A Powerful Daily Prayer Plan
The world clamors for efficiency and productivity. But the life of prayer is neither efficient nor productive. Instead, as we learn in the psalms, prayer calls us to wait, to watch, to listen, to taste, and to see. These things are not productive by any modern measure, but they are transformative.
First, prayer is like a muscle; the more you exercise, the stronger it is.
If you have never had a consistent prayer life, you must realize that you are jumping into something that takes practice. To change the metaphor a bit, you are forming new taste buds. If you’ve never had coffee before, it can be bitter and abrasive the first time. But after drinking it for a while, there’s a depth to the coffee that you didn’t realize was there before. Prayer is the same. You need to exercise and drink regularly for it to become easier and even sweet.
Second, I’m cautious of calling this a “method” of prayer, as if our communion with God can be distilled into a simple method.
It cannot. But often times, Christians need to follow what has worked for Christians in the past in order to know and understand what works for them personally. God is personal, not robotic. You are a person, not a robot. Each of our hearts are different. We all have different fears and different longings. Certain parts of the psalms resonate with certain types of people in certain stages of life. Don’t be surprised if you find that your prayer life and communion with God slightly changes as you enter different life stages and face different challenges. But as you grow in understanding what your prayer life looks like, follow the lead of other Christians; see what they do and then try it on for yourself, like you would a coat. Soon you will know what fits and what maybe needs to be tailored.
Third, don’t come to God in order to get an experience, but come to God in order to get God.
If your prayer life is simply to get a rush or warmth of some kind, then God is simply being used as a means to an end. If you come to God merely for an experience, you will likely get neither a meaningful experience, nor God himself. But come to God for God’s sake and you will likely get both thrown in. C.S. Lewis, in a letter he wrote to a little girl in 1950, says this about feelings: . . . don’t expect (I mean, don’t count on and don’t demand) . . . you will have all the feelings you would like to have. You may, of course: but also you may not. But don’t worry if you don’t get them. They aren’t what matter. The things that are happening to you are quite real things whether you feel as you would wish or not, just as a meal will do a hungry person good even if he has a cold in the head which will rather spoil the taste.
Our Lord will give us right feelings if he wishes — and then we must say Thank you. If he doesn’t, then we must say to ourselves (and to Him) that he knows best.
A Method Preparation (2-3 mins) Goal: to collect yourself, preparing your heart and mind to taste and see the goodness of the Lord
. • Pray a short psalm (Ps 16:8; 27:4; 27:9-10; 40:16; 43:4; 63:1-3; 67:1; 84:5-7; 103:1-2; 139:7-10) that tells you of the presence of God and his availability of fellowship or his desire for it. Remember his worth, remind yourself of his presence, give up small ambitions and worries, remind yourself that he longs to connect.
• Pray for attentiveness and illumination. Spiritual Reading (12-40 mins) Goal: Read and ask the text questions, but to do it in his presence.
• Read your daily passages (OT, NT, Psalm), taking note of anything that’s sweet, thanking God for it, and tasting it at it goes by.
• Take a portion of your reading (a paragraph, a few sentences, or even a phrase), put an emphasis on each word, and ask these basic questions, giving brief answers: – What does it say about God? – What does it say about me? – Does the passage give me (i) examples to follow, (ii) commands to obey, (ii) promises to claim, (iv) sins to repent of, or (v) idols to tear down?
Meditating (15 – 45 mins) Goal: To take phrases, verses, and ideas we’ve reflected on in our “Spiritual Reading” and now reflect on them more deeply. This is the place where you move from asking the text questions to allowing the text to ask questions of you; from understanding the text to letting the text transform you into more like Christ. Meditation engages your heart and gives a foretaste of heaven, reshaping your desires
• Teaching: What is the basic truth or teaching this conveys?
• Adoration: How can I adore God for this? (What attribute does it show?) • Confession: What wrong thoughts, feelings, behaviors happen when this is forgotten?
• Thanks: How is Jesus the ultimate revelation of this attribute and/or the ultimate answer to this sin? How is this sin being an inordinate hope for someone or something to give me the satisfaction that only Jesus can really give me?
• Supplication: What do I need from God if I am to realize this truth in my life? Prayer (10 – 15 mins) Goal: To pray your meditation. Consider Augustine’s famous quote, “O God, our hearts are made for thee, and they shall be restless until they rest in thee.” Praying your meditation is finding, if just for a moment, that rest. Meditation is intentionally engaging your heart, but praying your meditation turns you back to God. It actively puts yourself at the disposal of the Spirit, preparing 8 the way for God’s desires to supersede your own and for God to create in you a greater capacity for himself.
• Pray Adoration: Tell him what you love and adore about him. Visualize how your life, your friends, your church, your community would be like if he was adored for this more fully. Yearn for it.
• Pray Confession: Confess back to him; admit what you’ve done or who you are. Visualize: what would your life be like; decisions, ambitions, etc., if this truth was explosively true in your life? Yearn for it. Imagine God responding to your repentance with words of assurance from Scripture.
• Pray Thanks: Thank Christ; remember his life, some story or passage where this character/ attribute is displayed that you are thanking him for. Thank him for who he is and what he has done. Thank him for how he is the ultimate revelation for the answer of your sin.
• Pray Supplication: Ask him for what you need to be or do with this truth. Pray for what you need for this truth to be more explosively true in your life. Listen In all previous parts of prayer, we are the dominant actor. We are the one looking, searching, learning, savoring, repenting, adoring. But we should end by listening, gazing adoringly in what we’ve seen of him, hoping to be acted upon, that God might give a heightened sense of his presence, assuring us our adoption and his love toward us. End your prayer by resting and thinking quietly on one or two truths that you learned. Thank Him for it!
Order John’s Book: The Possibility of Prayer