“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them…. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting.
I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get.” Matthew 6
I personally think some things should be out in the open – like content about church sermons, and quite possibly certain aspects of our lives (this blog is kind of a diary for me in some ways). But not everything should be out in the open… some should be “in secret”. Jesus identifies three in the Sermon on the Mount, but we are only going to focus on one for this post – our “private time” with God. That means prayer.
Oh by the way – this is excerpted, paraphrased and generally taken from my church‘s gathering today (9/30/07), sermon is “Part 2: Encouraging a Secret Life” which is part of the “In the Closet…” series.
What is the purpose of this daily private time?
- To give devotion to God (Psalms 29:2)
- To get direction from God (Psalms 25:4)
- To gain delight in God (Psalms 16:11)
- To grow daily with God (2 Peter 1:3-4)
So then, how should we pray? Refer to the Lord’s Prayer – but note Jesus says “how” and not “what” … this is the kind of things that should be included in our prayers. So what are these things?
- praise God (“Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name”)
- surrender (“your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”)
- asking (“give us this day our daily bread”)
- forgiveness (“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”)
- protection (“and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”)
And right afterwards, Jesus makes sure to point out that the forgiveness thing shouldn’t be taken lightly – “If you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins”!
OK – so what particulars can help in developing a daily time with God through prayer?
- Select a specific time. Keep in mind that saying whenever usually ends up becoming never, and that the morning is a common theme for many Biblical characters including Jesus, especially since you are starting you day talking with God but choose the time when you are at your best.
- Be consistent and stick with it, but even if you miss a day or three – start back up and keep going!
- Choose a special place. Find solitude – no distractions – where you are alone. Go walking. Get to work early and sit in the car.
- Gather the resources. Bible is assumed, but have you considered a life journal? Personally I haven’t even heard of one until today, but will look into one…. first thing I could find about one online – here.
Like we should expect, we are going to have problems (from Satan) keeping us from being with God, especially every day. Like what?
- Tiredness – so get the sleep you need and go to bed on-time (I struggle with this), get up immediately, and be aware of what robs your time (like blogging or watching TV late)!
- Distractions – when your mind wanders! So stay out of bed, get awake, maybe read and pray aloud, considering walking, and even keep a notepad nearby (to jot down these wandering thoughts that seem so important but can really be dealt with later).
For me, I go to my church’s gatherings on Sunday for spiritual fish – and I’m quite happy that I get it every single week. Sometimes you really have to spend awhile finding a church where you get it (especially if you want to consistently get it every week), but boy do I get served some good fish at New Venture! But here’s the thing that I didn’t get about what I really need – it’s to learn how to fish.
I refer you now to an old Chinese proverb: “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime”. Our success in following Jesus and finding growth is not primarily found in getting a fish each week. It is found in learning to feed ourselves each day in our private time with God.
I loved the honesty in Steve when he said that it was in his early 30s before he really got this, and that he had been in ministry for about 10 years before this realization.