Prayers for the Independent Person
If you are anything like me, you have an independent streak in you. You like to do things for yourself, you do not like asking for help or directions, you do not like reading the directions for new components in the home, and you do not like it when assistance in required for anything. That’s how I can be.
In college I was so independent that I rarely sought help from people like my parents for guidance over some significant things going on in my life. Things did not go well when I neglected seeking that council. Eventually I noticed a pattern: whenever I chose to make decisions on my own without seeking godly council, I made a fool of myself. Whenever I sought godly council, things worked out smoothly. So I reluctantly learned to be dependent. I began to seek godly council before making any major decision in my life. What is interesting to me is the discontinuity between that story and my prayer life.
For some reason, the lesson to be dependent and seek wisdom did not transfer very quickly to my prayer life. In life, I asked my father, my pastor, my professors, etc. about life stuff, but I so often failed, and often still do, to seek out my Heavenly Father for wisdom and guidance through those times. The same mentality that I used to have regarding seeking help from my parents continued to apply to my prayer life. I mean, why pray? I've already sought council. I already see things just fine from my point of view now. I didn't need to spend more time in prayer, I needed to get busy! There was so much to do! I couldn't let something like prayer hold me back.
It was hard to pray. Why pray when you can act? While these may not have been conscious thoughts, they were the driving forces behind my actions. And sometimes, what made prayer so difficult was that I so often failed to see the use of it. What good does it do? I can ask my dad a question and I get an immediate answer. But ask God… who knows how long it would be before something that seemed like it could possibly be the answer I was looking for but still wasn't sure would finally show up.
And then of course, all of those factors made me feel like He was so far away. My prayers felt impersonal and so my God felt impersonal, and it’s hard to talk to an impersonal person. There is not much to talk to.
Fortunately for us, feelings do not always accurately reflect reality. Though He may feel impersonal and I may feel out of touch, the Christian life was never meant to be based on feelings, but on fact. The fact of the matter is that God is there, He is personal and He does hear our prayers. The bible makes this very explicit.
Over time, I began to be burdened with a need to be praying more, but I did not know where to start. How do I go from being an independent person who did not have time be slowed by prayer, to being a person who consciously made an effort to be dependent on the Lord? I tried various things and I would like to share with you a few things that have helped me. Perhaps they can be a help to you as well. (They are in no particular order)
1.) Keep a Prayer journal. Write down your requests and look back every now and again and right down how God has answered that request. This helps because we do not always pay close attention to how God is answering prayers. We pray and pray and pray and never feel like we see results. Sometime the results are so far removed from the prayer that we miss the connection. Keeping a prayer journal helps fix this problem. As you make requests to the Lord, write down what they are and when you prayed for it. Then every now and again, go back and fill in how God has answered those prayers, whether the answer is “yes” or “no”. Over time, you will begin to see how the Lord is working in your life. This practice makes it clear that prayer does make a difference.
2.) Keep a prayer schedule. Start by writing out a list of categories of things for which to pray (e.g. family, church, government, co-workers, etc.). Divide the categories between the 7 days of the week. Fill out each of those categories with specific names of people or specific things to pray about in that category (e.g. under family write spouse, children, parents, siblings, etc.). Write out specific things to pray about for each person. Use that to aid your prayer time. This way, when you come to the Lord, you will never be at a loss for things for which to pray. Continually update the list. When you are made aware of the needs of someone on your list, note it in your list and remember to prayer for it. You can easily use this in conjunction with your prayer journal.
3.) Prioritize your time. Figure out what time of day you are least distracted and utilize that time for prayer. For me this is in the morning before the events of the day take a hold of my mind.
4.) Use prayer apps for your phone, like PrayerMate, or Prayer Popper. Apps like these can help in several ways. You can configure them so you can have your prayer schedule mapped out in the app and then you can also have the app send you notifications and reminders when it is time to pray.
5.) Read a book on prayer. This was something that really jump-started my desire to pray. I read Much Prayer, Much Power by Peter Deyneka, a Slavic man who founded the Slavic Gospel Association. He was a man of much prayer and his book gives some helpful information. More recently, another book that was helpful, although it was not specifically about this topic, was God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew. It is his autobiography, a story of how God used this man to sneak thousands of Bibles into communist countries and reach many people for Christ. Brother Andrew’s prayer life sticks out in the book and it is amazing what the Lord accomplished through him. There are many other great books about prayer readily available. Make use of them!
6.) Finally, when all is said and done, if you want to develop an excellent prayer life (and if you are truly a Christian I hope that you do), then it all really comes down to the Nike slogan: just do it. All the tricks and tips in the world cannot be a substitute for you simply resolving in your heart and mind that you are going to pray. Just start praying.
Hopefully these things are as helpful for you as they were for me. No matter how you go about it, it is going to take discipline. It doesn't just happen. You have to make it happen. Give it try! You might be amazed at what God does in your heart through your prayer times.
Be blessed; be a blessing.