Group Prayer – Feel the Difference

When I arrived home tonight, I felt amazing. For me, lately, that’s unusual. It’s been a rough stretch. But I felt well and truly amazing.

That’s when I realized I had been praying, together with other people, all day.

I got together with a group of folks in the morning and we prayed. What an awesome time with God.

In the late afternoon, another prayer group. Again, awesome.

Spent the evening doing our church service at the jail – again, a lot more prayer, together as a group.

And at the end of the day, I felt amazing – body, soul, and spirit.

There is nothing wrong with praying by ourselves. I do that all day long, and I encourage it! But praying with a group is so important too. There are amazing benefits in praying together that we can barely wrap our understanding around.

But you can feel it.

And why should that surprise us? Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20 NKJV). That should make any of us feel amazing!

If you live with or near family, you can start there by praying together as a family. Be intentional about it. Spend time together in prayer.

But not everyone has family nearby. Even for those who do, it’s also great to join with other prayer groups outside of your family. When one person in a family is struggling, the whole family struggles. A prayer group outside your family can help lift these burdens to God at times when you and your family don’t feel able.

Do you have a couple people you can pray together with? If not, ask God to give you the names of a couple people. You might be surprised to discover those very people are looking for this as well.

You can also call your local church and ask if they have a prayer group, or if they would like to create one. They should be able to connect you with a couple like-minded hearts who would enjoy praying together each week.

If you haven’t tried praying with a group lately – try it. You will feel the difference. Let me know how it goes for you.

Symbols of Prayer

If you’ve ever tried to teach about prayer in a church, you have probably encountered the challenge of teaching about something that is largely invisible. Prayer is not something you can see. We know it works, just like we know gravity works. But we can’t see the process with our natural eyes.

Have you thought about creative ways you can teach prayer using symbols? While symbols don’t replace the power of prayer, they can offer a visible way to focus on an invisible process.

Also, symbols draw our attention. They elicit questions. They make us curious.

Like the symbols I just saw in our town square. There is a display of war veterans’ crosses and flags. Usually we see these lining our streets on national holidays. But here just a few are displayed, not on a holiday. It might be a Pearl Harbor remembrance, but I’m not sure. Even though I don’t know the specific reason, the display drew my attention. It caused me to ponder and explore.

What kind of symbols might you display in your church to help people ponder about prayer?

For a season, our church had a candle displayed in a window. The electric candle, which stayed perpetually lit, represented our prayer vigil for the healing of cancer. At the base of the candle, people could write names of people they were praying for. Whenever someone received healing, they could mark “Healed” across the name.

Not every person interacted with the candle. But people saw it as they walked by. They might have stopped to read what it was about. It was something to keep them thinking about prayer.

Prayer stations are another way churches can use to visibly represent prayer. You arrange an area with items that symbolize prayer. Perhaps include a card that invites prayer or lists some scripture verses to pray. Churches often use prayer stations during special seasons, like Lent. But what if you kept a prayer station up all year? Maybe change out the items to mark the seasons. That’s a powerful and visible way to keep people remembering and engaged with prayer.

In prayer leadership, it takes time to get people involved in learning about prayer. The placement of a few symbols around the church can help prepare fertile soil.

What kinds of prayer symbols have you used at your church? What other ideas might you try? Feel free to reply and share your ideas, so others can learn. I would love to hear your creative suggestions about using prayer symbols in churches.

Really Present, Really Listening

A classmate shared today about an interview with Mother Theresa, in which she was asked about her prayer life with God. When asked what she said in prayer, she answered, “Nothing. I listen.” When asked what God said, she answered, “Nothing. He listens.”

How powerful and true. Often we are taught (though don’t necessarily “do”) to listen in prayer, but often we forget that God also listens. So often we are waiting for God to speak, but how much more comes from His listening. How amazing that the creator of the universe wants to listen to us! I also love contemplative prayer, in which we just sit with God, not even listening, but just being.

This also makes me think of how our prayer time with God is a model for how we spend time with others. Do we have conversations in which we really listen to the other person, and are fully present with the other person? So often, we are partly listening, partly thinking what we want to say, and partly thinking through our grocery list in our head.

How much more vibrant would the kingdom of God be if we learn how to listen and be present with others?

We can begin to learn this by being fully present and listening in prayer with God.

Adjust the Picture

I have many reasons to be discouraged. I have just come through a long and difficult season, and I’m still going through it. You may be able to relate to this as well. God certainly understands and His heart hurts for the discouraging times we go through.

But I can’t find anywhere in the Bible where God tells me to be discouraged. I find many places, almost on every page, where He gives hope for encouragement. It’s not easy to stay encouraged sometimes. But God does not call us to be discouraged.

How do we stay encouraged during difficult seasons? Ephesians 2:4-10 gives a much-needed perspective. If my vision of what’s going on around me leads me to discouragement, I need to widen the lens. I need to readjust my vision to accommodate what is going on, so I can be encouraged.

When things seem to fall apart, I need to remember that Christ holds all things together and is drawing every person to Himself (Colossians 1:17; John 12:32). I may see a small glimpse of that picture and it looks like a destructive whirlwind. I need to widen the lens and set my vision on Jesus. The bigger picture looks very different!

Ephesians 2 tells us we are seated in heavenly places with Jesus. Our lens of every moment in life must be set from that location. From our view, seated in heavenly places with Jesus, there is no discouragement. There is only God’s unending love for us, and the ways He allows us to participate with Him as He redeems and restores in the lives of His people.

Will you join me in allowing God to re-set our lenses? Ask Him to help you see as He sees, and to see how you fit into His beautiful picture of what He is doing in the world. Take some quiet time with God right now, and let Him adjust your lens. Let Him encourage you, even in your most difficult moments. God bless you.

This song, “Heavenly Places” by Amber Brooks, based on Ephesians 2:6, always reminds me of the encouragement and bigger picture I have in Jesus.

Ephesians 2:4-10 (NASB)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

5 Simple Moments of Blessing

Here are some simple ways to invite God into your day through blessing.

Many of us bless our meals, whether we eat at home, at a restaurant, or on the go. We may also say prayers of blessing at bedtime, and again when we send our families off to school and work in the morning.

Those are amazing times of family prayer and interactions with God. We bless our day and God’s heart.

What other simple blessings can we bring into our day, to include God in more of our daily life?

1. Pray for safety on the road, even if you are just running a quick errand.

2. When you bring groceries home from the store, pray over them, for the health and nourishment of your family.

3. Any item you bring into your home should be prayed over and blessed, as sometimes items come with spiritual attachments. It’s always a good idea to pray cleansing over everything that comes into your home. If you get in the habit of doing this each time you bring an item home, it’s a great way to bring God and blessings into your day, as well as keeping your home spiritually clean.

4. Speaking of cleaning, pray as you do your housecleaning. Even a quick touchup – wiping a counter, cleaning a mirror, scrubbing a basin – is a great opportunity to pray blessings for your family.

5. When you turn on the television, a movie, a video game, music, when you pick up your phone, turn on the computer, open a book to read – say a quick prayer asking God to bless your time and to keep yourself and your family spiritually protected. Again, this serves double duty – spiritual cleansing and blessing. It’s also a great way to interact more with God throughout your day.

What other moments of blessing do you include in your day?

Prayers for Sweet Sleep

Several of my friends and I are struggling with sleep. Sleep deprivation is not only exhausting but also unhealthy. We have each tried different remedies – even prayer! – and nothing seems to help.

One of my friends reminded me that God put us in relationships, and we need to pray for each other. When one of us struggles, our family and friends need to pray, and vice versa.

So my friend offered to send the three of us a group prayer text at night, praying over us for good sleep. What a wonderful idea! Her reminder was so important: When we struggle, we need to ask folks to pray. We are all in this adventure called “life with God” together, and He has given us the support we need.

What are the things you struggle with, where prayer would help? Who can you ask to pray through those things with you?

Don’t be afraid to ask! God created us for relationship, and that means we get to help and pray for each other. You might be surprised that when you ask your family and friends for prayer, they will also share their prayer needs with you.

Praying as God’s Child

I was reminded this week of the importance of “just” spending time in prayer with God.

Often, we get caught up in the prayer needs that surround us, including our own. We focus our prayers on the needs of others, or on the obstacles that lie in our path.

The Bible tells us, in 2 Corinthians 3:18, God is transforming us into the image of Christ. Transformation comes when we spend time with Him. He changes our hearts through our time in His presence.

We are God’s children. Prayer is an opportunity to spend time with, talk with, listen to, share our love with, and just be with God.

While God does give us people and situations to pray for, and while He does want to hear our hearts about the things we struggle with, He wants first and foremost to be in relationship with us. We are to love Him with our whole heart (Matthew 22:37-38), and that means spending time just being with Him.

Our prayer time should orient us to God. We should come to Him first as His child, and just be.

That’s where the heart change takes place. That’s where we become more like Him.

Have you spent time with God this week, just talking with Him as His child? Just being with Him? Try spending five minutes a day like this, and see what happens. You will notice a difference.

Your Daily Prayer Refreshment

I was reminded this week of how refreshing prayer can be. I was eating a slice of watermelon – who doesn’t love that wonderful summer refreshment! At the same time, I was reading about prayer. I felt so refreshed just thinking about spending time with God. I realized my time with Him is even more refreshing than eating a slice of watermelon, or running in the rain, or going for a swim. Nothing is more refreshing than our God!

If you would like to spend some refreshing time with God today, here are a few simple ways to get started. You don’t need to be overwhelmed and try to do them all. Just pick one that feels refreshing to your heart:

1. Sit with God. Just be with Him. Try this for five minutes and see how you feel.

2. Get to know God. Ask Him questions about Himself. Ask Him to share His heart with you. Look up one of the “names of God” in your Bible – the Internet has many great resources on where to find the names of God (John Paul Jackson, 365 Names of God is a great resource). Choose one name that is meaningful for you today. Reflect on who God is. Talk with Him about one of His names, and what that means to Him and to you.

3. Pray for someone. Pray for someone you know who needs prayer. Or just pray for the first person who comes to your mind, even someone you might not have seen for years. You can also ask God to give you the name of someone to pray for. He might prompt you to pray for someone you know, or He might lead you to pray for someone you have never met, who lives on the other side of the world.

4. Pray a Bible verse. Choose a favorite verse, or find one you haven’t spent much time with. Turn the verse into a simple prayer.

5. Pray for an upcoming event. Does your family have an important event coming up? Maybe an event for your children at school? Is something coming up that you are excited about, or nervous about? Does your community or church have an event coming up that could use some prayer? Spend some time with God, just talking about and praying for that event.

6. Ask God for a Bible verse you can pray for your family. Ask Him to give you a specific verse to pray. It might be one verse for your whole family, or a different verse for each person in your family. Listen quietly. See what verse He leads you to pray for each person. This is a prayer strategy, and it can become a very powerful part of your daily family prayers. Share the verses with your family. Ask them what other verses they hear.

How did your “prayer refreshment” time go today? Try the same thing again tomorrow, or pick a different way to pray. These are just a few ways to get started. See what else God inspires in you.

Start with five minutes of your day, and grow from there.

God will love this time of refreshment with you. It’s like sharing a slice of watermelon with Him. You will enjoy this time as well. You will be amazed how it will affect your day.

31 Days of Prayer Starters

If you would like to grow daily in your prayer life, here are some ways to get started.

These are simple but powerful prayers, and you can choose one each day for a month.

You can even choose just one that is meaningful to you, and repeat it each day. You can add more, from your heart, as you begin to pray. Or keep it very simple and just pray these few words.

What’s important is that you are talking with God, and allowing Him to connect with your heart. He will do the rest!

These prayer starters can also be a great way to pray together as a family. Or a powerful way for children to begin their school day.

Expect amazing things to happen as God responds to your heart. God bless you.

1. God, I love You.

2. God, I want to put You first in my life.

3. God, I want to talk with You every day.

4. God, I want to listen to You.

5. God, I want to know You better.

6. God, I want to hear Your heart.

7. God, I want to obey You.

8. God, I need Your help with everything.

9. God, I can’t do anything without You.

10. God, help me to love You more.

11. God, teach me how to pray for my family.

12. God, bless my family.

13. God, help the people in my town get closer to You.

14. God, help me get closer to You.

15. God, thank You that You are everything I will ever need.

16. God, help me trust You.

17. God, help me know how much You love me.

18. God, help me see You in a new way.

19. God, help me believe Your Word is true.

20. God, help me believe in Your promises.

21. God, thank You for Jesus.

22. God, change my heart.

23. God, help me experience Your love in a new way.

24. God, fill my heart with Your love.

25. God, grow the fruit of the Holy Spirit in me.

26. God, thank You for my life.

27. God, thank You for loving me.

28. God, help me love people with Your love.

29. God, help me talk with You every day.

30. God, fill me with Your peace.

31. God, help me shine with Your light today.

In Jesus’ name. Amen

Prayer is a Daily Refreshment

As part of a school assignment, I ran across a delightful article on prayer. I felt so refreshed upon reviewing this article that I wanted to share it. Here is the link to the article, followed by the review I wrote for class. I hope you will enjoy reading this article as much as I did, and be reminded of the daily refreshment we have through prayer:

The Importance of Personal Prayer

Review of Balducci, Rachel. (2014). The importance of personal prayer. Catholic Digest, 78, 54-57.

This is a delightful and profound article on prayer. It is profound in its simplicity: our life just goes better when we make time to pray.

Prayer cultivates Christ-likeness. Prayer is a key to our transformation, because through prayer we spend time with Jesus.

The author quotes Father Brett Brennan that we have two ways to become more like Jesus. One is through prayer, and the other is to experience the fellowship of the suffering of Christ. Wouldn’t it be preferable to make prayer a priority?

Prayer nurtures our relationship with Christ, grows us in grace, allows us to share Christ with others, and reminds us of our utter dependence on God. In other words, prayer fills us with Christ.

Prayer is not about the amount of time or a ritual. It is heart conversations with God. Even 15 minutes a day of intentional prayer is helpful.

Our biggest hindrance to prayer is that we don’t make it a priority. There will never be an ideal time for prayer; we will always be busy. We just need to do it.

No matter what is going on, prayer fills us with Jesus, who is our source of peace. We were made to be in relationship with God, and prayer is a gift that helps us grow in this relationship.

Balducci’s article also contains 5 helpful suggestions for making prayer a daily habit.