January 1, 2019
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Colossians 4:2 (NIV)
Although I'm not a fan of New Year's resolutions, I've come to adore adopting a single word each year to guide me toward spiritual growth.
Last January as I sought God for my new word, I sensed Him leading me to the word "pray." Terror is too mild a word to describe the way I felt about that particular directive.
Don't get me wrong. I've made daily prayer a practice for decades, but I knew it was still a weak link in my spiritual life. Bible study is one of my great loves, and I adore getting out to serve. But during my prayer times, my mind wanders, my faith wavers and I never feel as if I cover all the needs. Guilt and a sense of falling short typically describe my prayer life.
Have you struggled with prayer too? If you're like me, maybe you know prayer is important, but it's hard to wrap your mind around such a powerful, invisible force. It's challenging to prioritize time for something so intangible with results that demand waiting.
As I surrendered and embraced "pray" with a trembling heart at the beginning of 2018, I pictured success as reading stacks of books from the 1700s. I imagined developing callouses on my knees from hours on them in the dark of early morning. But those images left me resistant instead of motivated. Truthfully, I couldn't fathom fitting those assignments into my current schedule. Surely this was going to be the worst word-of-the-year ever.
I'm excited to report that's not how God worked at all. Yes, He challenged me to grow in ways that required intention. He asked me to set more time aside for prayer, but He brought some beautiful, simple tools into my life that have allowed me to find peace and even joy in prayer. God directed me to:
- Instagram, where I found a pre-prayer journal routine that settles my thoughts and quiets my mind.
- A book that led me to pray one God-inspired verse for each of my sons every day.
- A calendar with daily out-of-the-box prompts that leads me to pray for areas I wouldn't have thought to cover.
- A friend who encouraged me to set reminders throughout the day on my phone to pray for people I want to intercede for every week.
- A group in the First 5 app where I write out my prayers based on that day's Scripture.
- A mentor who modeled on-the-spot prayer for those with a request: the best guarantee for follow-through instead of forgetting. Voila! Guilt free.
In a gentle yet persistent way, God brought Colossians 4:2 alive in my life in 2018: "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Now my one word "pray" is an invitation for ongoing conversation with God.
As a rule-follower and reforming perfectionist, I used to look for formulas and how-to's. Now, instead of limiting myself to a set number of minutes of prayer in a prescribed routine, the simple tools above allow prayer to permeate my thoughts. They've created a watchfulness in me that lasts throughout the day. I'm constantly looking for opportunities to pray, which leads to true devotion to the practice and thankfulness as I watch God at work. There are so many moments that beg for prayer!
If you long for talk with God that changes things, prayer is not as hard as you might think. Ask Him to send some simple tools your way, and let the dialogue begin.
Lord, I want to develop devotion to prayer because I long for a never-ending conversation with You. Please teach me to pray by showing me truths in Your Word and giving me the determination to use the tools You send my way. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 17:6, "I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer." (NIV)
Romans 12:12, "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." (NIV)
Tired of trying to pray perfectly? Amy Carroll's book, Breaking Up with Perfect: Kiss Perfection Good-Bye and Embrace the Joy God Has in Store for You, blazes a path to deeper relationship with God through ending our own pursuit of perfection.
Visit Amy's blog today where she'll share how to access the prayer tools she mentioned in today's devotion.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Is prayer hard or easy for you? If it's easy, praise God for giving you that gift and consider how you might share it with those around you.
If you're like Amy and prayer is a challenge, what obstacles do you face in developing a deeper prayer life?
Do some research to find tools to develop your devotion to prayer. Share what has worked for you in the comments.
© 2019 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.