The last couple of postings have been giving thought to spiritual growth; not just the spiritual growth of a new Christian, but the growth that is important to the spiritual health of Christians of every spiritual “age”. And to do that, we’ve been meditating on what the earliest Christian did in Acts 2:42-47. In this article we’ll look at their devotion to prayer as a way to grow.
The early church was devoted to prayer (v. 42). Devotion here, like in our discussion of devotion to the apostles’ teachings, requires a love for, a loyalty to, and perseverance in. It is not a hit and miss sort of thing; rather, it is something done at every opportunity, something given a priority over lesser things, born out of an intense interest and love. So, be devoted in prayer; learn to love it, cultivate an intense interest in it, and practice it at every opportunity.
And also like growth through Scriptures, there are a number of approaches and levels in prayer that we can practice to grow spiritually as we should.
Praying, especially for new Christians, is sometimes hard. Where do you start? Where do you go, once you’ve begun? Who should I address the prayer to? How do I end it? What’s appropriate and what’s not? As a starting place for prayer, so we can grow, the Lord’s own model prayer (sometimes known as the “Lord’s Prayer”) is a good place to begin. But not as a mere set of words to parrot almost mindlessly; rather as a model. Read it (Matt. 6:9-13), look at its parts, learn from the Master about prayer, and start filling in with what you want to praise, what you want to ask for, what you want to thank the Father for, etc. The Lord’s prayer covers all the basics, and it’s an inspired place to start.
The Lord’s prayer does cover all the basics, but there can also be a time for short, focused prayer, too. Not every prayer has to contain a list of requests for blessing; not every prayer needs to have a certain “quota” of praise. Sometimes our prayers can and should be just thanksgiving; just praise; or just intercession for someone in need. An occasional focus on praise, thanks, intercession in prayer allows you to go deeper and grow deeper.
Pray more than just at meal time. While thanking God for our blessing of food three times a day is great, we should talk to the Lord more than that. Relationships take communication. Think of Scripture reading as God’s end of the conversation, and your prayers as your end of the conversation. Take every opportunity you have to talk with your Heavenly Father.
And connected to the suggestion above, pray as you go. It is certainly true that finding a quiet place for prayer is often preferable, so that we can speak with God in a more undistracted way, there’s also a place for practicing prayer on the go. There are some great examples of men praying to God “on the fly” in the midst of asking an important question, or at a critical moment (e.g., Neh. 2:4; or Jesus on the cross). “Prayer as you go” is often less formal and more to the point, but also will also give us help in time of need and an important sense of God’s real presence all the time, every day. And this can be so important as you come up against temptations, challenges, and troubles throughout your every day life.
Pray in faith. This is about more than praying with a certain amount of fervor. Jesus defined prayer in faith as asking God for something and then forging ahead in faith as if you already had been blessed with what you asked for (Mark 11:24). It sounds sort of simple, but it is probably one of the least practiced parts of prayer. Our tendency is to ask and then wait and see if God’s going to do something. The Lord asks us to step out onto the water, but we want to wait for the lake to freeze good and solid first. Pray in faith and grow.
Pour out your heart. Did you know that God doesn’t mind your (respectful) emotion? Indeed, the inspired apostle Peter gives us a God-breathed, full-blown invitation to do so, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6, 7. Let God hear your heart and grow.
Keep a journal. You may be thinking, I don’t remember anything about a prayer journal in the Bible; but have you ever considered that the Bible itself could be considered a prayer journal that has recorded the petitions and needs of God’s people over the centuries and God’s faithful answer to them. That’s the power of a prayer journal, the recording of the prayers and the answers, resulting in a stronger faith in the Lord. Whether you keep a journal or not, remember God’s faithful answers to your prayers and grow from it.
Growth is a Christian’s lifetime assignment. Pray and grow.