I am all about intentional prayer. I pray for big stuff and for ridiculous things. I pray with my clients and I pray for my clients. I pray at meals and in church. Actually, this sounds like a Dr. Seuss book on prayer. The point is that I believe in the power of prayer.
It creeps up on me and I find that maybe I am just going through the motions. God says He wants us to pray without ceasing, however, I am sure he would rather our constant babbling have meaning, concern, thanks, and sincere praise.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
I know this with all of my heart, mind, and soul. I just don’t realize that maybe I am only praying because of habit like at mealtime or at the end of a client session. I look in my journal and the last entry has been twenty days.
I wonder what God is thinking about my pathetic effort.
Then it occurs to me that if I can give such lackluster attention when communicating with God, what does my communication with people look like?
Recently this has been me. I am still praying, but I’m not getting anywhere.
The Key Is Intentionality
I was starting to feel moments of anxiousness. There is nothing like the feeling of an oncoming panic attack to change one’s apathetic excuse for a prayer into a crying out of one’s heart.
I am all of a sudden talking to Jesus in earnest. “Jesus, I am really stressed. I am letting all of this “stuff” totally distract me from You and Your plans. And guess what? The distraction isn’t working at all! I know you know that.”
Intentional Prayer Back to Basics
When I am confused or off-kilter I have to get back to basics. Here is what I have done to kick start my prayer life back into heartfelt interactive communication with the God of the Universe:
1. Journaling – I have to write to God to really get clarity and to concentrate. It also makes me put time aside just for Him. No distractions. Normally I am comfortable journaling to God at least 3-4 times per week. When it goes a week and I haven’t written aka prayed privately then something is wrong.
2. Focus My Attention on Others – When I am really connected to God, I am usually praying for others more than myself. My whole work life transforms when I take time on my own time to pray for clients and my practice. I believe God answers prayer. I also believe that God is my CEO and I need to be bringing my work challenges and opportunities to Him. I know it sounds cheesy but just do it. You will see the difference.
3. Practice Some Prayer Disciplines – NOT to just check them off the list. I hate that. I don’t do anything to just check it off the list. That is what causes the apathy to take hold. I do realize though, that we are all different. I really feel at peace after I intercede on someone else’s behalf in prayer. I feel like my business is in God’s hands if I walk our building and pray in each office. Not because He won’t help if I don’t. It’s because I don’t ask.
4. Ask Others to Pray for Me – I don’t really do this like I should. I have several small groups, but I am usually the prayer. It makes a big difference to me when others pray for me. Yet I don’t ask. It might be a pride thing. Anyway, lately I have sincerely requested for certain people to pray for specific things in my life.
I am a counselor so I realize that doing something makes us feel more empowered. However, my faith trumps my clinical training. I believe in God’s power more than I believe in cognitive behavioral interventions.
The First Step to Any Solution: Turn to God
Regardless of what is going on in our lives, if we feel out of control, or if things aren’t going well, we always know that the first step is to turn to God. We need to be connected to Him in any way we can. That is why I put structure to my prayer. I pray out of need and desire to be closer to God. I put structure in to protect myself against the distractions of the world.
God doesn’t need the structure. I know it is by His grace we are saved, not by how well I pray. But, for me, I need to be intentional so I can feel connected, listen better, and hopefully be obedient to God’s will.
What about you? How do you keep that strong connection, i.e. stay online, with God?