Why should we pray? “Because there is a devil,” reminds R. A. Torrey, nineteenth century theologian and author of my favorite book on prayer, How to Pray.
Paul warns that we’re in a war. “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” The struggle, he tells us, is a spiritual one. See Ephesians 6:10-18. The chief way we’re to do battle with the heavenly forces of darkness is to sustain this habit of daily prayer.
So far in our 40-Day Challenge, we’ve concentrated on remaining ALERT, being specific when we ASK, grounding our prayer in God’s Word, and ready toAGREE with our teammates when we pray. I hope you’re reading your daily chapter in the Gospel of John. The goal of this exercise it to learn to search the Word daily for your spiritual food.
Have you figured out that the 40-Day Challenge is about developing a daily pattern of prayer that is sustainable long after our challenge is over? I don’t want you to create one more set of short-term habits so exhausting that you toss them aside when our six weeks are up.
Rather, I am coaching you to “train yourself to sustain yourself.” And trust me. If you are faithful in this process, the outcome will take care of itself. During this week of our 40-Day Challenge, we’ll focus on Step Six: ARM YOURSELF WITH SPIRITUAL STRENGTH.
The value of daily training came alive early one morning at the beach this summer as I noticed a group of lifeguards preparing for duty. They train to be ALERT, WATCHFUL—always ready to do their job of saving lives.
Watching their strict regime of running, stretching, and rescue drills reminded me of the training necessary to develop the habit of prayer. It’s not that prayer itself is hard. But to remain alert and watchful—ready to listen and obey God’s voice—takes practice. And it takes discipline to carve out time to read God’s Word and pray daily.
For meditation or memorization:
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11.
Assignment: Read Chapter 8, Temple Upkeep, and Chapter 9, Strength in Weakness in Sometimes He Whispers, Sometimes He Roars: Learning to Hear the Voice of God, Answer the Personal Reflection Questions on page 192.
This week, I encourage you to persevere in your daily habit of reading God’s Word and prayer. I also want you to give some thought to your use of time and your priorities. In Chapter 8, you’ll learn about how I began to form a daily life pattern which not only strengthened my prayer life but also helped me focus more intently on the work God has called me to do. God has created you with a wonderful combination of spiritual gifts, talents, personality traits, goals, and dreams, even life experiences that should be reflected in how you create your own life pattern.
I discovered that the first hours of my day are my most effective—my “power hours.” If I can carve out time for a morning run, a quiet time in God’s Word and prayer, and some creative writing, then the rest of my day seems to be on target. Throw in the preparation of a healthy breakfast for the family and you have my morning launch.
Training Tip: What are your “power hours?” These are the hours when you are at your most effective and creative. How does your daily structure help or hinder your habit of prayer?
Consider planning your day so that you have time with God’s Word and prayer during your power hours. This is also a good time for creative work—the work you feel is most important. It’s been estimated that 80 percent of your best impact comes from 20 percent of your work!
I hope you’ll spend some time this week experimenting with your life pattern. Try to build structure rather than a rigid schedule. Observe your energy. Are you at your best in the morning or the afternoon? How much rest do you need to stay strong? When it comes to humans, one size does not fit all. The Bible exhorts us to holiness, and conformity to Christ—not to each other.
Do you long to be useful to God to pray for His world—a world in trouble? Like you, I want to be powerful and effective in praying for family, friends, and neighbors. And I want to go the distance. It has been well worth the effort to “train myself to sustain myself” so I can finish strong. Let’s encourage each other to stand firm amidst the fray.
Prayer: Lord, help me to realize this week that my time, talents, and treasures are all gifts from You. You have entrusted me with these precious resources so that I can be Your vessel of love in this needy world. I know that it all begins with prayer, so give me the single-minded devotion to seek You daily. Draw me close to You in love. And let that love spill over to my family and those closest to me. And Lord, like those lifeguards, help me to remain alert and ready to seek and save the lost and the broken. Arm me with the strength I need to wage war with the world, the devil, and with my own flesh. Restore my soul so that I may better love and serve You–day by day. Amen.