Preparing for the New Year – Building Spiritual Habits – Prayer

When dealing with children and youth, we spend a lot of time on the topic of prayer. One of the reasons is that children hear the words the adults use, the very “church-y” language, and they can get a sense that prayer is beyond their capabilities. The closest I can describe to this was listening to a physics professor discuss how a curveball works in baseball. I know how to throw a curveball. I figured out how to throw one when I was 11 by looking at frame-by-frame pics of pitching hall-of-famers Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton throwing it in this book on pitching. And even as a physics major I got lost in the words being used by said physics instructor. That’s kind of how some kids feel when it comes to prayer based on what they’ve experienced. It can take some effort to get them to understand that prayer is about having a talk with God. And talking in the way we speak. God doesn’t need the flowery language. He wants a sincere heart. That’s what is truly important.

Prayer is essential to our spiritual life. Prayer connects us to the God we love and serve. We are told over and over again in Scripture about the importance of prayer. Here are a couple of applicable verses:

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. – Ephesians 6:18, NIV

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – Philippians 4:6, NIV

Pray about everything. Pray on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests. Pray for the saints. Pray with thanksgiving. In these two short verses Paul says an enormous amount about prayer. If Paul isn’t authoritative enough, there’s always Christ, who said this:

“It is written,” he said to them, ” ‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'” – Luke 19:46, NIV

Christ is quoting from Isaiah 56:7. God consider prayer important enough that His house, His temple, would be one known for prayer. Think about that for a second. Compare how God treats prayer with how we often treat it. Just like Scripture, prayer isn’t something we can neglect. It is a significant part of a functioning spiritual life. Think about what Paul said to encompass in prayer. What he essentially said is cover everything in prayer. Take what’s on our hearts and minds to God. He’s there to listen. He’s there to advise. He’s there to help. We can’t do it on our own and prayer is one way of acknowledging that.

So how do we build a prayer habit? With Scripture we can use a tool like a Bible reading guide. With prayer we can keep a prayer journal. That does several things for us. One, we keep track of what we need to pray over. Two, it helps us focus during our prayer time. Third, we can keep track of how God answers our prayers. And that gives us greater confidence to go before God in prayer. Fourth, by looking at how God answers our prayers, we can see how much we are demonstrating a heart like Christ. Are we praying for the right things? Are we asking for the results that God is delivering? Or are we way off the mark? These are the types of questions keeping a prayer journal can answer.


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