Spiritual principles series
Every morning, unless something extremely unusual happens, my wife and I spend about half an hour praying together. We pray for each other, for our children, our friends and other relatives, for the ministries we are involved in, and anything else that comes to mind.
Maybe you’re thinking there’s nothing so unusual in that. Christians pray. That’s sort of part of the deal, isn’t it?
We think it is one of the most important aspects of our lives. And it may have even greater benefits than we might think. But I’m not so sure it is part of the deal at all – for many christians.
I have already considered (If God knows everything, why pray?) the intellectual question of how praying to a sovereign, omniscient God can possibly achieve anything. But intellect isn’t the only reason why we may not pray much.
For many, prayer is too hard. Our minds wander, and before you know it, we’re thinking about the meeting at work today, or what we’ll have for dinner, or how our football team played last weekend.
Perhaps we don’t know what to pray, so we form vague thoughts and hope they’re enough for God.
Or maybe we’re busy, we only have 15 minutes to catch the bus, and there’s just no time to do more than acknowledge God.
All of these have been true for me. And yet we all agree prayer is important.
I have argued that our actions change our world, and prayer is asking God to act on our behalf to change our world. So I believe it is a good spiritual principle to pray often, specifically, about everything, so that our lives are truly in God’s hands.
So what can we do?
One of the best ways to ensure we actually do pray is to pray aloud with a friend. Couples can commit to each other to pray together and believe their prayers will change some things in their family, church and workplace.
Single people can set up a prayer pair or triplet and rely on each other to keep each other committed when willpower fails, and also believe it will make a difference. They may not pray together every day, but the weekly discipline can help set up a pattern and encourage prayer on the other days.
Does it “work”?
Often, we just don’t know. We may not know how things would have turned out if we hadn’t prayed. Occasionally we will see something more “coincidental” or helpful, and then it is easy to believe God has done it. But other times we don’t see or feel anything.
But it is still a matter of faith. We have (I believe) good reason to trust Jesus, and he said praying makes a difference (Luke 11:5-13), but.
We have been praying every day for more than 30 years now, and we wouldn’t still be doing it if we didn’t think it was an important part of our day:
- We believe we get guidance as we pray. Often we stop in the middle of praying to discuss a thought that has come to one of us. We don’t know for sure it is from God, but we believe it is quite likely.
- We ask for God’s protection on each other and on our children, and ask for continued good health. We believe God keeps answering those prayers.
- We pray for people we know going through tough times or facing important decisions. Often, they seem to receive the guidance they need.
- And we pray for God to open up the way in the ministries we are part of, and it seems that he does.
But it seems there’s more
Recently I came across Morning Rituals Can Have A Huge Impact On Your Life in the Huffington Post. In it, author Leigh Campbell pointed out that how we begin our morning can have a big impact on the rest of the day, and outlined 10 tips to establish a morning ritual that will have a “huge impact on your whole life”.
Some of the “mindfulness” suggestions seem to be not all that different to praying. Here are four.
Cultivate an attitude of gratitude
“Gratitude is simple, powerful, and scientifically proven to boost your mood. Use a journal to identify five things that you’re grateful for every day.” Not all that different to thankful prayers.
“Take a moment to read or listen something uplifting or inspiring …. positive moods lead to increased creativity, improved immune function and greater resilience. Listen to your favourite tunes while getting ready, or read a daily affirmation to spark some positivity for the day.”
Both prayer and Bible reading can be inspiring and an affirmation, though of course they can both be more than that (and sometimes less than that too!).
Set your intention
“Coming out of your meditation and stretches, think about setting an intention for the day. This could be something specific that you want to accomplish, or a personal quality that you want to further develop – such as patience.”
This is good, but with prayer, it can often be God convicting or guiding us to something for that day.
Commit time to having a morning ritual
“Spend some time considering your motivation for implementing a positive morning ritual …. Research tells us that unless we’re really clear on the benefits of change and they outweigh the costs, we’re unlikely to create meaningful change.”
Just do it!
So we can have multiple motivations for setting aside time each morning to pray. It does us good, mentally and physically as well as psiritually, and we can tap into the best advice in the universe!