Shouldn’t I have a prayer plan also? This is a question my eleven year old daughter asked. If I have a plan on how I want to read my Bible, shouldn’t I have a plan on how I am going to pray also? If we were going to meet with an important person, an influential political leader, or our boss about an important project, we would have an outline or a plan on what we wanted to talk to them about. How we wanted to approach both them and the subject matter. It would make sense that we would treat our communications with God with the same well thought out care.
Often, we think of prayer only in a reactionary manner. Prayer is a result of something outside of us causing a response. It is something to be discovered after an automobile accident or an unsuccessful trip to the hospital. Yes, prayer in such situations is very important. God wants us to come to Him in these times of need, but it should not be the only time we pray.
Another way that we pray in a reactionary mode is when we are pushed, usually gently, into prayer. We may offer an obligatory prayer at the end of a church service, at a small group meeting, or before a meal. These prayers can sometimes not be done out of a true desire to communicate with God, but to please other people. God even goes as far as to say some obligatory and insincere communication with Him is an offense to Him.
A significant reason we need a plan to pray is that often prayer is something that we intend to do but don’t. We slip into an irrational thought pattern that says, “It’s only God. He can get along without us.” We have other more urgent things to do at the moment. Yes, God can get along without us. But we can not get along without Him. And He does not want us too. Our God reveals himself to us as our Father. What Father, except an irresponsible and cruel one, which God is not, does not like and rejoice in hearing and communicating with his children. He actually says he wants to hear from us constantly.
But how do we pray consistently and proactively? We make it a priority, and we plan ahead of time. Pastor Chip Ingram says that if we don’t already plan the right thing to do beforehand, ninety five percent of the time we will do the opposite. My eleven year old daughter is correct. We need to have a plan to pray. We should not leave communicating with our loving Father God to only times of emergency and fear or public pressure.
Here is the joy and the challenge: God gives us a lot direction about the content of our prayer. But He also gives us liberty in many areas when it comes to prayer. There is no “only one” way to organize and conduct regular prayer. We can rejoice in the freedom of this, or we can cower from it. We should not be perplexed when millions pray systematically and rotely to false god’s across the world. Ritual prayer is easier in the sense that it does not require creativity or real communication like we see in the Psalms of David. The great leader David pours out his heart to God literally seeming to hold nothing back to God or from us. That is one of the reason David was called by God a man after God’s heart.
Actually, keeping records of what we say to God like David did in the Psalms is a great way to pray to Him. This can be done in journaling or even by making simple note cards. But there are lots of other ways to plan to pray. Determine everyday before you work out, read the newspaper, or even before you read your Bible that you will pray to God first. As a practical reality for most people, mornings tend to be better. But maybe, it would be better for you to pray before you went to sleep at night. This way taking our concerns, hopes, and joys to God before we go to sleep can prevent us from meditating on items of worry as we lay in bed. It is good to keep track of what you are doing in some manner. Even a simple check mark on the calendar can help make us more accountable to doing what we desire to do. Plan to pray or most likely, you won’t.