Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Personal Prayer: Developing a strategy for successful prayer

Personal Prayer: Developing a strategy for successful prayer
by Terry C. Muck

Like the marriage relationship, our relationship with God needs constant care. Though prayer is the communication vehicle through which a relationship with God develops, many pastors struggle to maintain a consistent prayer life. Yet, prayerlessness saps the power of ministry.

Combating Prayerlessness
Weakness of the flesh attacks all of us, especially when it comes to sustaining an active prayer life. As Paul notes in Romans 8, there is no way to overcome our lower natures but by the power of the Holy Spirit. You can utilize the Comforter's power by putting into practice three common techniques :

>Set up a system of accountability for prayer. Many Christian leaders hold themselves accountable to others for regular prayer. For example, a denominational district superintendent phones one layman each day of the month as a prayer partner for that day. Another pastor has a designated person call him at a time he has set aside for prayer. He then must face this person about whether indeed he is praying or not. Another pastor has covenanted to meet twice a day with two separate groups in her parish. Meeting with others keeps our prayer lives consistent and keeps us honest.

>Provide positive and negative reinforcements for prayer. What forms of reinforcement work? One California pastor sets aside a time each morning for prayer and "will not eat a meal of physical food until I first have some spiritual food and prayer time. Food really motivates me, so I make sure I get my prayer in every morning through this means." An Arizona pastor uses stoplights as times to pray. He gains an additional benefit: he used to be frustrated at being slowed down by stoplights. Now they are a positive motivation to pray.

>Turn prayer into a physical act. The advantages of physical exercise are obvious. Many Christian leaders pray while jogging, swimming, walking, or riding bicycles. The obvious goal of all these practices is to associate prayer with something beneficial to help overcome the lethargy that can strike us all.

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