The following guest post is written by my older sister, Sarah. You can read her blog here.
A new year begins with planning and productivity. We set goals and try to cultivate new habits. We choose a word for the year that encapsulates our longings– areas where we desire to see growth and change.
Often these things peter out by mid-February. Change isn’t as quick as we hope or as easy. We fear it’s unattainable. Or, if you are a perfectionist like me, after failing once, you want to quit altogether.
Someone asked me once how I approach goal setting in my life– building new habits and that sort of thing. I don’t think I had thought about it up until that point.
I do like to choose a word for the year or a season. I also set goals at the beginning of a year, but one thing has produced the most change in my life. I have pages and pages documenting its effectiveness.
It is prayer.
That might sound cliche’. But I believe that the best thing you can do to make 2021 a great year is to pray. If you’ve given up on your new year’s resolutions, or if you need a boost of encouragement, read on. I’ll explain why
The Necessity of Prayer
While I have practically proved prayer essential in my life, I have become even more convinced of its necessity through reading several books. I don’t feel that I can express it quite as well as those authors have; I will share a few quotes.
The Importance of Prayer in Your Spiritual Life
It is not too much to say that all real growth in the spiritual life— all victory over temptation, all confidence and peace in the presence in difficulties and dangers, all repose of spirit in times of great disappointments or loss, all habitual communion with God —depends upon the practice of secret prayer. (1)
It can be easily shown that all want of success (and all failure in the spiritual life and in Christian work) is due to defective or insufficient prayer. Unless we pray aright we cannot live aright or serve aright. This may appear, at first sight, to be gross exaggeration, but the more we think it over in the light Scripture throws upon it, the more convinced shall we be of the truth of this statement. (2)
(Jesus) tells us that our strength and fruitfulness depend upon our prayers. He reminds us that our very joy depends upon answered prayer (John 16:24). (3)
Not to pray is not only to declare there is nothing needed, but to admit a non-realization of that need. This is what aggravates the sin of prayerlessness. It represents an attempt at instituting an independence of God, a self-sufficient ruling of God out of the life. It is a declaration made to God that we do not need Him, and hence we do not pray to Him. (4)
Devotion to God and devotion to prayer are one and the same thing. (5)
Without prayer, we cannot flourish spiritually. If you desire to grow in your spiritual life in 2021, let me suggest that you need to pray. Spiritual growth depends upon prayer.
The Importance of Prayer in Ministry
Prayer is also the foundation of ministry. We cannot minister effectively without it.
Let us never forget that the greatest thing we can do for God or for man is to pray. For we can accomplish far more by our prayers than by our work… all fruitfulness in service is the outcome of prayer. (6)
Everything secured by Gospel promise, defined by Gospel measure, and represented by Gospel treasure are to be found in prayer. All heights are scaled by it, all doors are opened to it, all victories are gained through it, and all grace distills on it. Heaven has all its good and all its help for men who pray. (7)
I recently finished a book by George Mueller titled Answers to Prayer (in addition to several other books on prayer). I have been familiar with George Mueller’s life for many years, but reading this book encouraged me afresh. It’s a small book, but stories of answered prayer fill the pages.
In case you don’t know Mueller’s story— after coming to Christ, he devoted his life to proving the faithfulness of God by living in dependence on the Him. Though he solely supported thousands of orphans, Mueller never made his needs known publicly. Along with his wife and team, he made his requests known to the Lord through prayer and saw Him provide every time.
I closed the book with a desire to pray more. Though I have pages and pages of answered prayer, I don’t want to slacken in my pursuit of Christ. I believe that He has more for me than I have hereto experienced. George Mueller loved the phrase in Psalm 81:10— “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” A friend of mine once pointed out that though God tells us to open wide our mouth for Him to fill it, we are often content to drink from His fullness through a coffee straw. May it not be.
Making it Practical
I hope I have given you a taste of the importance of prayer, and a bit of excitement to pray more. That is my goal.
Now I want to share a few practical tips and tools to start strengthening your prayer life.
Most Christians do not give God a chance to show His delight in granting His children’s petitions, for their requests are so vague and indefinite. (8)
George Mueller demonstrates this. If he did not pray for specific things, he would not have recorded answered prayer. If we do not pray purposefully, we will not receive answers, or we will not recognize them when we do.
If you have a difficult time focusing– try different things.
I focus best when I speak out loud. I am not always able to, but I love going for a walk or taking advantage of drive time to pray. If I cannot pray out loud, another thing that helps me is to write out prayers. I don’t usually have time to write for everything on my prayer list, but I will pick one thing and write a prayer for it. I also write out prayers when I cannot seem to focus.
Also, don’t neglect to pray about your prayer life. The Lord wants us to pray, and this means He wants to enable us to pray. Tell the Lord about what distracts you. Rather than leading you away from Him, distraction can be a means of seeking Him more.
Keep a record of what you are praying for and the answers to those prayers.
Remembering answered prayers bolsters your prayer life like nothing else. If you do not keep a journal, I encourage you to record what you are praying and answers to prayer somehow.
I also encourage you to read stories from men and women of history that tell of answered prayer. If you have not experienced answered prayer before, these will bolster your faith. A few I’ve read recently: Answers to Prayer (George Mueller), The Weapon of Prayer (E.M. Bounds), and Kneeling Prayer (The Unknown Christian).
Take time to give thanks.
Giving thanks sets your heart in the right place. It encourages a sense of expectancy and hope. After all, Scripture commands us to offer prayer and thanksgiving with supplication. (Philippians 4:7)
Praise is as important as prayer. We must enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise and give thanks unto Him and bless His name (Ps. 100:4). (9)
Know your God.
Spend time studying the attributes and character of God. As we grow in our knowledge of the Lord, we will grow in confidence in prayer.
In June 2020, I purchased a prayer journal from Val Marie Paper Co. It has become a favorite. I love sitting down to prep my journal for each new month. It gives direction to my prayer time and offers a place to record what I’m praying for and answered prayer. They offer several different versions to suit different needs and tastes.
I’ve also used the app Prayermate in the past and enjoyed it. If you prefer a digital or cost-free option, check it out.
All our past failure, all our past inefficiency and insufficiency, all our past unfruitfulness in service, can be banished now, once and for all, if we only give prayer in proper place. Do it today. Do not wait for a more convenient time. (10)
- An Unknown Christian. The Kneeling Christian. Zondervan, 1986. (pg. 9)
- An Unknown Christian. The Kneeling Christian. Zondervan, 1986. (pg. 16)
- An Unknown Christian. The Kneeling Christian. Zondervan, 1986. (pg 22)
- Bounds, E.M. The Weapon of Prayer. Baker Book House, 1931. (pg 107)
- Bounds, E.M. The Weapon of Prayer. Baker Book House, 1931. (pg 128)
- An Unknown Christian. The Kneeling Christian. Zondervan, 1986. (pg 18)
- Bounds, E.M. The Weapon of Prayer. Baker Book House, 1931. (pg. 49)
- An Unknown Christian. The Kneeling Christian. Zondervan, 1986. (pg. 43)
- An Unknown Christian. The Kneeling Christian. Zondervan, 1986. (pg 116)
- An Unknown Christian. The Kneeling Christian. Zondervan, 1986. (pg. 35)