How to Spend the Day in Prayer
BY: LORNE C. SANNY
Why spend a day in prayer? A critical decision needs to be made. Your spiritual fire needs rekindling. A problem needs God’s intervention. Your sense of God’s presence needs to be renewed.
You realize that ministry demands so much more than human effort. It’s no wonder someone has said, “The most important thing I will do today is pray.” The things that matter most to us depend on it.
So why don’t we spend a day in prayer? Partly because we don’t know how. Perhaps that’s why Lorne Sonny’s suggestions were so well received in 1982 when we first published this article. Eleven years later, the need has never been greater, and the approach is just as timely.
never thought a day could make such a difference,” a friend said to me. “My relationship to everyone seems improved. Why don’t I do it
Comments like these come from those who set aside a personal day of prayer.
With so many activities – important ones – clamoring for our time, real prayer is considered more a luxury than a necessity. How much more so spending a day in prayer!
The Bible gives us three time-guides for personal prayer. There is the command to “pray without ceasing” – the spirit of prayer- keeping so in tune with God that we can lift our hearts in request or praise anytime through the day.
There is also the practice of a quiet time or morning watch – seen in the life of David (Ps. 5:3), of Daniel (6:10), and of the Lord Jesus (Mark 1:35). This daily time specified for meditation in the Word of God and prayer is indispensable to the growing,
Then there are examples in the Scripture of extended time given to prayer alone. Jesus spent whole nights praying. Nehemiah prayed “certain days” upon hearing of the plight of Jerusalem. Three times Moses spent forty days and forty nights alone with God.
How to Go about It
Having set aside a day or portion of a day for prayer, pack a lunch and start out. Find a place where you can be alone, away from distractions. This may be a wooded area near home or your backyard. An outdoor spot is excellent if you can find it; but don’t get sidetracked into nature studies and fritter away your time. If you find yourself watching the squirrels or the ants, direct your observation by reading Psalm 104 and meditating on the power of God in creation.
If an outdoor spot isn’t available, try a quiet corner of a library.
Take along a Bible, a notebook and pencil, a hymnbook, and perhaps a devotional book. I like to have with me the booklet Power Through Prayer by E.M. Bounds and read a chapter or two as a challenge to the strategic Value of prayer.
Even if you have all day, you will want to use it profitably. So lose no time in starting, and start purposefully.
Wait on the Lord
Divide the day into three parts: waiting on the Lord, prayer for others, and prayer for yourself.
As you wait on the Lord, don’t hurry. You will miss the point if you look for some mystical or ecstatic experience. Just seek the Lord, waiting on him. Isaiah 40:31 promises that those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. Psalm 27:14 is one of dozens of Verses that mention waiting on him, as is Psalm 62:5 – “Find rest, 0 my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.”
Wait on him first to realize his presence. Read o through a passage like Psalm 139, grasping the truth of his presence with you as you read
each Verse. Ponder the impossibility of being anywhere in the universe where he is not. Often we are like Jacob when he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not!” (Gen. 28:16, KJV).
Wait on him also for cleansing. The last two Verses of Psalm 139 lead you into this. Ask God to search your heart as these verses suggest. When we search our own hearts, it can lead to imaginations, morbid introspection, or anything the enemy may want to throw before us. But when the Holy Spirit searches, he will bring to your attention what should be confessed and cleansed. Psalms 51 and 32, David’s songs of confession, will help you. Stand upon the firm ground of I John 1:9 and claim God’s faithfulness to forgive whatever specific thing you confess.
If you realize you’ve sinned against a brother, make a note of it so you won’t forget to set it right. Otherwise, the rest of the day will be hindered. God won’t be speaking to you if there is something between you and someone else that you haven’t planned to take care of at the earliest possible moment.
As you wait on God, ask for the power of concentration. Bring yourself back from daydreaming.
Next, wait on God to worship him. Psalms 103, 111, and 145 are wonderful portions to follow as you praise the Lord for the greatness of his power. Most of the Psalms are prayers. Or turn to Revelation, chapters four and five, and use them in your praise to him. There is no better way to pray scripturally than to pray Scripture.
If you brought a hymnbook, you can sing to the Lord. Some wonderful hymns have been written that put into words what we would scarcely express ourselves. Maybe you don’t sing well – then be sure you’re out of earshot of someone else and “make a joyful noise unto the Lord.” He will appreciate it.
This will lead you naturally into thanksgiving. Reflect upon the wonderful things God has done for you and thank him for these – for your own salvation and spiritual blessings, for your family, friends, and opportunities. Go beyond what you thank the Lord for daily.
Prayer for Others
Now is the time for the unhurried, more detailed prayer for others you don’t get to ordinarily. Trace your way around the world, praying for people by countries.
Here are three suggestions:
First, ask specific things for them. Perhaps you remember or have jotted down various needs people have mentioned. Use requests from missionary prayer letters. Pray for spiritual strength, courage, physical stamina, mental alertness, and so on. Imagine yourself in the situations where these people are and pray accordingly.
Second, look up some of the prayers in Scripture. Pray what Paul prayed for other people in the first chapters of Philippians and Colossians, and in the first and third chapters of Ephesians. This will help you advance in your prayer from the stage of “Lord, bless so and so and help them to do such and such.”
Third, ask for others what you are praying for yourself. Desire for them what the Lord has shown
If you pray a certain verse or promise of Scripture for a person, you may want to put the reference by his name on your prayer list and use this verse as you pray for that person the next time. Then use it for thanksgiving as you see the Lord answer.
Prayer for Yourself
The third part of your day will be prayer for yourself. If you are facing an important decision, you may want to put this before prayer for others.
Again, let your prayer be ordered by Scripture and ask the Lord for understanding, according to Psalm 119:18. Meditate upon Scripture you have memorized or promises you have previously claimed from the Word. Reading a whole book of the Bible through, perhaps aloud, is a good idea. Consider how it might apply to your life.
“Lord, what do you think of my life?” is the attitude of this portion of your day of prayer. Consider your main objectives in the light of what you know to be God’s will for you. Jesus said, “My food
is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:34). Do you want to do God’s will more than anything else? Is it really your highest desire?
Then consider your activities – what you do – in the context of your objectives. God may speak to you about rearranging your schedule, cutting out certain activities that are good but not best, or some things that are entanglements or impediments to progress. Strip them off. You may be convicted about how you spend your evenings or Saturdays, when you could use the time to advantage and still get the recreation you need.
As you pray, record your thoughts on your activities and use of time and plan for better scheduling. Perhaps the need for better preparation for your.
Ask for others what you are praying for yourself.
Sunday school class or a personal visit with an individual will come to your mind. Or the Lord may impress you to do something special for someone. Make a note of it.
During this part of your day, bring up any problems or decisions you are facing and seek the mind of God on them. It helps to list the factors involved in these decisions or problems. Pray over these factors and look into the Scriptures for guidance. You may be led to a promise or direction from the passages with which you have already filled your mind during the day.
After prayer, you may reach some definite conclusions upon which you can base firm convictions. It should be your aim in a day of prayer to come away with some conclusions and specific direction – some stakes driven. However, do not be discouraged if this is not the case. It may not be God’s time for a conclusive answer to your problem. And you may discover that your real need was not to know the next step but to have a new revelation of God himself.
In looking for promises to claim, there’s no need to thumb through the Bible looking for new or startling ones. Just start with the promises you already know. Chew over some old familiar promises the Lord has given you before, ones you remember as you think back. Pray about applying these verses to your life.
I have found some of the greatest spiritual rewards from a new realization of promises I already knew. And the familiar promises may lead you to others. The Bible is full of them.
You may want to mark or underline in your Bible the promises the Lord gives during these protracted times alone, and put the date and a word or two in the margin beside them.
Variety is important during your day of prayer. Read a while, pray a while, then walk around. A friend of mine paces the floor of his room for his prayer time. Rather than get cramped in one position, take a walk and stretch.
As outside things pop into your mind, simply incorporate those items into prayer. If it’s some business item you must not forget, jot it down. Have you noticed how many things come to mind while you are sitting in church? It will be natural for things to occur to you during your prayer day that you should have done, so put them down, pray about them, and plan how you can take care of them and when. Don’t just push them aside, or they will plague you the rest of the day.
At the end of the day, summarize in your notebook some things God has spoken to you about. This will be profitable to refer to later.
The result of your day of prayer should be answers to the two questions Paul asked the Lord on the Damascus road (Acts 22:(-10). Paul’s first question was, “Who are you, Lord?” The Lord replied, “I am Jesus.” You will be seeking to know him, to find out who he is. The second question Paul asked was, “What shall I do, Lord?” The Lord answered him specifically. This should be answered or reconfirmed for you in that part of the day when you unhurriedly seek his will for you.
Don’t think you must end the day with some new discovery or extraordinary experience. Wait on God and expose yourself to his Word. Looking for a new experience or insight you can share with someone when you get back will get you off the track. True, you may gain some new insight, but often this can divert your attention from the real business. The test of such a day is not how exhilarated we are when the day is over but how it works into life tomorrow. If we have fully exposed ourselves to the Word and come into contact with God, it will affect our daily life. And that is what we want.
Days of prayer don’t just happen. Besides the attempts of our enemy Satan to keep us from praying, the world around us has plenty to offer to fill our time. So we have to make time. Plan ahead – the first of every other month or once a quarter. Do it soon! You too will probably ask yourself, “Why not more often?