National Day of Prayer: 4 Tips to Reignite Your Prayer Life
‘Deepening Communication with God is a Marathon, Not a Sprint,’ Spiritual Formation Expert Says
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WACO, Texas (May 4, 2016) – The National Day of Prayer (May 5) is an opportunity to come together as a nation and collectively seek God’s guidance and help for local communities, the United States and countries around the world.
For many people, however, this day might be the perfect time to reexamine, reassess – and maybe even reignite – their prayer lives.
“Coming together for prayer on one specific day is certainly valuable, but we know that prayer is most fruitful when it is honed by regular practice and becomes a habit of everyday life,” said Angela Reed, Ph.D., associate professor of practical theology and director of spiritual formation at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary. “It isn’t easy to grow in prayer while living in a world full of noise and nearly constant activity. Few of us will ever live the kind of quiet lifestyle common to monastic communities. Instead, we must look for ways to open up to God in the midst of our everyday circumstances so that we can pray in the Spirit on all occasions.”
Reed offered four simple tips to help grow in the habit of prayer.
“Strengthening a habit takes time, so it is best to try out one or two new forms of prayer for a while before adding anything else. Deepening our communication with God is a marathon, not a sprint,” she said.
1. Read Scripture prayerfully by focusing on “formation” rather than “information.”
“Most Christians are comfortable with prayer and with reading Scripture, but we don’t often consider how to meditate on Scripture or to wait and listen for God’s invitation,” Reed said. “In the process that follows, we set aside the natural focus on looking for information and simply open to God’s formational calling.”
Read a brief biblical passage several times (a few verses from the Psalms or the Gospels often work well). Consider these questions/comments in silence between the readings, pausing for a few minutes each time.
•Is there a word or phrase that rises to the surface? (pause)
• How does this passage seem to touch you today, perhaps in what you see, hear, feel or sense? (pause)
• What might God be calling you to be or to do in light of this passage? (pause)
• Respond to God in prayer.
2. Reflect on the events of the day by asking how God seems to be most present and active to you.
“The Spirit of God continues to be our comfort and guide through the joys and challenges of everyday life, but we do not always pay attention to how God may be attempting to communicate with us,” Reed said.
One way of listening for God is to ask two simple questions at the end of the day:
• Where did I most notice God today?
• Where did I least notice God today?
“These questions are based upon Ignatius of Loyola’s notion of consolation and desolation,” Reed said. “Through the course of a day, we may see signs of God’s goodness in many people and circumstances. We may also become aware of ways in which the world does not reflect the goodness of God. After reflecting on the questions, respond to God in prayer, perhaps with thanksgiving, confession and intercession. This prayer practice can be especially meaningful for families. Small children may want to talk about what they were most and least thankful for.”
3. Try out a simple form of prayer that allows for deepening reflection through repetition.
Reed said that one ancient prayer dating back to the early church – often referred to as “the Jesus Prayer” – is repeated several times in a row with slow, even breaths as a way of focusing on Christ’s role as Lord in our lives, our repentance and God’s mercy.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
“It can be shortened or altered as needed,” Reed said. “We can pray these words while driving, exercising, making dinner or just about any other kind of activity. It can be especially helpful when we feel frustrated or angry with someone. The prayer reminds us that we are all in need of God’s mercy.”
4. Explore the possibility of shaping the activities of the day around prayer, rather than the other way around.
“Early Christians continued the Jewish practice of reciting prayers rooted in Scripture at certain hours of the day and night,” Reed said. “The practice has continued to this day and is often called ‘praying the hours’ or ‘the daily office,’ and it allows us to pause for prayer at natural points in our daily routines knowing that other believers around the world are praying with us in the same manner.”
Resources for this kind of prayer are available through books and phone apps. Reed said a helpful website for daily practice is maintained by a congregation: https://annarborvineyard.org/tdh/tdh.cfm.
ABOUT ANGELA REED, PH.D.
Angela Reed, Ph.D., serves as associate professor of practical theology and director of spiritual formation at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary, where she teaches courses in spiritual formation and discipleship. She earned her Ph.D. in practical theology in the field of Christian formation and education at Princeton Theological Seminary. She earned her Master of Divinity from the University of Winnipeg and bachelor’s degrees from Canadian Mennonite University in Manitoba, Canada. Her passion for spiritual formation and congregational life extends beyond academics to the practical. She served in pastoral ministry at Sargent Avenue Mennonite Church in Manitoba, Canada, for three years and has been a spiritual director for numerous individuals, including seminary students. Reed has also been involved in various lay ministries including retreat speaking, guest preaching and several spiritual formation groups. She co-authored the book “Spiritual Companioning: a Guide to Protestant Theology and Practice.”
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.
ABOUT GEORGE W. TRUETT THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary provides theological education leading to the Master of Divinity, the Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, the Master of Theological Studies, or the Doctor of Ministry degrees that are centered in the gospel of Jesus Christ and consistent with historic Baptist commitments to prepare persons to carry this gospel to the churches and the world. Within the M.Div. degree program, students can choose concentrations in Biblical Studies and Theology, Christian Education, Ministry Leadership, Missions and World Christianity, Worship Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Sports Ministry, and Youth/Family/Student Ministry. Truett Seminary also offers four Dual Degree programs – an M.Div./MSW and MTS/MSW through a partnership with Baylor’s School of Social Work, an M.Div./Master of Music through a partnership with the Baylor’s School of Music, an M.Div./MBA through a partnership with Baylor's Hankamer School of Business, and an M.Div./J.D. degree through a partnership with Baylor’s School of Law. Visit www.baylor.edu/truett to learn more.