I remember the significant day when I knew I needed to begin learning to pray. I’ll bet you remember that day, too.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, just as my children were getting ready for school, I watched the morning news and witnessed the second airplane collide with the World Trade Center.
I recall sitting outside of my son’s middle school, waiting to pick him up at the end of the day while considering that our small community was as susceptible to tragedy as anywhere else in the country.
You see, September 11th happened just 2 years after the nation’s eyes fell on Columbine High School – just thirty miles from our home. My husband Mike was a member of one of the many Denver metro area law enforcement agencies called to assist at the crime scene after the terrible massacre that occurred at the hands of two students.
Mike personally searched inside the school, specifically the library where the most bloodshed took place. He was tasked with the unimaginable duty of counting victims and searching for additional students who may remain hidden from their assailant. All this took place inside a public-school building where children felt safe. A public-school building, like the one directly in my gaze as I waited for my son.
That day, the horrors of Columbine still echoed in my mind, along with the sobering realization of my inability to protect my children. Overcome with my own insignificance, and with a real, present need for God, I knew in my heart of hearts that the only weapon I could forge against evil was prayer.
Taking Steps: Learning to Pray
Within weeks, I was involved with a group that was then called Moms In Touch (now Moms in Prayer www.momsinprayer.org). Within the safety of that prayer group, I met with other moms who held similar concerns and together we poured out our hearts before the Lord. It was my first time of participation in a corporate prayer gathering and through the structure and leadership within the group, I found it surprisingly easy to take part. The women who gathered helped me feel safe. Some were obviously comfortable in their prayer. Others, like me, were just beginning.
Through the rest of this post, I’d like to share what I learned through this group of praying moms. I trust it will encourage you as you work to deepen your prayer life.
Learning How to Pray
Moms In Touch followed a format that they called the “4 Steps of Prayer.” These included praise, silent confession, thanks, and intercession.
Each week the leader of the group prepared a prayer sheet with a designated Scripture for each of the 4 steps of prayer. An example prayer sheet (created from memory all these years later, and not one we used for the group) is available for you here. We covered each step of prayer together before moving on to the next and we prayed in agreement with one another.
Also included on the sample prayer sheet is a glimpse of how the groups functioned.
The routine may seem a bit too structured for some, but believe me, it worked. To this day I can see ways that God continues to move through those hours of heartfelt intercession. Another accomplishment of the structure was keeping us on a time schedule. Each group met for one hour and no more. After all, we were moms with dozens of things on our to-do lists and school schedules to follow. We promised each other one hour and that’s what we gave. There was very little time for conversation and fellowship within that hour. When those blessings did take place, it was before or after our time of prayer, and we somehow managed to develop a close connection with one another.
While we never want prayer to become a ritual, there are a variety of other “steps of prayer” and acronyms to use as tools during our communion with the Lord. I find them very helpful, especially in the beginning stages of learning to pray. They serve as a framework which offers specific areas of prayer to move through. There is no right or wrong order in which to pray, although there is a Biblical precedence.
Praise, for example, helps us connect with and identify the presence of the Lord. The Bible says that the Lord is enthroned on the praises of Israel. He comes and dwells with us during our praise (you’ve likely experienced that during musical worship at church).
Our sin separates us from God, therefore confession allows for reconciliation with Him. When we seek forgiveness, He is faithful to give it. (1 John 1:9).
Other Helpful Prayer Acronyms:
As I said, it’s not which acronym you use or even if you use an acronym at all, but the intentional time you set aside for prayer (be sure to see “When to Pray”, below). Here are a few acronyms you may find helpful:
P.R.A.Y.: Praise, Repent, Ask, Yes (praying God’s Word and His promises).
A.C.T.S.: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication
P.O.W.E.R: Praise, Offer thanks, Warfare, Embrace God’s instruction, Repentance.
This wonderful (and dare I say beautiful) tool is available here. It not only provides prayer prompts but allows room to record answers from the Lord as well.
By introducing an acronym of prayer into our marriage, it helped Mike and I begin to feel more comfortable praying together. It was a simple tool that brought untold blessing into our home, our marriage, and the lives of our family.
Learning When to Pray:
Our mom prayer group met at a certain time each week. Just as when we establish a set routine of prayer in our homes, this scheduled prayer time accomplished some great things:
- Having a set schedule helped me remember.
- It helped me prioritize.
- It helped me develop a habit and a routine that I rarely missed.
In our homes, we can decide to devote time in the morning to pray. Or before bed. Perhaps during our commute (with eyes open if we’re driving, please). Better yet, all three. There is much precedent established in the Psalms for both morning and evening prayer. We’d do well to follow suit.
Having said that, we’re also to pray at various times throughout the day. When . . .
- needs come up,
- the Lord stirs our hearts,
- we begin tasks,
- we see God’s hand move in our lives and want to give thanks,
- crisis strikes,
- we feel prone to worry,
- we battle temptation,
- and every moment in between.
The Apostle Paul encourages us to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Learning Where to Pray
Our group met at a specific location each week. Having that designated spot of prayer helped me:
- Begin to prepare my heart to go before the Lord as I approached that place
- Reminded me of my dedication to prayer when I passed by the location, even aside from prayer times
- I noticed I began to feel the presence of the Lord in that place more readily each time I entered. It seemed as if the room somehow “warmed” to communion with Him.
This wasn’t the only place I prayed. I also conversed with the Lord at home, in my car, at church, and other places. But in our designated place of praying together as moms, the only activity in which I engaged with was prayer.
Let’s designate a similar place in our homes: a particular place where we can get on our knees (I keep a rolled towel near my bed for my wimpy knees that don’t care for the hardwood floor), a special chair in a quiet corner, a closet or established war room in your home. Maybe it’s outdoors on a familiar walking path. There are countless places to pray, but when we find a place we can designate as “our own,” we can begin to reap the benefits, above.
I learned much from that first prayer experience – heart attitudes, tools, and practices that I continue to use. Eventually, I began to lead the prayer groups. This stretched me further out of my comfort zone and into a deeper level of discipline.
The most important thing I learned is this: Begin to pray, whether you feel comfortable and adept, or not. When we learn a new skill, we don’t wait until we feel competent before we begin practice. Instead, we practice until we begin to feel competent. And then we practice more. So it is with prayer.
Begin today, do it again tomorrow and the day after that. It will gradually become easier, more comfortable, more fulfilling, and more powerful. But if you don’t begin, your next step of progress may as well be a million miles away.
I love this quote by Donald S. Whitney which encourages me to step into prayer, even when I feel I don’t know what to say:
He will hear every prayer of His children,
even when our prayers are weaker than a snowflake.
He will hear every prayer of His children, even when our prayers are weaker than a snowflake.
May you find rich blessing today as you practice the discipline of prayer.