(You Gotta Have a Plan)
I want to talk briefly about your personal time with God …
Bible reading and prayer
Fondly known as “A quiet time”
Really we don;t want “quiet” – we want to hear God speak to us
God can speak through ‘a still small voice’ inside us
God can speak through the Bible – His written Word
God can speak through others
God can speak through circumstances
God can speak through a teaching – sermon – book
God can speak prophetically to you
The two key ones during your daily time with God – Bible and ‘still, small voice’
Lots of other voices to cease and desist in your inner life
Voice of your generation
Voice of your religious traditions – personal or church
Voice of your culture
Voice of your opinion
Voice of your emotions
Voice of your agenda and your will
Voice of the media
Voice of your peers and friends
Voice of demons
Voice of family members…
Listening to and hearing God is a skill few take time to develop and this is why we have a “quiet time”
You have the ability
Romans 6:23b “…the gift of God is eternal life”
John 17:3 “Eternal life is….”
But you have to be intentional
You can’t be passive
Hearing God’s voice seldom happens by accident – you have to learn the skills needed to hear His voice
It takes time
It takes practice
It takes effort
It often takes help
The Bible states:
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7)
So, it seems important to be building this daily relationship with Jesus, the Living Word
AND, with the Bible, the written Word
Prayer pursues joy in fellowship with Jesus
Prayer pursues God – to give to Him the honour that is due to Him (first place in life)
Prayer releases the power of God to touch lives for Jesus
In prayer, we admit our poverty and God’s prosperity
In prayer we admit our bankruptcy and his bounty
In prayer we admit our misery and his mercy
Therefore, prayer highly exalts and glorifies God precisely by pursuing everything we long for that is found only in Him, and not in ourselves.
“Ask, and you will receive . . . that the Father may be glorified in the Son and . . . that your joy may be full.”
Unless I’m badly mistaken, one of the main reasons so many of God’s children don’t have a significant life of prayer is not so much that we don’t want to, but that we don’t plan to.
If you want to take a four-week vacation, you don’t just get up one summer morning and say, “Hey, let’s go today!”
You won’t have anything ready.
You won’t know where to go.
Nothing has been planned.
But that is how many of us treat prayer.
We get up day after day and realize that significant times of prayer should be a part of our life, but nothing’s ever ready.
We don’t know where to go.
Nothing has been planned.
And we all know that the opposite of planning is not a wonderful flow of deep, spontaneous experiences in prayer.
The opposite of planning is the rut.
If you don’t plan a vacation, you will probably stay home and watch TV.
The natural, unplanned flow of spiritual life sinks to the lowest ebb of vitality.
There is a race to be run and a fight to be fought – takes planning, training, discipline
If you want a meaningful and powerful prayer time
If you want to experience “life” in your ‘prayer life
Then you must plan to see it.
John Piper goes on to say… Therefore, my simple exhortation is this:
Let us take time this very day to rethink our priorities and how prayer fits in.
Make some new resolve.
Try some new venture with God.
Set a time.
Set a place.
Choose a portion of Scripture to guide you.
Don’t be tyrannized by the press of busy days.
We all need midcourse corrections.
Make this a day of turning to prayer — for the glory of God and for the fullness of your joy.
Think about it:
A race to be run and a fight to be fought – so need to plan
Most believers struggle to have a daily purposeful and productive time with God
Some simple points we were looking in to in Turkey with some Central Asian Church leaders and pastors…
1> Establish a quiet place to pray (your closet)
Unlike the Pharisees who prayed in public to be seen and noticed
We need to find a place that is as free from external distractions and stimuli as possible
Prayer has to do with an invisible reality … the visual and audio have a powerful influence on us and so we need to limit these external distractions when seeking to spend meaningful time with God
So, we need to move away from the visual and audible reality … find a place that minimizes what you can see and hear
Go to the same place at the same time
This way a habit is formed – prayer becomes a regular daily occurrence
2> Establish an alert time to prayer
Go with your personality flow … the way you are wired.
We all do what we really want to do – can get up when you need to (to catch a plane) so do you really want to pray and commune with God?
Follow the rhythm of your daily life
Find your most alert time during the day – the way you are wired – who you are – the flow of your life
Set some of that alert time / your best aside for God
Try to follow the same time slot every day
Now you have a time and a place…
3> Set aside a block of time
This is determined by you – the Bible does not state how long to pray
Jesus to Peter – pray with Me for an hour – is only reference to a time length for prayer
Don’t create a rule on a verse…
A> Large enough to be meaningful – prayer is a relationship
B> Small enough to be manageable
Moses on the edge of the Promised Land
Spies went in and came back 40 days later
Too many giants – they were overcome by the massiveness of the task
Many years later…
Joshua learned the lesson – he sent 2 spies to spy out just Jericho
He made sure it was manageable so as not to overwhelm the people
You will know how long that needs to be for you to create and maintain a powerful relationship with the Living God
Now you are almost ready … but you still have to get there at the right time
Remember, we have an enemy – and Satan does not want us to pray because then we are dangerous
4> Guard your appointment with God
Just as you guard your appointments in the natural – getting to an airport when needed
I am a morning person – but the moment the alarm goes off no one is a morning person
So, you need to design a way to get yourself up when you need to
Satan will never tell you not to pray – he will tell you that you can start praying tomorrow
Find a verse that can motivate you to get up and get going (to your prayer time and place)
You need the “Sword of the Spirit” to defeat the lie of the devil
Still have not started praying – but we are ready
5> Have some tracks to run on (ritual)
“The discipline of structure precedes the delight of spontaneity”
To play an instrument spontaneously – there is disciple behind learning to play
A 40 minute track:
A> Clear the deck (2-3 minutes)
Get things out of mind, emotions …
Does not work to say “don’t think about it”
Say with me ‘don’t think about the number 7’
To not think about it – you have to think about it
Talk to God about what instantly comes to your mind
Write your immediate thoughts down on paper – You mind now knows you won’t forget that … so it stops reminding you
B> Thank and praise Him (5 minutes)
Review the last 24 hours and thank Him for everything (He has done)…
Then praise Him for who He is … not what He has done
C> Open with brief prayer for the Spirit’s guidance and illumination (2-3 minutes)
We pray to the Father
We pray in the Name of Jesus
We pray empowered by the Spirit
Paul states: “We don’t know how to pray…”
Ask Spirit of God to help you understand His Word and hear His voice during your time of reading His Word
Then the Holy Spirit will guide your prayer time …
Reading, meditating, speaking, listening
D> Read the assigned passage for that day (8 minutes)
Follow a dedicated plan for reading the Bible – systematic
You then don’t waste time figuring out where you should be reading
Then don’t skip around or read just what you like
E> Mark what strikes you as initiating speech and respond accordingly (15 minutes)
Let God speak to you through His Word and then you respond to what He initiates
This is a real conversation…
Not reading for information… but “what is God saying to me right now?”
i> Reveals a sin (speaks) – repentance and confession (response)
ii> Makes a promise – pray for faith to believe it
– thanks if you have already experienced it
– intercession for someone who needs it
iii> Exhorts or commands an action
“…leave your gift at the altar, go to your brother…”
pray for strength and courage to obey
pray for the Spirit’s reminder
iv> Shows you something about God
F> Commit the rest of the day to Him (5 minutes)
Look at your schedule and agenda and offer each element to Him
Ask for the Holy Spirit’s help and keep doing this every day
Not doing devotions
Not having a quiet time
But engaging with and encountering a living God
On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your personal prayer life?
1 is poor and 10 is very rewarding
Give reasons for your answers
What practices have you found helpful in nurturing and growing your personal prayer life?
How can you find the balance between legalism (which is bad) and discipline (which is good) when it comes to guarding your personal prayer time?
Which part of the teaching did you find most helpful in making your prayer time more effective and meaningful?