Now we will begin to turn our attention to incorporating prayer into our life by creating a prayer rule. A prayer rule is just a regular practice of prayer that includes a series of prayers.
You might want to try to pray at a specific time of day or in a specific place, but the key is consistency. Written prayers can be an important part of that.
Why Written Prayers?
An immediate possible objection that must be addressed is why anyone would use written prayers at all. Doesn’t reading a prayer make it less genuine? Are we not in danger of the “vain repetition” that Jesus warned against in Matthew 6:7?
In both cases the answer is no. Written prayers have been used since the very beginning of the Christian church.
Written prayers, and for that matter the shorter biblical prayers discussed in the last post, do not constitute vain repetition because sincere prayer, even repeated, is not vain repetition. To the contrary: sincere prayers, whether read or spoken, are the best we can offer our Lord. Christ condemns vain prayers, but He does not condemn repetition.
I cannot name a Christian friend who uses only the written prayers of others, but I could name some who refuse to use them, either for fear of vain repetition or because they don’t think it’s worthwhile. When I was growing up, I believed that all I needed to do was talk with God.
As I pointed out in the first post of this series on prayer, however, that led to a prayer life of increasing selfishness. I wasn’t engaging in “vain repetition” because I didn’t repeat anything. I just engaged in flat-out vanity. This may not hold true for others, but for me, not having any form or structure in my prayer life led me to talk to God most about what I wanted Him to do for me. It wasn’t long before I only called on God during crises, big or small. My relationship with God frayed because I treated Him like a carton of bandaids.
This isn’t to say that unscripted prayer is bad, but that an over-reliance on it may be dangerous. I found that when I began to approach God in a more thoughtful and purposeful way, it revolutionized my entire life. As with everything, folks, I can only speak from my own experience.
Perhaps the most balanced approach is that we mix our own heartfelt petitions to God with some combination of prayers from Scripture, our own written prayers, and those of great Christians of the past two millennia that speak to us. It’s quite possible to do both. A healthy prayer life ought be neither totally scripted nor unscripted, or that’s my thought on it.
Create a Prayer Rule
Creating a prayer rule to follow has been a game-changer for my prayer life. I always heard about Christians who prayed every day, but figured there was no way I had enough time.
Besides, I wasn’t sure how to do it. Do people just stop in the middle of their day and pray for a while? Indeed, some do, and it’s beautiful if you are able to, but not everyone has the opportunity to do that.
Instead, it’s much more doable to begin and end the day with some sort of prayer rule that includes several prayers of interest to you. A simple version might include one of the Psalms, a cherished prayer, and petitions for friends, loved ones, and whatever is on your mind.
It doesn’t need to be long. If it’s too long, you might not do it! The important thing is not trying to break a record, but ingraining that regular routine of prayer. A 5-10 minute series of prayers, said every morning, beats out an hour of prayers said once every few weeks.
Where to Pray
If you haven’t seen the movie War Room, you must. A wife whose marriage is suffering turns to prayer and creates a space within a closet, her “War Room,” where she goes to pray. This has a direct biblical connection, of course, for our Lord says in Matthew 6:6:
“But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your father who is in the secret place. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
You may not have a War Room, though it wouldn’t hurt if you did. Some people dedicate rooms or spaces to prayer within their homes, and Pinterest is full of examples.
Some people create prayer corners in their home by setting their Bible, lists of those they are praying for, and elements of prayer in a certain location. Elements of prayer might include things such as candles, a cross, icons, statuary or whatever else your faith tradition might use in prayer.
Principles of Intentional Prayer
Even if you don’t have the room or ability to do that, you can still find a place to pray that allows you to have a sense of reverence and communion with God.
By implementing a few principles of intentional prayer, your War Room can be anywhere:
– Turn off your cell phone and anything else that could distract you while in prayer (unless you’re keeping your prayers on your phone, see point 3).
– Once you start praying, don’t stop to do anything else. Don’t think “now’s a great time to get a cup of coffee” and try to come back later. Once you begin, commit to finishing.
– Try to keep your list of prayers or your prayer rule on a physical sheet of paper that you can hold in your hand. If you keep them on a digital device, there’s a much higher risk of distraction. If you must, however, use airplane mode when you pray so you aren’t interrupted. It doesn’t hurt to keep those prayers in the notes application on your phone for times when you might need them. But if you’re at home, try to use a sheet of paper.
– Try to pray with a Bible nearby. That way, if you have extra time, you can add some Scripture reading to your prayers. This would be a great place in your routine to insert a plan for reading through the Bible in a year.
The most important thing, and it can’t be repeated enough, is to try and keep your prayer rule, no matter how often you fall. There are many days when I miss my morning prayers. If I miss them, however, I know that I did.
That sense of conviction about missing precious time with God compels me to try and do better. It’s not about trying to impress anyone. It’s about spending time with your Creator. And really, what’s more important than that?
In the next post, we’ll look at some different prayers you can incorporate into your prayer rule.
Question: What does your prayer rule look like?