Prayer is an important part of life as a follower of Christ. It is so easy to let the discipline of prayer fall to the wayside. It is internal and we have such busy lives we tend to say, I have to do this or that now, I’ll pray later.
Jesus understood the importance of prayer. He commanded we pray. He practiced it and gave us a great examples to follow.
Matthew 4- Jesus praying in the wilderness before His ministry and during His temptation
Matthew 14:23- Jesus praying alone on a mountain top
Luke 3:21 – Praying after His baptism
Luke 6:12-praying alone before He chose those would be the Apostles
John 17 is Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane before His arrest. He even prayed on the Cross as He was dying. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34)
Matthew 6:5-13 reads,
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.9 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil
Sometimes, the only time we pray through the week is in church. Corporate prayer is great! It is essential, but it does not replace time alone with The Lord. The prayer during that time is really special and it is different than corporate and other kinds of prayer.
Just as much as God wants us evangelizing, healing, prophesying, teaching, and learning, He wants time with us. Hosea 6:6 reads,
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings
Although Jesus was active in doing God’s will in ministry, He also did God’s will in His relationship. Luke 5:15-16 reads,
But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.
Jesus spent time alone with God, even though He is God. Believers are filled with The Holy Spirit, God is inside us and yet, if Jesus who is God had to go be alone with Him, we should also seek alone time with God. We call it quiet time. I want to encourage us to make quiet alone time with God a priority. Since we do get so busy, and some of us have a hard time saying no to ministry and service, as well as full lives with family, work and church, it makes sense to make that quiet time, the first thing in the morning. There’s a famous quote that says, “If you don’t have time to pray, wake up earlier.” Martin Luther said it better though, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
Psalm 5:1-3 reads,
“Give ear to my words, O Lord;
consider my groaning.
2 Give attention to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you do I pray.
3 O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.”
Mark 1:35-39 tells us Jesus made prayer an integral part of ministry,
“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.”
That quiet time, is more than just expressive prayer, or prayer where we speak to God and tell Him all our wants and needs. It is also a time of praise, listening, reflection and meditation on The Word. Silence before God allows Him to do His will. And shouldn’t our time with God be about aligning our will with His? Zechariah 2:13 reads,
Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.
Being doers of the word as James 1:22 commands, requires us to be hearers of the Word, being hearers requires us to listen. Isaiah 41:1 reads,
Listen to me in silence, O coastlands;
let the peoples renew their strength;
let them approach, then let them speak;
let us together draw near for judgment.
Another kind of individual prayer is called breath prayer. It is a practice that allows you to pray without ceasing, centering your focus on The Lord throughout the day while you do all the rest of what needs to be done. This practice does not replace specific time with The Lord or corporate prayer, it augments your prayer life. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 reads,
“Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.”
Breath prayers are done with your breathing. With your breath in say or breathe a name of God that you want to rejoice in and praise, such as Father, Savior, Healer, or Counselor, Your breath out is a God-given desire such as “Have Mercy on me” “Reveal yourself to me” or “Lead me” This breath prayer is one sentence. Breathe in, “Good Shepherd” Breathe out, “Lead me in your ways.” Breathe in “Abba,” breathe out, “hold me in your arms” or “Holy Spirit, Come”
Benefits of breath prayer include:
• keeping company with Jesus whether or not you feel his presence
• abiding in Christ, opening yourself to constant union all day long
• putting into a phrase the deepest desire of your heart and praying out of that desire
• reminding yourself that God is present and living in you
• guarding self-talk so your thoughts, feelings and behavior flow from an ongoing dialogue with God
• regulating your imagination and fantasy life
• breathing in the life of Christ and breathing out the work of Christ
• developing a rhythm of turning to God at any time of the day
• developing a constant, inner, unbroken, perpetual habit of prayer
Whether individual or corporate, prayer is a conversation with The LORD God. It is a time when we cast our cares on Him and He gives us peace beyond comprehension. It is a time when we tell Our Father what we need, want, and hope. Does He already know? Yes. But He still wants to hear it from us. And more often than not as we speak to God, He will allow us to hear our words and see our hearts and so comfort, teach, encourage, and lead us.
Philippians 4:6-7 says,
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I want to encourage us to pray together as well as alone, whether it is with a large group of people or two or three of us. Praying together is very important, especially in small groups. The prayers of a few of us together are very powerful. In Matthew 18:18-20 Jesus said,
Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Did you read the power God gives us when we pray together? We’re binding and loosing, we petitioning God with one another and He promises to respond and He promises He is among us. How many times have I been praying in a group of two or three and The Holy Spirit speaks through us, act through us, and manifests in ways we were not expecting? He is always with us, but there are times when we are much more aware of what He is doing and saying. These small group prayers, sometimes referred to as conversational prayers are an opportunity for Him to do great things.
The corporate prayer I’m talking about here is not the same as the liturgical or one person led prayer. It involves a group each praying in conversational tones in a dialogue with God. One example of this informal conversational prayer goes like this:
Each person prays briefly, usually just two or three sentences. Depending on how many people are involved, each person may speak more than once but in turn. If it is just two or three then the dialogue would likely go back and forth more. Being a dialogue means it requires listening as well as speaking. When we practice prophetic prayer, we are often doing this type of prayer. It requires us to be ourselves, not using fancy words, thous and thees or give discourses in the midst of speaking with God. People pray briefly and plainly as they feel led by the Spirit.
Believer, I want to encourage you today to make the Lord a priority, to seek the Kingdom of God first above everything else in your life. Carve out a daily quiet time with the Lord. Pay attention to how that the intentional focus on The Lord and His will come to play in your day.
I also encourage you to add the discipline of the breath prayer to your day and see how this prayer without ceasing impacts your spiritual walk.
 Calhoun, A. A. (2005). Spiritual disciplines handbook: Practices that transform us. Madison, WI: InterVarsity Press.