All of us admit to the need to spend more time in prayer. The question is, where do we find the time?
Some might insist that we always find time for what we want to do. Yes. And no. There are some non-negotiables like work and sleep, surrounded by other things not necessarily on a timetable but needing to be done nonetheless. Time talking with the spouse and playing with the kids come to mind. While we do have discretionary time when we could opt for prayer over TV, sometimes we are too worn out to maintain focus.
I am convinced there are more opportunities to pray than we recognize. By the way, the prayer I am talking about is what might be termed “closet” prayer. In a teaching section on prayer in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke of those times when we “go into our room, shut the door and pray to our Father who sees us in secret.” That’s closet prayer. It differs from prayer on the hoof, communion and conversation with God in the comings and goings of daily life. Also important. But closet prayer is undistracted prayer, alone time with God.
Back to recognizing opportunities. I recently had a health crisis. It led to quadruple heart bypass surgery and kept me out of action for a couple of months. Part of my rehabilitation involved taking extended walks to strengthen my renovated heart and build up endurance.
I have an iPod filled with most of my favorite songs. So I walked to the soundtrack of personal song selections—and greatly enjoyed it. Then, it struck me. I had been wanting to carve out blocks of time for closet prayer. Here was the perfect opportunity. So I turned off the music and was turned on to prayer.
Here’s what I did. First, I dedicated the time as a time for prayer. Rather than follow a preset list of prayer requests and areas for prayer (which I do use at other times), I decided to take the approach of opening myself up to the Holy Spirit. How He moved me was how I would pray. I walked in a spirit of prayer, well aware of God’s presence with me and well aware of the dedicated purpose of the time. I prayed as stimulated by the Spirit to praise, thank, confess, intercede, talk out, petition, all sorts of things. And in no particular order—just as the Spirit prompted me.
Don’t get the idea that the hour walk was spend in constant flow of words. There would sometimes be stillness. The scenery around me prompted praise and glory and wonder. Scripture sprang to mind and I ran (actually, walked) with it in responding to God. I walked by homes. I prayed for impact of the gospel. I walked by neighbors. I prayed according to my knowledge of their needs. I walked around the local high school that abuts my neighborhood. I prayed for gospel witness through believing teachers, students and ministries like Young Life that are working to gain position in the school. My mind became fertile, even generating some ideas I would write down when I got back home.
I’m convinced all of can find those times. They don’t have to be an hour, just blocks of time we sanctify for prayer. Commutes to work (although not without distraction) can be opportune. Ten minutes at the end of a lunch break can provide for our stepping away from the group to pray. Some blocks might not be regular, but which we seize upon when presented with them.
Finding those times, however, begins with a desire to pray. That takes us back to the measure of truth contained in typically finding time for what we want to do. I know that my times in fellowship with my Heavenly Father and service to His kingdom through prayer have certainly increased my wanting.