).
- Lord, I will seek daily prayer encounters with You, not only to strengthen our relationship but to partake of the abiding love that is only found when I am in Your presence.
Day 4: Prayer That Produces Results
It is not enough to begin to pray . . . but we must patiently, believingly continue in prayer until we obtain an answer.
- —George Müller
We do not pray “ just to pray.” Yes, we pray to commune with God, but we also pray so that things will change and God’s blessings will be released in us and through us. There is a point to our prayers. In the apostle James’ teaching on prayer, he wrote of the power of prayer: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). Effective prayer accomplishes much and leads to real results. Jesus taught His disciples, saying, “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:14).
We are to pray in faith believing that God will answer them by releasing a greater measure of His blessing and power. Jesus often affirmed people who had faith to receive from Him. On the other hand, He rebuked those who could not receive because of their lack of faith in Him.
Matthew 17:14–21 recounts the story of the man who brought his epileptic son to the disciples to be healed but was disappointed because “they could not cure him.” Publicly, Jesus expressed pain over the “faithless and perverse generation” and then healed the boy instantly. Later, in private, when the disciples asked why they could not drive the demon out of the boy, Jesus stated the reason simply and categorically: “Because of your unbelief.” He added that nothing would be impossible for those who pray with faith. We are called to be channels of His blessing and healing to others. The disciples learned much from Jesus: when they prayed in faith and obedience, things changed. The same will be true of us.
What Can I Do?
Practice childlike faith as you pray to the Father today. And don’t be afraid to say, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!” He longs to draw you into the fellowship of the Trinity.
“Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:24).
- Lord, forgive me for not always trusting You to answer my prayers. I will believe in Your power to guide me in faith and provide results.
Day 5: Prayer Unleashes Blessings
A glimpse of Jesus will save you. To gaze at Him will sanctify you.
- —Manley Beasley
The Lord longs to be gracious, to release a greater measure of His grace and blessing to us. He will surely do this at the sound of our cry—when He hears it, He will answer us. Receiving more from God is not about convincing Him to be willing to give us more. Rather, it is about God’s convincing His people to pray for more with confidence.
Blessings are promised to those who come to God and ask. Therefore, if we pray, the quality of our natural and spiritual lives will improve. For example, the measure in which we receive insight from the Holy Spirit will increase, and our thirsty hearts will encounter God more deeply.
By praying, we can both release God’s blessing in greater measure and cut off the work of the enemy, who seeks to devour our finances, break our bodies, ruin our relationships, oppress our hearts, and destroy our families. God opens doors of blessing and closes doors of oppression in response to prayer. When we pray, doors of demonic oppression can be shut. We have authority in Jesus’ name to stop demonic activity and to release angelic activity in our lives and the lives of others.
God will not do our part, and we cannot do His part. God requires that we cooperate with Him according to His supernatural grace. This is an expression of His desire for intimate partnership with us. Only through a lifestyle of prayer can we receive the fullness of what God has promised.
What Can I Do?
Ask the Lord to open doors of blessing in your life and the lives of your loved ones in a greater measure. Ask Him to close doors of oppression so that demonic interference will be shut down.
“The Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. . . . He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you” (Isa. 30:18–19, NASB).
- Lord, grant me the ability to pray with great confidence. You are such a gracious God—always ready to respond to my cries. I seek to unleash Your blessings through prayer and receive them with a spirit of joy.
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