“Grandma, why do you always pray before you drive?” The question came from my eight-year-old grandson. He and I had been vacationing at the beach with his uncle and cousins, and we were about to start the five-hour drive home in the rain. My two grandsons, who are about the same age and had become inseparable, were traveling with me.
The 19th-century British preacher Charles Spurgeon said something that to me defines the role of a Christian in regard to prayer. “As artists give themselves to their models, and poets to their classical pursuits, so must we addict ourselves to prayer.”
I must admit, though, that at times I have had a hard time maintaining a strong prayer life. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to pray—to the contrary—I just had a hard time sticking to my good intentions. It seemed that whenever I’d try to pray, thoughts would flood my mind and I would quickly find myself embroiled in other things.
Variety is the spice of life. This certainly has proven true in my prayer life. Here are a few things that have worked for me at different times.
Prayer list. When I began taking a few minutes every day to pray for others, I simply prayed for whoever came to mind. I soon found, however, that there was almost no end to people and situations that needed divine intervention. To make the most of my prayer time, I needed to get organized, so I started keeping a written list. I don’t have time to pray for every item on my list every day, so I keep track by checking off each item as I pray for it. When I get to the bottom, I start over with another series of checkmarks. I also add new items as new needs arise, and mark items “Done!” when God answers.
Question: I realize that prayer is important, and I want to use it to connect with God, but it never seems like I have the time. How can I fit it into an already busy day?
Answer: It takes time to communicate with anyone, including God. There’s no way around it. It’s a mistake, though, to think of time spent in prayer as time that could have been better used to get other things done, because if you take time to pray, you’ll be able to get a lot more done than you would otherwise. It’s an investment, but once you start reaping the benefits, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it. Here are a few tips to help get you started:
How many times have most parents wanted to buy a toy for their child “just because”? It wasn’t a special occasion or something the child needed or had even asked for—but the parent knew the child would enjoy it and wanted him or her to have it.
I faced such a situation with my 19-month-old son Logan recently. I’m not sure why I had set my heart on getting him a rocking horse. Maybe it was because his favorite video included a scene with children on rocking horses, or maybe it was because every time we went to a nearby toy store the salesperson would invite him to play on one of the display horses, and he never fussed when it was time to go. To tell you the truth, he didn’t seem as attached to that rocking horse as I was, but I couldn’t stop thinking how nice it would be for him to have it.
There are so many benefits to spending time with God that you really can’t afford not to. He can help you solve every problem, answer your every question, heal all your heartaches, comfort you when you’re sorrowful, give you joy, and bring you closer to heaven. The list is endless.
Prayer changes things. It’s one means by which God gives His children what they need or want, as long as it’s good for them and others. “Whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”1
For the New Year when I was six, what I wanted above all was to move to the mountains. Over the Christmas holidays my family had visited relatives who lived in a mountainous area, and it was the first time I’d experienced the magic of so much snow. I’d loved every moment of it.
I prayed earnestly for our family’s relocation, starting around Christmas and continuing well into January. At first I was confident that it would take place soon, but it finally became obvious that no move was imminent. I eventually got over the childish fixation, but the question lingered in my mind much longer: Why had God not answered my prayer?
The Lord leaves a lot up to us and our concern and prayer. If we only pray halfheartedly, we only get half an answer. But if we pray with our whole heart, we get a wholehearted, strong answer. Like a beam of light focused on a mirror, a prayer will reflect or be answered with the same intensity that it was prayed.
The game of pocket billiards, or pool, also makes a fitting analogy. There are a number of variations of the game, but all are played on a six-pocket billiard table and have the same basic object: to use a cue ball to knock other balls into the pockets.