I am filled with good intentions. Good intentions that remain just that and rarely or ever become a new habit or behaviour. Take New Year resolutions for example. I will have a list ready to go on 31 December but by the end of January, they are but a distant memory…’did I really think I would go to the gym more?’ ‘walk around Iron Cove Bay every week?’ ‘ be a loving and kind wife?’ ‘be a compassionate and understanding mother?’ Gulp. Fail. Fail. Fail. That is if I even remembered that I had made these resolutions.
Last year Keith and I spent two weeks in Pakistan. It is slightly off the beaten track for tourists, but we ignored warnings from the Dept of Foreign Affairs and went anyway. It was a life changing two weeks. I am a Christian and I am female and this is not a country where it is easy to be either. I wanted to hide away and become invisible. I met many Christians during my time there and their faith and commitment to Christ filled me with awe and amazement. It also made me realise that living in Australia is reasonably easy in comparison. I saw how much I took for granted in my sheltered and comfortable life. I came home wanting to pray for Christians living in hard places.
The other thing that struck me during my time there was the Muslim call to prayer. Every morning I was awakened to chanting calling those faithful ones to come and pray. They are disciplined in their prayer. I came home wanting to be more disciplined in my prayer. Their example confronted my prayer life – I forget to pray and then when I do pray for someone, I feel like my prayers are shallow and filled with umms and distracted utterances. I remember crying this deep and heartfelt prayer ‘Lord teach me to pray’. And then I wondered if this good intention would follow the way of any other good intention I have had.
So, what happened? Let me introduce you to two Andy’s. God has used them to help move this good intention into a habit that has become a part of my life. The first Andy started working at our church this year and he preached on prayer one Sunday morning. He was explaining these verses:
‘Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.’ Colossians 4:2-4
His words were encouraging and wise and he made prayer ‘doable’. He encouraged us to write down words or use words from the Bible and speak them, rather than sitting with a blank mind. It was an idea that resonated. I have grown up in an era where Christians have largely abandoned set prayers for the practise of extemporary prayer. I have no problems with this per se, but it has not helped me. When it comes to prayer, being spontaneous and unscripted have not been good travelling companions, particularly if you have a mind like mine that is both blank and wandering.
When I want to pray about someone, my blank mind struggles to think of good words to use, and then my mind becomes distracted and I find I have wandered off track without actually praying. Andy made me realise that words help. I have started collecting prayers and using them and using parts of the Bible that I have been reading and considering and using them to shape how I pray for others. If you would like to be inspired to pray, you can listen to his sermon. – choose the speaker Andy Judd – “What if prayer was our first resort?”
My distracted mind has been reigned in. I can read these words, pray for people and I have prayed.
I thought I might use my electronic devices to help me pray. Following the example I had witnessed in Pakistan, I set my “I” devices to beep at 7am reminding me to pray. I then created a prayer calendar on my iPad listing who I wanted to pray for each day. I signed up to receive prayer letters from a number of people I knew were serving The Lord in difficult places – around the world and then in Australia and I was set. I started praying and I started writing to friends who have moved away to serve The Lord in different places – I felt like I was getting somewhere and that God was answering this prayer I had prayed.
However, I was struggling to keep track of prayer letters and what to pray for each person.
The second Andy has developed an App. Keith was teaching a class of students about prayer and shared with them my new habit of using my electronic devices to help me pray. A student bounded up to Keith and told him about PrayerMate which is an App that Andy had developed. I excitedly downloaded it and started using it.
This App has helped me enormously. You add the person you want to pray for, link to their email, a photo – if you have it, and it then allows you to add any prayer letters you receive as an attachment. There is also space for you to add other things you would like to pray for this person and then you work out when you want to pray for them – daily, weekly or monthly. Each day I have a completely different list of people to pray for – some appear daily while others make less regular appearances. However over the month, I am able to work through this list. The App includes a prayer feed gallery which includes a number of mission organisations and theological colleges – including Moore College! You might want to consider using this App: – Andy is English, he answers emails and has been very very helpful.
Seeing God answer this prayer “Lord teach me to pray” has not happened overnight. It has taken time, motivation and determination. God has used these two Andy’s in answering this prayer. I am becoming a person who not only remembers to pray but actually does and I find this quite amazing. Now, when I am asked to pray for someone, I have a place to write it down and a system that reminds me to pray.
There are so many exhortations in the Bible to pray – it is a good thing to do. If I can manage to start doing it, well, you could too. If this is a longing you have, to be a person who prays, well pray – ask God to change your prayer life. It is a prayer He will answer.
‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ Jeremiah 33:3
‘The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,and his ears are attentive to their cry; The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.’ Psalm 34:15, 17
Ponder these words. Use the model of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew as a starting point if you don’t know what to pray or how to pray. The Lord will hear and answer!