by: Matt Alexander
Discipline is needed to grow in any area of life. Few students excel academically without the discipline of study. An athlete must be disciplined to train and practice in order to be a leader in the game. An employee must show discipline in order to do well in the workforce. We may not always like living a disciplined life but we can not deny the value it brings to any area of our day to day practice. It is no less in our spiritual life.
If you have never read The Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster I highly recommend it. Foster outlines key spiritual disciplines that must be a part of any disciples life. I am confident that prayer is at the top of the list.
Prayer is the lifeblood of a successful Christian journey.
We have far too often taken prayer for granted in the 21st century church. We have demoted prayer to a ritual that we do before a meal, bedtime, or the Sunday offering. We act as if we owe it to God to offer up some words in order to appease him so that he will help us get through the day. This is a long stretch from what we find in scripture.
All throughout the pages of God's Word prayer is the key to a healthy - intimate relationship with the Father. God doesn't need us to pray, instead we need prayer to align us with God. Prayer is a spiritual discipline not only because it is necessary in order to walk with the Father but also because it is a key area the enemy attacks in the life of any Christian. Satan knows that if he can keep God's people from praying then he can thwart their effectiveness for the Kingdom of God. On the other hand, the greatest encouragement a believer can receive is to know that he is giving his heart to God in prayer as well as being prayed for by other believers. A dear sweet lady in our church sends me a text message every morning with a specific prayer she is praying over me for the day. Words can not adequately share what that does for my heart. Prayer moves us to great places - God places.
How disciplined is your prayer life? Are your prayers honest and from the heart? Are your prayers consistently aligned to seeking the Father's will? Do you seek to change God in your prayers or let God change you?
The above questions have been a constant conviction on my heart for a long season of my spiritual walk. The Holy Spirit has been teaching me that without deep, intimate, abiding prayer I will not be the husband, father, man, or pastor that he has called me to be.
I need God, therefore, I need prayer.
My personality tends to fall more on the systematically organized side of things. I need some type of plan to follow in order to do well most days. Thus, when it comes to my prayer life I have found that the following prayer plan helps me stay disciplined and focused. Discipline in your life may look totally different but for me this works. Let me disclose, however, that the point of this is not to become legalistic or ritualistic. If the Holy Spirit is truly meeting us in prayer then we are free to adapt however He leads (and most days much adaptation takes place). My overall plan for the week is structured in the following way:
Monday - My prayer focus in my wife and my marriage.
Tuesday - My prayer focus is our adoption journey and the future children God would intrust to our care.
Wednesday - My prayer focus is the church I pastor and each of the ministries we oversee.
Thursday - My prayer focus is for missions and all of the missionaries serving in North America and throughout the world.
Friday - My prayer focus is our government and leaders.
Saturday - My prayer focus is simply praise and preparation for my heart to be ready to worship on Sunday.
Sunday - My prayer focus is that the Word of God will delivered in such a way that Jesus will be exalted and lost souls will find salvation.
Again, this is simply an outline as much as it is a work in progress. Each of these days contain very specific prayers dealing with the focal point of the day. Many times the Spirit impresses much more on my heart and the daily plan is always finding fluidity under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Some days I find myself failing more than I am faithful but God remains the same.
At the very least I hope this helps you think about how God would lead you to grow in the discipline of prayer. Your prayer life may not look like mine but please don't neglect to be growing in the discipline of prayer.
You need God, therefore, you need prayer.