Tuesday, January 10, 2012

How Can I Pray When I Don't Feel Like Praying?

"How can I discipline myself to pray even when I don't 'feel' like praying?"

This is what a man asked me recently.

It's a good question. Here's something that works for me, which, like all my good ideas, I stole from someone much wiser than myself. This idea comes from Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois. He writes about it in his book, Too Busy Not to Pray.

Hybels' approach is built off of the ACTS pattern for prayer. ACTS is an acronym, the letters of which stand for adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.

But Hybels takes ACTS-praying one step further. He suggests that, at least for a period of time, we write out our prayers (whether on the computer or in long hand is up to you, I suppose), in the ACTS format.

So, instead of jumping into your prayer requests (supplications), you first write out words praising God for His greatness, grace, rectitude, and power.

Second, you humbly confess our sins to God. This is a good time to put your life under the microscope of the Ten Commandments, which aren't an archaic list of "thou shalt nots," but expressive of God's plan for the optimal human life. (If you're not sure about the contents of the Ten Commandments, here is a good place to go for them. This list is taken from Martin Luther's Small Catechism, which also gives brief explanations of each commandment.)

 The Bible says this about confession:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-10)
Third, you write out our words of thanksgiving for all of God's blessings to you, from the death and resurrection of God's only Son, Jesus, to the everyday blessings all of us can take for granted.

Fourth, Hybels says, write out your prayer requests (supplications).

Offer all these requests in Jesus' Name. To ask for anything in Jesus' Name means that you:
Next, Hybels suggests that you read aloud the prayers you've written, offering them to God.

I use this method several days a week and find it beneficial, especially when, periodically, as Hybels suggests, I go back to read the previous prayers and see how God is working in my life.

You can take this approach to your prayers at any time of day that works best for you. But if you really want to pray, I think that what I call ACTS journaling is one good tool to help you stick to regular prayer.

The benefit of committing to this approach is that it disciplines us to STOP. AND. TAKE. THE. TIME. for the most important relationship in our lives and the most important conversation we can have any day.

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