Suppose I should start out by acknowledging that some people love eating broccoli, even if it’s raw. I, however, am not one of them. The preferred state is slightly boiled (still retaining the nutrients) and drizzled with cheese or dressing.
So, why the metaphor? We know we need fiber, nutrients, and minerals. Broccoli is good for us…but not always the first thing we want to chomp on when we’re hungry. We know prayer is good. We know we need it. But some times it leaves a lot to be desired if our perspective is off. So, how can we make prayer a little more appetizing?
We emphasize prayer more than anything else in our college/young adult ministry. We in no way want to guilt anyone into deepening their relationship with God, but it is the key to drawing closer to Him. Can’t say it emphatically enough: prayer is absolutely vital to every Christ follower’s life; it connects us with our Source.
Everyone has the same excuses: I’m too busy, I don’t know what to say, It’s such a chore, It’s boring, etc. I’ve been working with a student lately who needed some encouragement with his devotions. I try to stress quality vs. quantity, but also consistency vs. occasionally. For the first week, I asked him to just pray 2 minutes each on the P.R.A.Y model:
P raise – thanksgiving, acknowledging God’s attributes and achievements.
R epent – allowing God to show us where we messed up and asking for His help to stop.
A sk – requests for ourselves and others.
Y ield – waiting on God to speak.
This would be a total of 8 minutes, plus reading his Bible. He was shocked when I said my goal for him was to pray an hour every day by the end of the semester. After the first week, he expressed his struggle praying that long, simply because he never had before. Included in this list are some things I suggested to him:
- Play worship music in the background or through earphones. This helps get us focused on God rather than letting our minds wander. I warn people to make sure they’re worshipping/focusing on God and not the music. It’s easy to do that. Music stirs up powerful feelings and we don’t want to manipulate our emotions. Our response needs to be based on Christ’s Presence not the music itself. One time I was praying outside but someone was playing their radio loudly nearby. I found myself getting inspired emotionally (musically) because of a Lady Gaga song. HAHA! Music meant to attract us can also distract us. I moved on.
- When weather allows, go for a walk. Through the neighborhood, a nearby park, a walking trail… How better to see the Creator than to view His creation? “From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20, Psalm 19:1).
- Vary where we pray. I do believe in sacred spaces, but I also pray in different places. I pray at home, my office, our sanctuary, at the U of I Quad; when I was in college there were times I prayed in the cemetery (it was always quiet). One of my favorite places is the chapel at the Newman Center here. While some criticize the opulence, it helps me to get out of the “Jesus is my homeboy” phase and acknowledge His Holiness and Sovereignty.
- Pray through Scriptures. What is God speaking through the Word? How does He want us to apply it? Pray over those Scriptures, that God would bring it to pass in our lives.
- Organize our prayer requests. Not only does this make sure we pray for everyone, it also eliminates guilt from not praying for someone. There are people I pray for everyday, others I pray for on certain days, dividing them between the days of the week. This can be done on an electronic device as well.
- Have a prayer notebook. In mine, I have guides for different people groups, persecuted Christians, other campus ministries, missionary newsletters, government leaders, church leaders, etc.
- Create a slideshow. We can use our smartphones or tablets to show pictures of people or situations we want to pray for. The slides can be delayed for a minute or more as we pray, then move on to the next one.
There will probably be some who say these practices might be compromising, disrespectful, or catering to culture. My first response is: you don’t have to do it. But can we be people of grace and throw out the guilt? Ultimately, what we’re seeking is deeper intimacy with God. If younger generations respond better with some assistance, I say GO FOR IT!
Bottom line is LET’S GO AFTER GOD. It’s not wrong to have fun while doing it. How could we not spend time with Him daily? No healthy marriage would survive on couples spending a few minutes together sporadically during the week. Let’s put this in proper perspective: no appointment needed, walk-ins accepted, no intermediary…we are asked to have a private audience with God Almighty, the Creator of the Universe, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords…our Father, our Savior and Lord, and our Best Friend.