Now the fact that I didn’t know how to pray was news to me. I had been praying my whole life, and felt that I understood what prayer was meant to be. But, if anyone would have asked me if my prayer life had any type of structure or discipline to it then I would have answered with a “No.” Followed by “Umm, structure?” I wasn’t really sure what else I needed to learn, I just knew that the next thing God was calling me to do was change our small group to a prayer group and get some practice.
From Learning to Practicing
At our next meeting, I presented the idea of taking what we had just learned in the six-week study and actually exploring and practicing prayer as a discipline. We would continue to meet together once a week and for one hour we follow a specific format in prayer produced by an organization called Moms in Prayer International. I had no idea how it would go over but, thankfully, two others in the group decided they didn’t want to move on either.
So, it was the three of us, my good friend Leslie and my new friend Jessica, and we committed to each other to give ourselves over to this practice. We really had no idea what this was going to look like or how long it would last but all three of us felt God leading us to it. At the time Leslie and Jessica both had young children so we got approval to hold our prayer time in the church nursery and we went for it. Every week we would come together, sit on the floor of the nursery, and just pray…through playing, crying, feedings and diaper changes. One solid hour of prayer through a format of praise, silent confession, and thanksgiving; then on to intercession for our kids, their teachers and schools, and our husbands.
It wasn’t magical or mystical in any way. It was actually extremely ordinary, like a weekly play date with an intentional focus. To be honest, it was hard. Those first six months were probably the hardest. Kind of like starting a new workout regiment where the intention is great but the follow-through is tough. Many Wednesday mornings I wouldn’t “feel” like going, but the accountability to my friends and of being the leader kept me consistent. And each week, without fail, my initial feelings of fatigue and lack of desire would give way to a divine sense of purpose and accomplishment when the hour was through. We didn’t realize it at the time but we were steadily building this muscle, this discipline of prayer muscle, and it was changing us. Changing each of us individually, but also changing things in our marriages and in our homes. It wasn’t immediate, it took time and consistency. It took focusing on our commitment and purpose, and not on our feelings. It took the intention to engage and develop one thing, not five things, one thing the Bible says is absolutely vital to the believer’s spiritual health. We prayed. And none of us have been the same since.
Whenever that first year of praying in the nursery comes up now, we all marvel. We marvel at how making one decision and holding to it has changed each of us so drastically. We marvel at how God grew our knowledge and experience of His character and faithfulness in such a short time. We marvel at how we can pinpoint some major life decisions (for the better) back to the influence of prayer that year, knowing full well that all the glory is God’s alone. The only things we did right were:
- Said “Yes” to the Holy Spirit’s voice to pursue this discipline;
- Kept showing up.
Growth Through Spiritual Disciplines
The discipline of Bible study was my first spiritual game changer. The past 13 years of steady pursuit of Jesus in the Scripture has given me a breadth of knowledge of Him that only comes through discipline. But this discipline of prayer is what has brought a depth to that knowledge that I wasn’t experiencing before. It has changed me and is still changing me. It has changed my relationship and intimacy with Jesus. It has changed my old defensive strategy of praying for my family to an offensive strategy of attacking the schemes of the devil and speaking aloud the promises of the Word. And this girl who was unaware that prayer could have a structure now fully understands how vital it is for our conversations with God to begin with how excellent and majestic He is. When we start with praise our posture in prayer becomes a heart full of faith in His provision because you’ve already reminded yourself of his might and greatness.
In one of my first posts that you can check out here, I wrote about a specific experience of thirst for Jesus and The Word that God used to move me to a greater pursuit of Him. I have no doubt that our initial discipline of prayer was the catalyst that led Leslie and I to have such an expectation and desire to experience Him that conference weekend. There are many areas of all three of our lives that I believe bear fruit precisely from that year together…to the praise of Jesus’ name!
It’s been 4 years now and it only gets richer. To tell you that praying with other women will deepen your friendships is an understatement. The women that God has brought to our group who have pressed in and exercised in prayer with us has been some of the sweetest and tenderest relationships I’ve known. Many of them shorter than I’d like as God has seen fit to move them and their passion for prayer to a new place to ignite a flame. We’ve been so blessed to witness miracles of salvation of prodigal children and new life after infertility. He has been more than we ever dreamed.
So, my friend, what more can I say to encourage you to make a move to establish a practice of prayer in your own life? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you figure out what kind of strategy will work best for you and then go for it. Just to be clear, I’m talking about moving beyond the quick prayers in the moment of need. That’s the defensive strategy I was referring to earlier. It still counts as dialogue with the Father, but it is limited because it’s only reactive. It doesn’t allow time for the Holy Spirit to bring things up in your heart that need to come before your Father who can heal you and lead you.
I’m talking about going on the offensive, finding a Jessica and a Leslie, and committing together that you’re going to do this thing. That like me, you’re going to learn how to pray.
This is good work, dear one! It is how you battle on behalf of your marriage, on behalf of your children and their future, on behalf of your own heart and calling!
It’s pretty simple really…
You want to grow closer to Jesus? PRAY
You want to desire Him and His Word more? PRAY
You want to have victory over your own flesh? PRAY
You want to fight against this culture and the plans of the enemy for your children? PRAY
You want to step into the calling God has for you? PRAY
Don’t just talk about it, don’t just read about it, don’t just participate in studies about it…ACTUALLY PRAY! Now I’m fired up! My heart is pounding and I’m preaching to my dog next to me…only because I desire for all of my sisters and brothers to experience Him in this way. I earnestly desire for us to step into the power, the plans, and the victory God has designed for us in this life. If our aim is a passionate and thriving relationship with Jesus…it’s impossible without it.
I promise, even better…the Word promises, that if you adopt this practice…you will grow, you will know God more, you will see Him at work all around you. But, it’s going to take work. It’s going to take discipline. It’s going to take prayer.