Of all the words that could be used to describe your ministry is prayerful at the top of the list?
Last summer I spent time in Haiti with a group of twenty-four women and children's leaders. The trip was eye-opening in so many ways. The poverty was staggering and hopelessness rampant. But in the middle of Port-Au-Prince, I met astounding women of prayer who led ministries founded upon prayer. They had learned that prayer was the work, not the icing on the cake . . . and certainly not a last resort.
When we left, they heaped small gifts and loving words, kisses and hugs on us, and thanked us over and over again for coming to help them learn to study the Word of God and introduce them to Moms in Prayer. As I stood before them, I recognized that although I am involved in a prayer ministry, they were the ones who had more deeply cultivated a love for prayer in those they led. One of the women said, "Lee, we do not have material goods to show our appreciation, but you and your family have our prayers for God's blessing and guidance." I was the one leaving richer from our time together.
Prayer Matters Deeply
If you are like me, you believe deep down that prayer matters. God, our Father, our Creator, our Sustainer, our Provider, Purpose, and Friend, invites us to spend time interacting with Him. I know this ability to come boldly before Him is a privilege and blood-bought right. I've read God's invitation to seek Him about anything that concerns us—and surely anything involves my family, the women I serve, and the programs I steward.
"Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:24).
I know we aren't to be anxious when budgets are tight, volunteers are low, deadlines loom, and conflict rages.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6–7).
And I can quote the promise from the Lord that He offers wisdom whenever we need it.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him (James 1:5).
However, I don't want to be a woman with only head knowledge that prayer is a powerful and effective tool; I want it to permeate my very life, being, and ministry. I really do need Him, and I suspect you do, too. So how can we cultivate a passion to pray inside us and within the ministries we lead? May I suggest we begin here . . .
3 Ways to Cultivate a Passion to Pray
1. Express the desire.
Lord, I come asking for You to make me a woman of prayer. Would You help me learn to pray and create in me an appetite for prayer? I need You, and this ministry needs You. Train my heart and mind to seek You. This is a prayer God desires to answer.
2. Create prayer grooves.
There is power in the repetitive rhythm of an action. My parents live out of state, and people have always marveled at how I could drive twenty-one hours from West Michigan to Austin, Texas, alone with my four young children. I often tell them, "We just find the groove in the road, put our tires in it, and drive." Similarly, we can create prayer habits, or grooves, that with repetition become patterns.
It's easy for us to buck the idea of ritual prayers because we believe that passionate prayer lives always involve spontaneity. We live in a culture that bucks self-discipline, but creating prayer grooves in your life creates opportunity to build consistency.
For example, what if you began committing your day to the Lord every time your alarm rang or at least as you pour your first cup of coffee? Perhaps as you drive past the local school you could pray that God would allow truth to be taught there and for the faculty to have wisdom that day. One of my friends has an app on her phone that rings every two hours prompting her to pray for students in her small group and her nephews and nieces. Now that's using technology to glorify God.
One of my deep prayer grooves is to begin any study of the Word with a time of prayer. This means when my hands open the Scriptures, I ask for the Holy Spirit to give me wisdom, insight, and to guide me into truth. I need His leadership and insight as I have my personal devotions, as I prepare lessons, and as I teach.
This has translated into a rhythm of prayer in my classes as well. We begin with prayer, and we close our time with prayer and ask for His blessing and help applying what we've learned. The groove is so deep that it feels unnatural if I don't pray, and I'm sure it would for my class, too. That's the thing about grooves—you feel it when you exit them.
Another prayer groove that runs deep in my life happens at bedtime. If I lay down with my husband and we haven't prayed for our family, we can't sleep. Eleven years ago my husband told me that he'd heard Dennis Rainey say that the divorce rate of couples who pray together daily is virtually zero. With a simple commitment to prayer, we could almost ensure we would stay together. This rhythm has not become dull with the repetitive nature but rather a time of sweetness and unity between us.
There's something very powerful about scheduling prayer into your days. It reminds me that I need God to work, but it also alleviates the guilt associated with prayerlessness. At the end of the day, I'm praying about the things that matter most to me and I have filled my day with moments of seeking Him.
3. Let "I DON'T KNOW" prompt prayer.
Countless times a week I face a situation where I simply do not have all the information, resources, time, or authority to do something. Never has that been more evident to me than in this election year. I simply do not know what to do, but our Father does. More and more, I'm choosing to allow the "I don't know" scenario to become a prompt for me to pray.
In 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat faced a vast Edomite army poised to attack Judah and Jerusalem. His response as a leader is priceless: "For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you" (v. 12). Then they all waited there before the Lord. They didn't know what to do, but their eyes were on the Lord.
Becoming a woman of prayer and developing a passion to pray begins when we cultivate and nurture prayer.
Could that be our heart cry as we face situations that cause us angst? Could we simply allow that helpless feeling to drive us to the One with the answers? "I don't know" now means "my eyes are on You, Lord." The incredible news is that just as King Jehoshaphat received the help he needed, we will as well.
Becoming a woman of prayer and developing a passion to pray begins when we cultivate and nurture prayer. We can trust that a heart that seeks the Lord will be fanned into a flame by the Holy Spirit. Small grooves and prayer prompts help direct our hearts into patterns that can change the course of our lives and our ministries.