A couple weeks ago, Judy Forester came to me after church and said she was really concerned about so many things that are going on in our world--problems in our denomination, divisions in our nation. It just seems there is so much darkness in our world. And so Judy asked, "Is there some way we could have a day of prayer and just ask people to pray for all these things?" I said, "Absolutely!" And so, we have designated February 27 as a day of prayer and fasting. This Wednesday at our , Ash Wednesday service, I will share a little about the spiritual discipline of fasting. Today, I want to teach you how to pray for 30 minutes.
1 Timothy 2:1-4
1 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.
Before I begin teaching you how to pray for 30 minutes, I need to convince you that you must pray. At its heart, prayer is communion with God. Prayer is the lifeblood of Christianity. Prayer is not just something Christian's do, it is the soul of who we are. Christians believe we were created by God for a real, personal relationship with God. If you’re not praying, you’re not communing in an active, real, and personal relationship with God.
Can you be real friend if you never talk to or spend time with your best friends?
Can you be a good husband or wife if you never talk to or spend time with your spouse?
Can you be a real parent if you never spend time with or talk to your children? (Sure, you can create life and give birth, but you cannot be a legitimate parent unless you have a real, personal relationship with your kids.)
Prayer is the way we spend time with God. As with most vibrant relationships, our prayer relationship with God usually involves talking. You don’t have to use fancy language or try to make a speech. You don’t even have to talk like the preacher when he prays on Sunday morning (actually, please don’t!). You have to realize, the kind of prayer a preacher prays on Sundays in church is different from the prayers we offer when we are all alone and talking to God. Prayers said at a church service are public prayers; they're for everyone and it requires the worship leader to pray on behalf of everyone. But when I’m all by myself and praying, I’m just talking to God like a kid talks to their mom or dad.
Sometimes, prayer is not talking at all. It’s just being with God—maybe sitting quietly or reading a book together, watching a movie, listening to music, or riding in the car. Friday and Saturday, my wife and I took a trip to Ashville, NC just to get away for a couple days. It was a three-and-a-half-hour drive. Do you think we talked the entire time? (Some people might be able to do that, but not me or Kelly. We are relatively quiet people and that would frankly drive us crazy. I’m so glad I married someone with whom I can just be quiet.) Sometimes, spending time with God through prayer is just being quiet together or listening to what He has to say as you prayerfully read your Bible or listen to some music or take a walk together.
How to Pray for 30 Minutes
Alright, enough explanation about prayer. How do you do it? And how can you do it for 30 minutes? The following is one way you can pray for 30 minutes. It’s adapted from a formula offered online by Athens First United Methodist Church. If you struggle to pray for extended periods of time, perhaps this could help you. I encourage you to give it a try. In your bulletin, you will find an outline to help you follow this 30-minute plan for prayer. The formula is broken down into sections that include: Praise, Reading Scripture, Meditation, Confession, Intercession, Listening, Recording, Petitions, Praying for Family, Praying for the Church, Praying for Government Leaders, and Giving Thanks. If you pray each section for 2 and a half minutes, you will end up praying for 30 minutes. You will need a few things to follow this formula: A Bible, A Notebook and a pen or pencil, A quiet place where you can be a alone and uninterrupted for 30 minutes.
Start by praising God. Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.” This is a great way to begin 30 minutes of prayer. Call out to God. Praise Him for creation. Think about His love and wisdom and praise Him. Think about the wonder of God’s creation and how they testify to the glory of God. And praise God for who He is. Just revel in the wonder of the God of the universe.
II Timothy 3:16–17 says, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good.” Read a psalm of praise to the Lord. Here are some suggestions: Psalm 100, Psalm 23, Psalm 121, or Psalm 34 (or pick another one you like). Pray through a Bible passage using the words as your prayer. Ask God to help you understanding as you read His Word. Let the Scriptures fill your mind and impact your heart.
Meditate on God’s Word
Psalm 119:11 says, “I treasure your word in my heart.” Take a few minutes to meditate on the Scripture you have just read (or on other passages that come to mind). Mull them over again and again in your mind. What is God saying to you through them?
I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Take some time to evaluate specific attitudes, thoughts, words, and actions that God brings to mind as you pray. Confess your sins to God and humbly ask for His forgiveness and cleansing.
I Timothy 2:1 says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone.” Pray to the Lord on behalf of others. Pray for renewal in the hearts of believers. Pray diligently for the needs that come to mind.
Next, quiet your heart and be still before God. Psalm 29:2, 4 says, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name; worship the Lord in holy splendor… the voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.” Ask God to speak to you. Be quiet and listen.
Record your Prayers and Insights
Now, take out your notebook and something to write with. Take a few minutes to write down some notes that come to mind. Write down the insights and direction God gave you during your prayer time. You can even write out a prayer or something you think God wants you to do. It takes a little bit longer to write words than to say or think them. Writing forced you to slow down and dwell with God as He organizes your thoughts.
Petition for Daily Needs
Philippians 4:6–7 says, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
So spend a few minutes sharing your personal requests with God. What do you need? What are you worrying about? Talk to God about it.
Pray for Family
Psalm 133:1 says, “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!”
We want our family to live together in unity. So, pray for your family. Pray for families in general. Ask the Lord to strengthen marriages and uphold family relationships.
Pray for the Church
1 Corinthians 12:12, 27 says, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ… Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” Pray for Pleasant Grove United Methodist church and all who seek to know the Lord there, and pray for our church leaders. Go over the prayer list found in the bulletin. Pray for the United Methodist Denomination as we prepare to tackle some very divisive issues at our next General Conference in May. And pray for the universal Body of Christ, which is made up of believers all over the world of all different denominations.
Pray for Government Leaders
1 Timothy 2:2 says, “Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.” Spend a few minutes to pray that God will give our government leaders wisdom and understanding. Pray for local, national, and international concerns. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” We need God to heal our land. So pray for it.
Now it’s time to finish your 30 minutes of prayer. You may now find that 30 minutes is not enough time. If your schedule allows it, you can keep praying. God would love that! But, when it’s time to finish praying, think about the good gifts God has given you and express your gratitude for His care and provision. Praise God for all He has done and for all He will do. As 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
If you follow this simple formula, praying each section for about two-and-a-half minutes, you will end up praying for 30 minutes. It’s not that hard. Perhaps the hardest part is making the time and committing to do it.
This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and it begins the 40-day season of Lent—a season for Christians to devote themselves to prayer in preparation for the Easter celebration coming up in April. Perhaps you can use this formula to pray for 30 minutes each day throughout the 40-day season of Lent. You might find you like it so much, you want to make it a regular part of your day even after Lent is over. I challenge you to give it a try.
Prayer is the lifeblood of a person’s relationship with God. You can know about God (just like you can know about a famous athlete or celebrity); but prayer is spending time with God. It is essential for every Christian to be devoted to prayer. Let’s begin today.