Thursday, March 30, 2017
   
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How To Spend a Day In Prayer

"Those who wait on the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."—Isaiah 40:31

Matthew 14:13, 23

13] ". . .he withdrew privately to a solitary place… 23] After He had dismissed them, He went up on the mountain to pray. When evening came, He was there alone…"

"I never thought a day could make such a difference," a friend said to me. "My relationship to everyone seems improved. Why don’t I do it more often?" Comments like these come from those who set aside a personal day of prayer. With so many activities—important ones—clamoring for our time, real prayer is considered more a luxury than a necessity. How much more so spending a day in prayer!

Does the Bible give us time guides for personal prayer?

There is the command to "pray without ceasing," the spirit of prayer keeping so in tune with God that we can lift our hearts in request or praise anytime throughout the day.

There is also the practice of a quiet time or morning watch as seen in the life of David (Psalm 5:3), Daniel (6:10), and the Lord Jesus (Mark 1:35). This daily time specified for meditation in the Word of God and prayer is indispensable to the growing, healthy Christian.

Then there are examples in the Scripture of extended time given to prayer alone. Jesus spent whole nights praying. Nehemiah prayed "certain days" upon hearing of the plight of Jerusalem. Three times Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights alone with God.

How do we go about having extended prayer times?

Find a place.

Having set aside a day or portion of a day for prayer, pack a lunch and start out. Find a place where you can be alone, away from distractions. This may be a wooded area near home, or your backyard. Any outdoor spot is excellent if you can find it, but don’t get sidetracked into nature studies and fritter away your time. If you find yourself watching the squirrels or the ants, direct your observation by reading Psalm 104 and meditating on the power of God in creation.

 

Take what you need.

Take along a Bible, a notebook and pencil, a hymn book, and perhaps a devotional book. I like to have with me the booklet Power Through Prayer by E.M. Bounds and read a chapter or two as a challenge to the strategic value of prayer. Even if you have all day, you will want to use it profitably. So lose no time in starting, and start purposefully.

Divide your day into three parts: waiting on the Lord, prayer for others, and prayer for yourself.

Wait on the Lord. As you wait on the Lord, don’t hurry. You will miss the point if you look for some mystical or ecstatic experience. Just seek the Lord, waiting on Him. Isaiah 40:31 promises that those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. Psalm 27:14 is one of dozens of verses which mention waiting on Him, as is Psalm 62:5: "Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him."

Wait on Him first to realize His presence. Read through a passage like Psalm 139, grasping the truth of His presence with you as you read each verse. Ponder the impossibility of being anywhere in the universe where He is not. Often we are like Jacob when he said, "Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not" (Genesis 28:16, KJV).

Wait on Him for cleansing. The last two verses of Psalm 139 lead you into this. Ask God to search your heart as these verses suggest. When we search our own hearts, it can lead to imaginations, morbid introspection, or anything the enemy may want to throw before us. But when the Holy Spirit searches, He will bring to your attention that which should be confessed and cleansed. Psalms 51 and 32, David’s songs of confession, will help you. Stand upon the firm ground of 1 John 1:9 and claim God’s faithfulness to forgive whatever specific thing you confess.

If you realize you’ve sinned against a brother, make a note of it so you won’t forget to set it right. Otherwise, the rest of the day will be hindered. God won’t be speaking to you if there is something between you and someone else that you haven’t planned to take care of at the earliest possible moment.

As you wait on God, ask for the power of concentration. Bring yourself back from daydreaming.

Wait on God to worship Him. Psalms 103, 111 and 145 are wonderful portions to follow as you praise the Lord for the greatness of His power. Most of the psalms are prayers. Or turn to Revelation, chapters four and five, and use them in your praise to Him. There is no better way to pray scripturally than to pray Scripture. If you brought a hymn book, you can sing to the Lord. Some wonderful hymns have been written that put into words what we could scarcely express ourselves. Maybe you don’t sing very well; then be sure you’re out of earshot of someone else and "make a joyful noise unto the Lord." He will appreciate it.

This will lead you naturally into thanksgiving. Reflect upon the wonderful things God has done for you and thank Him for your own salvation and spiritual blessings, for your family, friends, and opportunities. Go beyond that which you thank the Lord for daily, and take time to express appreciation to Him for the countless things He’s given.

Prayer for Others. Now is the time for the unhurried, more detailed prayer for others you don’t get to ordinarily. Remember people in addition to those for whom you usually pray. Trace your way around the world praying for people by countries.

Here are three suggestions as to what to pray:

  1. First, ask specific things for them. Perhaps you remember or have jotted down various needs people have mentioned. Use requests from missionary prayer letters; pray for spiritual strength, courage, physical stamina, mental alertness, and so on. Imagine yourself in the situations where these people are and pray accordingly.
  2. Second, look up some of the prayers in Scripture. Pray what Paul prayed for other people in the first chapter of Philippians and Colossians, and in the first and third chapters of Ephesians. This will help you advance in your prayer from the stage of "Lord, bless so and so and help them to do such and such."
  3. Third, ask for others what you are praying for yourself. Desire for them what the Lord has shown you. If you pray a certain verse or promise of Scripture for a person, you may want to put the reference by his name on your prayer list. Use this verse as you pray for that person the next time; and then for thanksgiving as you see the Lord answer.

Prayer for Yourself.

The third part of your day will be prayer for yourself.

Lord, what do you think of my life? If you are facing an important decision, you may want to put this before prayer for others. Again, let your prayer be ordered by Scripture, and ask the Lord for understanding according to Psalm 119:18.

Meditate upon verses of Scripture you have memorized, or promises you have previously claimed from the Word. Reading a whole book of the Bible through, perhaps aloud, is a good idea. Consider how it might apply to your life.

"Lord, what do You think of my life"? is the attitude of this portion of your day of prayer. Consider your main objectives in the light of what you know to be God’s will for you. Jesus said, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work"—John 4:34. Do you want to do God’s will more than anything else? Is it really your highest desire?

Then consider your activities, what you do in the context of your objectives.

Lord, what am I to do with my life? God may speak to you about rearranging your schedule, cutting out certain activities that are good but not best, or some things that are entanglements or impediments to progress. Strip them off. You may be convicted about how you spend your evenings or Saturdays, when you could use the time to advantage and still get the recreation you need.

As you pray, record your thoughts on your activities and use of time, and plan for better scheduling. Perhaps the need for better preparation for your Sunday School class, or a personal visit with an individual will come to your mind. Or the Lord may impress you to do something special for someone. Make a note of it.

During this part of your day, bring up any problems or decisions you are facing and seek the mind of God on them. It helps to list the factors involved in these decisions or problems. Pray over these factors, and look into the Scriptures for guidance. You may be led to a promise or direction from the passages with which you have already filled your mind during the day.

After prayer, you may reach some definite conclusions upon which you can base firm convictions. It should be your aim in a day of prayer to come away with some conclusions and specific direction—some stakes driven. However, do not be discouraged if this is not the case. It may not be God’s time for a conclusive answer to your problem. And you may discover that your real need was not to know the next step, but to have a new revelation of God Himself.

In looking for promises to claim, there’s no need to thumb through looking for new or startling ones. Just start with the promises you already know. Chew over some old familiar promises the Lord has given you before, ones you remember as you think back. Pray about applying these verses to your life. I have found some of the greatest blessings from a new realization of promises I already knew. And the familiar promises may lead you to others. The Bible is full of them.

You may want to mark or underline in your Bible the promises the Lord gives during these protracted times alone, and put the date and a word or two in the margin beside them.

Variety is important during your day of prayer. Read awhile, pray awhile, then walk around. A friend of mine paces the floor of his room for his prayer time. Rather than get cramped in one position, take a walk and stretch; get some variety.

As outside things pop into your mind, simply incorporate those items into prayer. If it’s some business item you must not forget, jot it down. Have you noticed how many things come to mind while you are sitting in church? It will be natural for things to occur to you during your prayer day that you should have done; so put them down, pray about them and plan how and when you can take care of them. Don’t push them aside or they will plague you the rest of the day.

At the end of the day summarize in your notebook some things God has spoken to you about. This will be profitable when referring back.

Two Questions

The result of prayer should be answers to the two questions Paul asked the Lord on the Damascus road (Acts 22:6-10).

  1. Paul’s first question was, "Who are you, Lord?" The Lord replied, "I am Jesus." You will be seeking to know Him, to find out who He is.
  2. The second question Paul asked was, "What shall I do, Lord?" The Lord answered him specifically. This should be answered or reconfirmed for you in that part of the day when you unhurriedly seek His will for you.

Don’t think you must end the day with some new discovery or extraordinary experience.

Wait on God and expose yourself to His Word. Looking for a new experience or insight you can share with someone when you get back will get you off the track. True, you may gain some new insight, but often this can just take your attention from the real business.

 

The test of such a day is not how exhilarated we are when the day is over, but how it works into life tomorrow. If we have really exposed ourselves to the Word and come into contact with God, it will affect our daily life. And that is what we want.

Days of prayer don’t just happen. Besides the attempts of our enemy Satan to keep us from praying, the world around us has plenty to offer to fill our time. So we have to make time. Plan ahead the first of every other month, or once a quarter.

God bless you as you do this and do it soon! You too will probably ask yourself, "Why not more often?"