Hi friends. I’m Celeste and I so psyched to be here what upping with the Fagans today. They’re the best. Normally, I blog about marriage over at A Thing Called Love Blog (connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest), but today I’m talking about meaningful personal prayer. I’m no praying expert, but I recently shifted the focus of my prayers. I’ve decided this shift could maybe help someone besides myself, and I knew I had to share this new insight with you!
I pray. I’ve always prayed. I’m a pray-er. I’ve had too many experiences with answered prayers to deny that prayer is a worthwhile activity. But I recently realized that I have been going about this praying thing all wrong. It’s weird to realize that something you’ve done every single day since you were a kid, you haven’t been doing right. It’s like someone watching you brush your teeth and telling you, “You know, you’re doing that wrong.”
On a typical morning, my prayers would go something like this, “Dear Heavenly Father, please bless I’ll have a good day today. Please bless that I won’t be so tired and I can have the energy to do all the things I need to get done today. Thank you for my family and our health. Please bless the girls will be good and obedient today. Help me to be a good mom. Help me to be a good wife. Please bless Lennon will sleep well. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
I’m no math whiz, but I think that’s something like 95% requests and 5% thank yous. When left unchecked, this is generally how my prayers still go. When I read things like I should “pray with all the energy of heart” I generally thought that energy should just be me pleading for things more fervently.
I was wrong.
I think my mistake was putting the emphasis of my prayers on my petitions. When really the purpose of prayer is to align ourselves with our Father in Heaven’s will.
“Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them…
We pray in Christ’s name when our mind is the mind of Christ, and our wishes the wishes of Christ: when his words abide in us. We then ask for things it is possible for God to grant. Many prayers remain unanswered because they are not in Christ’s name at all; they in no way represent his mind, but spring out of the selfishness of man’s heart” (Bible Dictionary: Prayer).
I realized my prayers were sounding much more like a negotiation process than an alignment process. I was putting all my efforts into asking for things, when my prayer efforts would be better spent trying to become closer to God, to become more like Him.
I needed a plan. A prayer plan.
My Intentional Prayer Plan
This is the process I now go through before I pray in the mornings:
I say a little prayer that I’ll have the Spirit and my prayers will be directed.
2. Jot down a few prayer notes
- Blessings (write down 5 things I’m thankful for that day).
- People to pray for (this has been so helpful, I ALWAYS forget to pray for other people).
- Desires. What are the real desires of my heart?
3. Close my eyes.
With my eyes closed, I try hard to picture Heavenly Father with a real body up in heaven listening to me.
As I pray, I remember to ask not to have my circumstances changed, but that I, in my current circumstance might be changed.
I’m about a month and a half into my prayer plan. I can tell it’s been a good plan because I actually feel closer to God before, during and after my prayer as a result of putting more effort into praying the right way.
Instead of 95% of my prayers being requests, now it’s down to abut 15% requests. I try to spend most of my prayer on the gratitude part and praying for other people (it’s shocking how often I forget to pray for anyone other than myself).
And my requests look different now too. Instead of asking for little things in my day to go better, I try to take time to ponder “What is the desire of my heart?” This generally forces me to zoom out my perspective and ask for “bigger picture” items such as having more love for those around me, becoming nicer, happier, more patient.
I’m trying to get in the habit of using the phrase “but if not. . .” after my requests. This, I think has been the best tool to remember that it’s God’s will, and not mine that matters. For example, “God, please help me to get over this illness and feel better. But if not, help me to still be kind and patient.” “God, please bless Lennon to not be sick. But if not, please comfort him through his pain.” “God, please bless the girls will be good workers and helpful today. But if not, help me to be patient and loving and a good mom.”
It helps me realize that it’s my reaction to my circumstances and not my actual circumstances that matter. And that is a good thing to remember.
Tell me, how do you align your prayers more with God’s will? How do really connect with heaven as you pray? What does your prayer plan look like?