Guidelines & the Four Questions

Guidelines 

Here is a summary of the basic guidelines for cultivating meaningful, genuine, dynamic, daily prayer drawn from the first three chapters.

  1. Be Accountable

In a sense, by reading this book, enacting its principles, and asking yourself its questions, you are holding yourself accountable. But accountability becomes even more powerful when we invite other trustworthy persons into the process who care about us and who themselves are pursuing the same goal. This creates a climate for mutual accountability. Be careful not to allow accountability to generate guilt or competition.

  1. Pray Every Day

Prayer is meant to be the posture of our lives. But, while we may try and justify our lack of regular prayer by claiming that we are always in prayer, John Dalrymple got it right when he said, “The truth is that we only learn to pray all the time everywhere after we have resolutely set about praying some of the time somewhere.”[1] As we saw in the last chapter, God’s desire is to meet with us daily in the Secret Place!

  1. Have a Set Time for Prayer

Like exercise, we only experience prayer’s full potential when we engage in it consistently. As we saw in the last chapter, if we don’t make room for daily prayer at a set time, we invite distraction and busy-ness to come and rob us of our time with God.

  1. Have a Set Place for Prayer

In Chapter Two we discussed the importance of a set place for prayer which allows us to be undisturbed and private so that we can freely respond to God however His Spirit leads us.

  1. Make Intimacy with Christ the First  Priority of Prayer

As we saw in Chapter One, we Christians have a tendency to make petition and intercession the focus of our prayer time. This petition/intercessory-laden approach reflects a self-centeredness that betrays our spiritual immaturity. Nothing is more important than pursuing a love relationship with the Master! Out of that dynamic, relational connection, the Holy Spirit finds room to direct us into Spirit-led prayer. Surely the Holy Spirit knows what we should pray for?

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will (Romans 8:26-27).

Making intimacy with Christ the first priority of prayer doesn’t mean that we never make our petitions or intercessions known. That would be in conflict with Philippians 4:6-7 and the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). But it does mean that our intimate connection with Christ should be the catalyst of all of our petition and intercession.

  1. Make Prayer Dynamic

 Dynamic prayer, based on Pentecostal spirituality, understands that God’s Presence can be experienced. It also understands that encounter with God changes us. Therefore, dynamic prayer is prayer that expects something to happen in the prayer closet and understands that we should be different when we leave the Secret Place than we were when we went in. This is not to say that our prayer time should first and foremost be about feeling. On the contrary, most of us will not necessarily always feel something in our prayer times. We must walk by faith. However, as we sharpen our ability to hear God’s voice, and as we get more and more comfortable with yielding to God in prayer, we grow in our ability to recognize God’s Presence and his active involvement in our prayer times. In this way our prayer times become divine appointments!

  1. Be Prepared to Deal with Obstacles to Prayer

We will discuss some of the obstacles to prayer in Part 3 of this book. For now, suffice it to say that there are many obstacles to prayer. Some of them are external, most are internal. A strategic part of the cultivation of daily, dynamic prayer is arming ourselves with the necessary weapons to combat the enemy and overcome the obstacles to prayer.

Questions

In order to keep the importance of prayer ever before us in a way that reminds us of the essentials discussed in this book, I have devised a few obvious questions that can be asked in a small group or even independently. The questions reflect the basic premise of the vision for prayer outlined in the first three chapters.

Did you pray every day this past week?

This question is not meant to bring guilt but accountability. It is meant to get at what we actually did each day when it came to prayer according to the guidelines in the first three chapters. Let’s face it, we either did or didn’t pray each day according to those guidelines. Hedging or finding a way to justify our laxity in prayer only serves to nullify the value of the question.

If the answer to Question 1 is “No, I did not pray every day last week,” then we have to answer a follow-up question: Why?

Why didn’t we pray every day? What kept us from entering the Secret Place in an intentional way? Answering these questions truthfully will help us begin to make room for prayer on a daily basis. How? As we go through the week we begin to anticipate the next group meeting where we know we will again be asked, “Did you pray?”

If we answered “Yes” to Question 1, then the second question comes into play:

When you did pray, was it at a set time? 

 As was mentioned in Chapter Three, the benefits of having a set time for daily prayer are obvious in the same way that a predictable schedule for physical exercise is obvious. However, there are a few factors that can make it difficult to figure out when to pray every day.

  • Should we pray in the morning or the evening?
  • How long should we pray?[2]
  • How will a regular prayer time mesh with my work schedule and the expectations of my family?

Sometimes the problem can be as simple as the fact that our families have not been accustomed to seeing us give such undivided attention to prayer. They may not have seen us in this light before and may even find it difficult to respect our spirituality, particularly if we have not modeled it before! This is yet another reason why a private place to pray, undisturbed by others, is important. It puts us out of the sight-line of people, even our families, whose presence and opinions might inhibit our ability to yield to God.

Was it in a set place?

From the book, page 40:

“The lover of your soul may ask you to lay prostrate on the ground in obeisance! He may inspire you to dance before Him! His Presence may cause you to cry out or shout or weep or sing! Are you ready for such a personal, dynamic life of prayer? You can’t really do these things in your car or at your desk during the day or even in the midst of the family during the evening. We need to have a secret place where we meet with God!”

Was intimacy with Jesus your first priority?

This is a simple question with profound implications. Our answer reflects our direction in prayer and the true desire of our heart. It also reflects our trust. Do we really believe that if we put intimacy with Christ first that He can be trusted to guide us into every other prayer concern? What if we get “lost” in prayer and run out of time? Will He ignore our needs simply because we got busy loving Him? We must remember that this is a love relationship. God is not trying to hide from us or withhold His blessings from us anymore than we do with our own children. He’s not trying to trap us with spiritual technicalities! Either He can be trusted or He can’t.

There are other important questions:

What was your biggest obstacle to prayer this week?

While this question needs no explanation, it does imply a second question: What are you doing about it? Identifying the obstacle is one thing, dealing with it is another. We will look closer at obstacles to prayer in Part Three of this book.

How dynamic was your prayer time  this week?

Although this question is subjective to a great extent, it is important that we keep before us the values of what I call “river spirituality.”[3] River spirituality approaches the Presence of God by faith and in expectation. It is also persistent, knowing that when we enter into the Secret Place God does indeed meet us there!

[1] John Dalrymple, Simple Prayer, (London: Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd., 1984), 47.
[2] For help with this, Dick Eastman’s book, The Hour that Changes the World, is an excellent resource!
[3] A book on the subject of “river spirituality” will be forthcoming from this author.