What has the most influence on when and how we pray? What excites growth as a pray-er? What energizes perseverance when answers are delayed? What feeds prayer enjoyment most? In short, what is it that makes a big difference to prayer life?
Scheduling prayer is an important part of prayer administration. In the busyness that has become today’s normal, unless we schedule ‘inner room’ time, we might not get there. However, these fixed, or set times make up the smaller part of prayer life. The larger part can’t be scheduled; the ‘at all times’ praying (pray continually 1 Thes 5:17).
The prayer list is like an inbox that never empties. New needs arrive faster than current ones are dealt with. We honour the Lord by speaking to him about needs and crises, but making them the regulator of when and how we pray isn’t a good idea. Needs-driven prayer can be tiring and overwhelming. When reaction to needs becomes the shaper of prayer life, we miss out on much of the prayer enjoyment the Lord designed us for.
At times, life’s circumstances – even prayer answers or disappointments – lift or lower our mood for prayer. Feelings are important in prayer, but are too unstable to manage our prayer life.
Schedule, needs and feelings all effect our praying in some way, but none can be the main influencer for a growing, enjoyable prayer life. So, what is it that makes a big difference to prayer life?
In Jesus, our life on earth has a completely new orientation. We’ve been freed to set our hearts on the above, on Christ (Col 3:1). The raised heart is the centre-point of the Spirit’s work of shaping us into Christ’s likeness. Being conformed to him means that his eternal values influence our hearts more than earthly ones.
Prayer isn’t an optional component; it’s the enjoyable core of life in Christ. Changes in the core affect the whole. When eternal values make a difference to prayer life, change spreads into all of living.
Scripture doesn’t give us a page of ‘eternal worth’ bullet points, but it clearly highlights things of lasting importance to the Lord; things that define the quality of life in his company. When finally Home with him, we’ll enjoy the pure satisfaction of being totally absorbed in the eternal, without a moment’s distraction. We’re not there yet but, as long as our hearts stay raised, the Spirit will keep shaping our prayer life by those forever values…..in a world of competing ones.
Here are four eternal values that make a big difference to our prayer life:
AWARENESS of PRESENCE
The heavenly norm is: exposure and response. In the Holy City, awareness of God’s presence is constant but not static; the awareness is deepened and excited by fresh exposures to infinite Glory. The Immanuel miracle has drawn us into that eternal norm now. The awareness of God with us powerfully affects how we view prayer, and our enjoyment of prayer lifestyle.
ADMIRATION of CHRIST
In the Final Day, the unveiling of Christ will feed unending admiration. That Day hasn’t arrived yet, but our hearts have been raised to respond as if it has. The Spirit delights in sharing his view of the glorified Jesus with us…to inspire responses. That eternal priority of admiring him makes a big difference to prayer life focus and motivation.
APPETITE for the LORD
Seeing, hearing, loving, and honouring the Lord will never max out and become just boring repetition. The desire to know him more is an eternal constant for the raised heart. Hunger for him is a powerful shaping force, one that makes a big difference to our prayer life.
AGREEMENT with GOD
Our eternal Home will be one of perfect union and accord with the Lord. Until then, agreement with him is something we must pursue in a world that contests it. Shaping prayer from his Word strengthens our agreement with the Lord, which makes a big difference to what and how we pray.
- During your next ‘inner room’ prayer time, read Rev 4 & 5 and note the Throne room sights and sounds, including the voiced responses. Then, as you ponder the God-with-us miracle, visualize (imperfectly, yes) your own living space as the setting for those scenes. In what ways does being aware of his presence affect your praying? List some of them (awe, restfulness, intimacy, purity, constancy, power, etc.). Each day, aim to add/grow one of those into your ‘Presence-aware’ prayer life.
- Focus on one aspect of the Lord’s Glory voiced in Rev 4 & 5. AGREE with him about that truth, pray your own ADMIRATION of that beauty in him, and then tell him of your desire (APPETITE) to see and reflect that in a deeper way. Plan for those prayers of admiration and appetite to continue beyond the inner room, into the day’s busyness.