The Hour of Prayer, by Dick Eastman, with other contributors.

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Practical Prayer:

How to Spend an Hour That Can Change Your World

Brother Lawrence, the 16th-century French monk whose life goal was to “practice the presence of God,” said succinctly. “There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God. Those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it.”

Brother Lawrence’s observation suggests that the best way to effectively experience prayer is to practice it continually. My observation is that the best way to practice prayer continually is to make it practical!

Practical prayer cannot happen without the practice of prayer, and practice of prayer is something that must be developed. Andrew Murray wrote, “There can be no converse with a holy God, no fellowship between heaven and earth, no power for the salvation of the souls of others, unless much time is set apart for it.”

Years ago, a single verse of Scripture powerfully prompted me to pursue the practice of daily prayer—and resulted in what I offer here as well as in my book, The Hour that Changes the World.

In Ephesians 6:18, we read, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (KJV).

A Practical Plan for an Hour of Power

How can we design a practical prayer experience? Based on Paul’s challenge in Ephesians 6:18, let’s consider twelve biblical steps for practical prayer. To spend just five minutes in each step will help you spend an hour in prayer.

Step One: Praise

The first thing Christ taught His disciples in His model prayer (Matthew 6:9–13, NIV) was praise. “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.’” Simply stated, praise is the act of recognizing divinity, acknowledging God for who He is. Applied in prayer, it is to verbalize God’s nature (see Psalm 50:23).

Step Two: Waiting

Waiting might be defined as the act of soul surrender (see Psalms 52:9; 62:1). It is a time of intimate adoration of our Lord. It is to love God silently during prayer.

Step Three: Confession

Confession is the act of declared admission. In both the Old and New Testaments, the word “confess” means “to agree with.” Confession is humbly to agree with God when confronted with or convicted of issues of sin. Admit the failure (Psalm 139:23,24; 1 John 1:9).

Step Four: Scripture Reading

Charles Spurgeon preached, “Every promise of Scripture is a writing of God, which may be pleaded before Him with this reasonable request. ‘Do as thou hast said!’” I call Scripture praying “the act of faith appropriation.” Simply applied, it is to employ God’s Word—which appropriates faith—during prayer (Jeremiah 23:29; Romans 10:17).

Step Five: Watching

Watching is the act of mental awareness. Watchman Nee wrote, “We must not only be watchful in keeping the time of prayer, but also be watchful during the time of prayer so that we may really pray.” Thus, to watch in prayer is to develop holy alertness (Matthew 26:41; Colossians 4:2).

Step Six: Intercession

Intercession is the act of compassionate involvement. It is to step into someone else’s battle through prayer and contend for them (Romans 15:30; 1 Timothy 2:1,2). E. M. Bounds wrote, “Prayer must be broad in its scope—it must plead for others. Intercession . . . is the hallmark of all true prayer.”

Step Seven: Petition

Petition means personal supplication. Charles Spurgeon said, “Whether we like it or not, asking is the rule of the kingdom.” Simply stated, it’s to pray personal needs (Matthew 7:7–11).

Step Eight: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving simply means to express appreciation. In prayer it is the way we confess our personal blessings (Psalm 116:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:18). “Thanksgiving will draw our hearts out to God and keep us engaged with Him,” said Andrew Murray. “It will take our attention from ourselves and give the Spirit room to move in our hearts.”

Step Nine: Singing

Singing is the act of melodic worship. Martin Luther said, “The gift of language combined with the gift of song is given to man that he should proclaim the Word of God through music.” During prayer, worship Him in song. Sing praises, hymns, choruses, Scriptures, or even “new songs” as the Psalmist described (Psalm 144:9; Ephesians 5:19).

Step Ten: Meditation

Meditation is the act of spiritual evaluation (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 119:15). In prayer, it’s an occasion to ponder spiritual themes, search God’s heart, or probe deeply into the Word.

Step Eleven: Listening

Listening might be described as the act of mental absorption. Fenelon wrote, “O how rare it is to find a soul quiet enough to hear God speak” (see Ecclesiastes 5:1,2). In prayer, listening enables us to receive daily instruction from God.

Step Twelve: Praise

We end at the beginning—with more praise! Remember the Lord’s Prayer? It begins with “Our Father” and ends with “for thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory.” We might call this concluding time of praise the act of divine magnification. Obviously, as A. W. Tozer wisely suggests, there’s no way we can make God bigger; but we can certainly see Him bigger. That’s what praise is all about. So end prayer by verbalizing God’s glory again—with a final burst of joy!

A final interesting thought: One hour daily for 12 months is 365 hours, or 45 eight-hour working days. That’s equivalent to spending a month-and-a-half of eight-hour days over the course of a year ”practicing” prayer. I’d say that’s a pretty good way to make prayer practical.

Steps to a Practical, Joyful, Prayer Life

Jesus said, “Ask the Father directly . . . use my name . . . and you will have abundant joy” (John 16:23,24, NLT). The Psalmist adds, “In thy [God’s] presence is the fullness of joy” (Psalm 16;11, KJV). These ten directives may help you make prayer not only practical, but a joy as well.

1. Find the best possible time and place for prayer.

In Matthew 6:6, Jesus said, “When you pray” (suggesting a time devoted to it), “go into your room” (suggesting a place devoted for it). First, set a specific time that is best suited for you to pray. Watchman Nee wrote, “Those who have no set time for prayer, do not pray.” Then, find a good place for prayer—like a spare room, a closet, or even a comfortable chair. Going to the same place each day helps form a habit.

2. Forget all previous failures in prayer.

A lady once confided to me that a terrible problem was hindering her prayer life. “I often fall asleep during prayer,” she said. I replied, “Welcome to the club. I do, too!” Stunned that a teacher of prayer would have that problem, she inquired, “What do you do when you fall asleep during prayer?” Chuckling, I replied, “I rest in the Lord, what do you do?” As she laughed I added, “What I do is start praying again when I wake up. The key is—don’t give up!”

3. Fight all prayer hindrances fiercely.

Paul wrote, “Put on every piece of God’s armor . . . to resist the enemy” (Ephesians 6:13, NLT). Of course, the greatest hindrance to prayer is not praying at all. James said, “You don’t have . . . because you do not ask God” (James 4:2, NLT). Then there’s the hindrance of selfish praying. James continues: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives” (James 4:3, NLT).

4. Focus on the Lord rather than on answers to prayer.

God told Jeremiah, “Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. . . . You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:12,13). The essence of prayer is in the repetition of the word “Me” (God) in this passage. Effective prayer isn’t gauged by how many answers we receive but by how much of God we touch.

5. Follow a meaningful plan of action.

When the Psalmist said he would “direct” his prayer unto the Lord in the morning (Psalm 5:3, KJV), he used the Hebrew word arak, meaning to “set in order” or “arrange.” He had a plan of action, or strategy for his praying.

6. Feed every day on spiritual food.

Jesus said, “People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4, NLT). Jeremiah wrote, “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight” (Jeremiah 15:16, NIV). Read the Word daily so you can pray it back to God.

7. Fellowship with the Lord in love.

The prophet Hosea proclaimed, “Come, let us return to the Lord . . . let us press on to know him” (Hosea 6:1,3, NLT). The word “know” is from the Old Testament Hebrew word yada. One important definition of yada is “direct, intimate contact.” Intimacy with the Lord is the key to joyful prayer.

8. Forgive every wrong done to you.

Jesus said, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him” (Mark 11:25, NIV). Elsewhere He admonished, “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14, NIV). The Lord knew that holding a grudge would make it all but impossible to pray effectively. Indeed, bitter believers rarely pray.

9. Forsake all things that hinder spiritual growth.

When Andrew Murray suggested that “we pray as we live, it’s the life that prays,” he hit upon a vital key to joyful prayer. Those who would pray well must heed Paul’s directive, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (Colossians 3:5, NIV).

10. Finish what you start.

Rees Howells, a remarkable intercessor from an earlier generation, often said, “You will never be a true intercessor until you are first willing to be a part of the answer to your own prayers.” When God selected the house of Cornelius to first release the gospel to the Gentiles, it was because Cornelius was someone who “gave generously . . . and prayed to God regularly” (Acts 10:2, NIV). Cornelius not only prayed, but he put feet to his prayers.