What I've Learned from Three Weeks of Prayer

One of the positives of having a long commute is the ability to learn while you drive.  For me, this is typically in the form of podcasts and audio books.  I use iTunes for just about all of this which has lessened my trips to the library in search of new material.

As an iPad user (like it, don't love it), I will load up my device with new content each Sunday evening.  I especially like the Harvard Business Review IdeaCast series which is fantastic and very relevant for leaders on the go.

One other great resovoir in iTunes is its supply of audio books.  My first was Bill Hybels' Too Busy Not to Pray and life hasn't been the same since I finished it three weeks ago.  Hybels is known as one of the great pastors of this generation.  Having led WillowCreek Church in Illinois for some time, he's seen as an intellectual leader who is always trying to reach out to folks who may not know God all that well.  I've found his material to be to-the-point and simple enough.

As is often the case, simple is another word for deep.  Very deep.

Too Busy Not to Pray was written as Hybels' manifesto on daily prayer.  He shares stories of his success and failure to pray as a leader of a church with thousands of members.  Mostly though, he comes across as a devout follower of Christ who has practiced daily prayer for decades with great humility.

I decided that I would follow Hybels' advice and have a daily prayer time of my own.  I'll be totally honest here- it's been years since I had a really good run of daily devotional times.  My prayer life has been just good enough to avoid going deeper.  But not deep enough to really have made a difference.  I've often felt as if I've been giving God "short shrift".  To add to this, as a Christian educator, my lack of solid prayer has probably hurt my leadership.  I knew it was time to change.

As a result, I've been taking 15-30 minutes each day for prayer.  What's been different this time around is both the format and medium of prayer.  Following Hybels' advice, I do two things which have really made a difference:

  • Write it all down.

  • Use the A-C-T-S format

I've always been a journaler but this time around, it's been different and deeper on so many levels.  When I think that I have nothing new to say to God, He surprises me and nudges my heart in a slightly different way.  A new insight will emerge.  A new person for which I can offer prayer.

The ACTS format stands for: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. When you use ACTS, you pretty much cover a lot of ground.  After writing for 10 or so minutes, Hybels recommends writing an "L" on your page and then sitting back to LISTEN to God.  After all, a genuine conversation is made of both speaking and listening.

As a Catholic, I was hesitant at first to use the ACTS method.  We Catholics are good at complicating things but this is party due to such a rich tradition of holy women and men from which to draw inspiration.  Having now come to rely on ACTS as the architecture of my prayer times, I realize that simple is good and ACTS just plain works.

Today is Day 24 and my entire family is now behind me.  If I miss a morning, I'll ask my 9 year old to remind me to pray at night before bed.  When I hear "Did you remember to pray Dad," I know that I'm both setting a good example and building a stronger foundation in my relationship with God.  My leadership at school feels more confident and I can honestly say that I'm communing with God on a daily basis.  That feels very good.  I know that I still have a long way to go but there is now momentum where before there was only intention.

As Andy Stanley says, "Direction, not intention, determines destination."  When it comes to prayer, no truer words have been said.

How are you finding success in your daily prayer time with God?

*Photo by Majoey