Blog brought to you today by Jarrett Stevens, author of Praying Through: Overcoming the Obstacles That Keep Us from God.
I have a friend who sums up the Lord’s Prayer this way: “Simply pray, and pray simply.” Don’t overcomplicate it. Don’t smother it in “should.” Don’t make it some sort of spiritual competition with others. Wow. Please. Help. Thanks. Yes!—start there. You will have enough to pray for. In fact, if that’s all you ever prayed, that would be enough. Prayer matters too much to let it be hijacked by fear or insecurity. Prayer is how you start and how you stay in a relationship with God. The God who made you for relationship made prayer a way for you to grow and deepen your relationship with him. Even if your prayers don’t feel deep, even if they feel a little simple, the invitation is yours . . . to simply pray.
The Lord’s Prayer is one of the best spiritual practices for practicing prayer. It makes sense to start and stay there this week, to make the Lord’s Prayer your prayer. Rather than mindlessly repeating the words that Jesus said, what would it look like for you to mindfully incorporate this prayer into your life? To make it your way of praying throughout the day and this week? Here’s a fun way you can do just that.
Go into the calendar in your phone and set up five alarms to go off each day this week, with words from the Lord’s Prayer attached to every alarm. Think of it as your personal call to prayer.
You can set it up just like this:
Stop for a minute or so, wherever you are and whatever you are doing, to tell God all the things that you are mindful of about him in that moment. Maybe your prayer will be about the weather you’re having. Maybe it will be about God’s faithfulness and how he’s given you another new day, or about God’s provision and how he has given you all that you need. It might be about God’s grace or mercy and how he has yet to run out of love or forgiveness for you. Whatever it is, take a minute or so to tell God what he already knows about himself—just how amazing he is.
When this alarm goes off, take a moment to bring all your requests to God. Whatever you need, tell him. It may not be the first time that you’ve said “please” about this or that, and it doesn’t need to be the last. It may have to do with a financial need. It may be something work related. It may be for a needed breakthrough in your life that only God can bring. You will know what it is because odds are, you’ve been fixated on it already and have exhausted all kinds of time and energy worrying about it. Use this moment to ask God to do what only he can do in your life.
Looking to just get started with prayer? See this helpful blog: How to Pray, What to Pray and Getting Results.
Afternoon is typically when our days feel like they have the most risk of running off the rails. Work can feel like it’s dragging on. The kids can feel like they’ve found your last nerve and are holding it hostage. School can feel like it will never end. This is a great time to ask for help. Invite God to come alongside you wherever you feel like you’re drowning. Lean into your neediness. Claim your dependence on God. Remind yourself that you are his child and that he is a perfect parent who loves to come alongside his children and help them become all of who he created them to be.
Our family has a practice of praying before each meal. Lots of families do. It’s a simple practice of giving thanks. But rather than going through the motions of thanking God for the otherwise expected things (this day, this meal, the hands that prepared it), what if you took it up a notch and consciously thanked God for EVERYTHING that comes to mind, being as specific as possible? Thank him for big and small things from that day. Take a moment to inventory God’s provision, and name those things out loud to him. Stop running, stop revving, stop resisting, and simply stop to say, “Thanks.”
As the day closes, take a moment to simply say YES to God. Yes, I believe that you are with me! Yes, I believe that you hear me! Yes, I believe that can! Yes, I believe that you have been faithful! Yes, I believe that you will be faithful! YES! Rather than ending your day by numbing out, distracting yourself, or stirring up a stew of fear and anxiety, end your day by claiming the confidence that comes from knowing God. YES! I may not know how it’s all gonna work out, but I know you, God. I may be amid uncertainty, but I am certain that you are with and for me. I may not feel like I can make it, but I know that you made me and call me your own. What a powerful way to reframe whatever the day may have thrown at you. Go to sleep knowing that God is with you and will watch over you while you sleep and eventually enter a new day.
This exercise may seem simple or even a little silly at first, but think about all the other things that fill your calendar and your life. Some things are expected, others are uninvited. Rather than allowing your day to be controlled by your circumstances, you are choosing to take back your day and your thoughts with prayer. I did this little exercise of prayerful calendaring not too long ago, and I can’t begin to tell you what a difference it made. It shifted my perspective. It re-centered me. It detangled me from what I thought were the demands of my life. And it gave me a way to simply pray and pray simply. Whether you’re new to prayer or not, this is a powerful way to pray, one that can radically reframe and reorient your heart and mind.
Blog excerpted from Praying Through: Overcoming the Obstacles That Keep Us from God, by Jarrett Stevens.
Jarrett Stevens is a pastor, writer and speaker. He is a lead pastor, with his wife Jeanne, at Soul City Church in Chicago.29