Last night I was up until 2:30, partially because I was writing my blog entry for yesterday. I’m not sure it counts since it wasn’t done until after 1:30, but I figure that on vacation, I can define a day as “any period of time between naps.” So, I got the post done in time!
Consequently, I slept in longer than I intended this morning, and my whole day was thrown off, or so I thought that’s what would happen. Thankfully though, that wasn’t the case. I actually had an extremely productive day! I spent some great time with my family, got a haircut, got another project “almost finished” for church, was able to study for a while, and got in a great workout. That’s pretty good for a workaholic who’s trying to take it easy but feeling guilty about it etc…
Ya know what I didn’t get done though? My quiet time.
Another thing that I’ve started during my time up here has been a new way to do my personal quiet times each morning. I actually developed a program for using the Psalms as a prayer guide. It’s been absolutely wonderful, and it’s really helped me. I struggle with prayer. I always have. I find myself easily distracted, whiny and generally self centered. I don’t want to be that way, and I often consciously tell myself to be otherwise, but then of course when I fail I fall into self-condemnation and spend my time beating myself up because I’m not a better “prayer warrior.”
I know some of you would say that I make it too complicated, and that’s probably true, but although we all have heard it said that prayer is simply “talking with God”, that is only part of the truth. Prayer is a conversation, and it’s one that we need to be having “without ceasing”, but prayer is so much more than that. Most importantly, we have to remember that although God is our friend, he is also our Lord and King. I think that’s part of the reason I get hung up. I want to talk to God personally, but I don’t want to treat him simply like my “home-boy” etc… The problem with all of this is that it makes me self-conscious, because I’m second guessing how I should be talking to my creator, and it also makes me self-centered, because I’m spending all my time thinking and praying about how to be a better “pray-er”. It’s a terrible cycle, and if you don’t struggle with it, I praise God for that, but I know there are many who do.
One of the most prayer-life-altering moments I had was about a year ago, while reading “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life” by Don Whitney. It was in this book that I was reminded (and instructed) that prayer is more than a conversation, it is a spiritual discipline. In the book he recounted how many great prayer warriors of history struggled with their personal prayer times, even the great George Mueller, in his auto-biography shared that he “often felt his mind wander” during his morning prayer times. Whitney went on to suggest various things that had been used by men throughout history to help them focus during their quiet times. The main thing, and the one that George Mueller himself used, was simply to pray according to scripture. To use scripture as a sort of guide to your quiet time. This idea was not only very logical, but immensely helpful!
I mean, we say that the bible is the all-sufficient thing to help us navigate all of life, and yet I’d never thought to use it during my prayer time. It made so much sense, and as I began to implement it, I found it to be exceedingly helpful!
I have still struggled over the past year with my prayer times, but it has been so much better than it ever was. And it was my intention, and outside of today it has happened, to create and implement my own prayer guide using the Psalms, and it has been wonderful! I use the simple model ACTS….Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. The way I use the Psalms is what helps me to stay focused though.
I combed through the Psalms and found chapters that are centered around praising God for who he is (adoration) and also what he’s done for us (thanksgiving). I also found passages that would help me with thinking through different aspects of my sin (confession). I’m not using the Psalms for my times of petition, but I’ve found that for me (and most people), praying for stuff we want to happen is usually the easiest thing.
I start off by reading one of my praise Psalms (yesterday it was Psalm 8) and then that helps me to start off my prayer time, not talking about me, but thinking on, and talking about, God. Who he is, how wonderful he is, how worthy he is of my praise. I’m not trying to praise God for what he’s done for me, but simply who he is! After that I work through confessing my sins, and read the subsequent passage, and then I read the passage of thanksgiving (Psalm 9 yesterday), and I take time to thank God, not just for the ways he’s working in my life personally, but also for the things that the Psalmist brings to light as well. For example, when David writes of the ways that God has delivered him from his enemies, it brings such vivid imagery to my mind of how God has delivered my from my worst enemy…sin. The Psalms look at salvation from every angle, and it’s good for us to follow suit! I then, close out my time by working through my prayer requests, but by that time, I’ve had such a sweet time of communion with God, and he’s spoken to me through his word!
I missed my prayer time today, and I regret that, and I intend to fight for that time tomorrow, no matter how late I stay up tonight. I have begun to (though by no means completely) understand how David could say “better is one day in your presence than thousands elsewhere”.