This past weekend I issued a challenge (if you want to call it that). Let’s not just treat “House of Prayer” as a new sermon series. Let’s actually do what God is saying concerning prayer. So the challenge was this: Take 15 minutes every day this week to get alone with God, Bible open and ask Him to speak to you.
I thought it might be a good idea to give you some helpful tips as you go for it this week. I am also really excited about the possibilities this provides your relationship with God. I am spending some of my time praying for all of you to hear from Him. So let’s get to it.
1. Literally SHUT the door.
I started my 15 minutes last night and forgot to shut the door. Everyone else was already in bed (my only chance to have total quiet in the house with 3 children), therefore I thought an open door would be fine. Nope. For some reason I really didn’t sense the presence of God until the door was shut. Jesus said “shut the door” for this reason. It sends a physical signal to our spiritual senses. We are not going to allow outside distraction in.
2. Literally SHUT down all devices.
The TV, smartphone, tablet and computer should be powered off. I also avoided this for the first few minutes last night giving myself the justification that I always use the Bible program on my computer to read the scriptures. Again, this presented my mind with a host of opportunities for distraction. Computers are like smartphones with their notification system nowadays. I was just a ding away from a new email to read or a message through the desktop application for my texts. Shutting down the devices is another way of shutting the door. You are eliminating the opportunity for distraction.
God shows up in real ways when we worship. It is not a coincidence Jesus instructs us to open with praise in the model prayer: “Hallowed by your name.” Worship sets the stage for God to show up in our midst. I have also found that when we first start with magnifying God, our minds start putting our problems and issues into perspective. Recently, scientists discovered that the universe is a whole lot bigger than we even thought. Of course it’s bigger than we thought. The scriptures teach “the heavens declare the GLORY of God” (Psalm 19:1). God is bigger than we think! Now Psalm 19 first talks up the glory of God (verses 1-6), then turns its attention to the voice of God speaking (verses 7-11) and finally moves to prayer (Verses 12-14). I think that’s a great pattern for our prayer life. When we exalt who He is, His voice gets much clearer and the conversation begins.
4. Be quiet.
Don’t rush into sending words to God. Start by saying, “Father, I’m here.” Then sit quietly in His presence. Jesus said, “go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.” I thought about this: God is already there! He’s waiting for you to show up. So when you do, don’t start filling the air with your words. A good scripture in this regard comes from Ecclesiastes 5, written by a man FILLED with wisdom (Solomon):
Ecclesiastes 5:1–2 (ESV) Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. 2 Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.”
5. Bring a Paper Bible.
The lack of electronic devices means you have to go old school. So bring your favorite Bible into this time with you and God.
6. Open to the Psalms.
We did a message series on the Psalms in the Summer of 2015. The big idea of that series was while the rest of the Bible is God’s Word to us, the Psalms are our words to God. Reading and reciting the Psalms to God are a great way to learn how to pray. After all, most of the Psalms are prayers from people who wrote the Bible! You can’t go wrong. Psalms also depict the vast array of human experience with God. The Psalms are filled with praise, adoration and love for God. They are also filled with doubt, insecurity, impatience and frustration with God. If you’ve ever felt any of those things – you are not alone. God has provided you with a guidebook on how to express everything in your heart to God.
7. Thoughts matter.
As you meditate on God’s Word, stop and sit a while. It will not be long before a name, an issue or perhaps a place will pop into your mind. This is what happened to me last night. I couldn’t stop thinking about a particular person. So I spent a bulk of my prayers just offering up a line at a time to God for them. It wasn’t rapid fire speech. It was a phrase, silence, another phrase, silence. At the end of my prayers for this person, I felt the real sense of God’s presence in the room. It walk like God was putting His heart into my heart for this person. It’s commanded repeatedly in the scriptures to “pray for one another.” I believe when we do, God shows up. After all, the second greatest commandment is about loving each other.
These are just some guidelines that I use and I hope will help you in your prayer life. I’m excited to think about all the ways God is going to speak to YOU – His children – this week. I am also hoping this becomes more than a 7 day challenge. I pray it becomes a daily habit for your life. An effective prayer life will bless and empower you in ways you never thought possible!
Don’t forget about our First Wednesday corporate prayer time (6-7pm).
See you there!