How to Pray Personally
I want to talk to you today about your personal prayer life or having a personal time with God. Many of you know the steps to take but let me ask you this question, are you doing it? And if you are, is your prayer time drawing you more closely to God?
When I was younger, a Catholic priest taught me how to pray and one of the things he used to say to me was, “If you want to have a relationship with God, you have to spend time with God.” You must talk with God. You have to meet with God yourself. He used to say to me, “You can’t have a friendship or a relationship with anybody unless you spend time with them. You can’t fall in love with someone, you can’t depth a relationship unless you commit time. And it is the same in your life relationship with God.” You need to commit time, not when you are in bed, not in the shower, not in front of the television and not lying down.
I want to talk to you a little bit about how to have a prayer time.
First, find a place that you can pray in as regularly as you can. It could be in a special chair and some people even go to the trouble of buying a chair, especially for prayer.
Secondly, pray in the same place. I have a chair in my lounge. When they were growing up, if my children came in and I was sitting in that chair, they would all know I was praying. Rosemary, my wife, used to pray at the end of the kitchen table. I know people who pray in all sorts of different places. I know business people who go to work and sit at their desk and pray at their desk where they do their work through the day. You might have somewhere where you can sit or stand or even kneel to pray but find a regular place. The advantage of a regular place, and even going to the trouble of buying yourself a chair to do it in is that you will get into the attitude and the spirit of prayer very quickly.
After finding the place, the things that I take to prayer are also important.
I take my Bible. I always take a cup of coffee or tea. When I go to pray, I take a pen and what I call my prayer journal, which is just literally a notebook with lines in it. One of the things that priest said to me years ago was “Bruce, I want you to write your prayers down.” And I remember thinking to myself, ‘What do you mean write my prayers down? Why’ And he said, “Do you ever find that you’re in the middle of praying and suddenly, you’re thinking about what’s on television tonight, or you’re thinking about what you’re cooking for dinner, or you’re thinking about work, or you’re thinking about one of the children, or you’re thinking about something else?
I want to give you an acronym, some words that you could use to focus the steps of prayer in your life. When I start my prayer, I write down the day and the date. I then write each of these letters down and then I write something beside them. The advantage of writing your prayers down is you can go back. I can go back to the 2nd of October 1982 when I got married and I can read what I wrote in my prayer journal that day. It’s not a diary, it is a record of your relationship with God.
I can read the prayer I wrote when Dad died. I can go back and read some of the big decisions I’ve made and the directions that I’ve gone in my life. It becomes a record of the spiritual journey of your life.
The acronym that you can write down include the letters in the word, PERSONAL.
When I start my prayer, I write the date and the time I’m starting to pray. The reason I do that is I used to always look at my watch wondering when did I start? I can relax having the start time written down. I recommend that you pray for 15 minutes every day.
The first letter of the PERSONAL prayer acronym is the letter P and P stands for Perspective. When we come before God, we want to get perspective between who God is and who we are.
Perspective puts you in the light of who God is. I say things to God like, ‘God, you created everything. I can’t grow hair on my head.’ This puts things into perspective. ‘God, you are perfect. God, there are so many things I do, which I just wish I didn’t do.’ This immediately puts us into perspective where we realize that we are at the worship of God. Perspective is an act of worship because it sees God in his perfection and it sees us for whom we are, created by God. God is the creator. We are the created and so as we begin, perspective brings our mind and our heart and our senses to where God is now. As I approach the seat where I’m going to pray, I often will say to God, ‘God, I am not coming here to pray to you today, to talk to you and tell you things. I’m coming to have an encounter with you. Would you speak to me? Would you be present with me?’
Next, I write the letter E which stands for Everything. ‘God, it is so easy to let you slip out of my life.’ God wants to be the center of our life. If our life is like a big circle, there are lots of things in our life. God seeks to be the central part of our life, but life is so busy that we keep pushing God out.
It is very important to begin our prayer by saying, ‘God, I put you back at the center of my life, as first in my life, as the general manager of my life, as the Lord of my life, a center of my life.’
The R stands for Repentance. What does Repentance mean? It means to change direction, to come back to where we were meant to be. It doesn’t take much to fall away. I would often think since the last time I prayed 24 hours ago, I’ll ask Lord, would you forgive me for this? Would you forgive me for that? I’m sorry. And I fix my relationship with God.
Scripture tells us that God forgives when we ask His forgiveness and restores us completely. When you look at your life, how would you examine your own heart?
You might do this using another Acronym using the letters of FABRIC because we’re all made of a substance, aren’t we? When I’m examining my conscience and thinking about things, I need to ask God’s forgiveness for, I use the FABRIC acronym.
FAITH – What has my faith in God been like in the last 24 hours?
ATTITUDE – What have my attitudes been like? What have I been thinking about?
BEHAVIOURS – What have my behaviors been? Would God be pleased with my actions and my behaviors?
RELATIONSHIPS – What are my relationships with others like? Are there people that I need to go and ask forgiveness of?
INTEGRITY – Who am I when no one is looking?
CONVERSATIONS – What is my speech like? Jesus said, what comes out of our mouth is an indication of our heart.
An examination of our conscience might be looking at the FABRIC of who we are, our faith, attitude, behavior, relationship, integrity, and conversations. Wherever we fall short, we can ask God’s forgiveness. We can be certain that God is a forgiving God. For me as a Catholic going to the sacrament of reconciliation, I will often look at the FABRIC of my life in preparation for it.
Repentance means to come back to God and, the P, E, and R steps (Perspective, Everything, Repentance) all happen at the same time. They are, in a sense, one movement. Sometimes it can be very quick.
In the PERSONAL acronym, the letter R is used twice, and the second R is for the word Real. This is where I spend a good amount of time in my life. It is important to be honest before God. ‘God, this is how I’m feeling, this is how I’m going, and this is how things are within my life.’ Sometimes saying ‘God, thank you for blessing me. God, I’m not very happy with you right now. I don’t understand why that war is taking place. I don’t understand why these things are happening in my life. Lord, I’ve asked you for things and you haven’t done them.’
Being real is being honest. The Bible tells us there are no secrets. God has no secrets. Being real means writing from where am I in my life?
The S in PERSONAL stands for Salute. One of the definitions of Salute means to greet with a kiss, in other words, to worship. What I have done and what you can also do is to make a whole list of words that you could write down about God. ‘God, I praise you and adore you.’ Sometimes you don’t know what to say to God. ‘God, I praise you. I adore you. I glorify you. I honor you. You’re the first and the last, you’re the King of Kings. You are the Lord of all. Lord, you keep everything going. Lord, I can’t do anything without you.’ This transforms us into a place of worship where we can come before God and acknowledge who He is in His perfection. God knows everything. God is everywhere and God is all by powerful.
Ultimately, when we have worshiped God, and that might take a couple of minutes, it always leads to silence. This stage is called Observe. The silence means to just sit, listen to your heart, listen to the inside of you, listen into the voice of God. It is after worship that I have made many of the biggest decisions of my life. Scripture tells us that God dwells in the praises of his people. Sometimes this is the time I’ve realized I’ve been off-course and I’ve had to come back to sit with God in silence for a little while.
The N in PERSONAL stands for Nourish. The Bible is separated into sections or stories like Jesus feeding the 5,000, the beatitudes and Jesus being crucified. I suggest you take one of those little stories or sections and read that. After you’ve done your worship and you’ve listened, read the story, and because you’re in a place of still listening, it’s amazing what you can hear.
Many of the big decisions that I’ve made for the Ministry and things that Rosemary and I have decided in our life together, that we’ve prayed about like moving home, have all happened in that section of my prayer.
The A in PERSONAL stands for Ask. Jesus said all the time, ‘Ask the Father in my name.’ The Holy Spirit works in us. You don’t want to get to heaven and find out that God’s got a whole pile of things He would have done for you if you had just asked.
Remember, I’m writing down P E R S O N A L and I’m writing something for each of these in the back of my prayer journal.
The final letter in the PERSONAL acronym is L is for Leave. Do we just pack up and go? The Leave step could be the most important.
We take our prayer time, and then we go to our family, we go to our husbands, or we go to our wives, we go into our work, we go into the places where we are, and we are God’s presence wherever we are.
Personal prayer is something that you’ve got to practice so commit to 15 minutes a day.
Get yourself an exercise book and write out your prayers.
You’ll be stunned by what that will come mean to you in time. One word of caution. When you get to the word Repentance it’s the only time you don’t write in your prayer journal. Do not write down your sins or your wrongdoing. You don’t want your prayer journal falling into someone else’s hands and they would be able to read those things so do not write them there.
Want to know something? If you practice PERSONAL prayer, it will change your life. I will forever be grateful to that Catholic priest who said to me, ‘Bruce, develop a personal relationship with God. It will affect everything. Pray, pray, pray every day.’