Much praying is not done because we don’t plan to pray. We do not drift into spiritual life; we do not drift into disciplined prayer. We will not grow in prayer unless we plan to pray. That means we must self-consciously set aside time to do nothing but pray.
What we actually do reflects our highest priorities. That means we can proclaim our commitment to prayer until the cows come home, but unless we actually pray, our actions disown our words.
This is the fundamental reason why set times for prayer are important: they ensure that vague desires for prayer are concretized in regular practice. Paul’s many references to his “prayers” (Romans 1:10; Ephesians 1:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:2) suggest that he set aside specific times for prayer – as apparently Jesus himself did (Luke 5:16). Of course, mere regularity in such matters does not ensure that effective prayer takes place: genuine godliness is so easily aped, its place usurped by its barren cousin, formal religion. It is also true that different lifestyles demand different patterns: a shift worker, for instance, will have to keep changing the scheduled prayer times, while a mother of twin two-year olds will enjoy neither the energy nor the leisure of someone living in less constrained circumstances. But after all the difficulties have been duly recognized and all the dangers of legalism properly acknowledged, the fact remains that unless we plan to pray we will not pray. The reason we pray so little is that we do not plan to pray. Wise planning will ensure that we devote ourselves to prayer often, even if for brief periods: it is better to pray often with brevity than rarely but at length. But the worst option is simply not to pray – and that will be the controlling pattern unless we plan to pray. If we intend to change our habits, we must start here. (Taken from A Call to Spiritual Reformation, p. 20)
Let It Sink In
A few questions to help this truth sink in: When will you pray today? When will you pray tomorrow? Where will you pray? What will you pray for this week? What special prayer requests have been given to you?
In order to plan well make sure you…
Plan the Time. When? 6am? 10pm? During the kids nap time? Before work? Lunch break How long? 5 minutes? 10 minutes? 30 minutes?
Plan the Place. Favorite chair? Bed room? Office? Beach? Park? The parking lot as you are waiting for the kids to get out of school or sports practice?
Plan the Prayers. Since, you can’t fit everything into every prayer time: who/what will you pray for? Any particular Scripture you can use as a model? For instance, take note of the things Paul prayed for and pray the same kind of things for others (see 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Colossians 1:9-14; Philippians 1:9-11; Ephesians 1:15-23; Ephesians 3:14-21; Romans 15:14-33).
If you want to grow in your practice of prayer, you can’t do better than this book.