Keeping Your Prayer Train on Track

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What's your prayer life like? Are you integrating praise, thanksgiving, quiet listening and confession into your conversations with God?

Back before my writer days (when I had a job where I couldn't wear pajamas to work), I was on a business call with a coworker. I had a list in front of me of items that I needed to cover, and as we moved through the list I made neat and tidy little check marks on my agenda. Pretty standard business call stuff.

And then ... it happened.

We got to the end of our conversation. It was the part of the call when I was supposed to say something formal and business-y. Instead I said, "In Your name I pray, Amen."

Real professional.

Why on earth would I end a phone call that way? Because those were the words I was used to saying right after I rattled off a list to someone—specifically to God. I've made some headway in the prayer department since that embarrassing phone call, but the reality is that all too often, I approach God with a to-do list and an agenda to convince Him to change my circumstances in the way I see fit. All of that asking doesn't lead to a balanced prayer life. It doesn't make for a balanced relationship with my Savior, and it does little or nothing to open my heart up to hear what God wants to say to me.

Resolution: I will add praise, thanksgiving, listening, and confession to my prayer life this year.

I want to encourage you to take a hard look at your own prayer life. Is it balanced? Or do you approach God with an agenda? Is your communication one-sided, with you being the one doing all the talking? Or do you take time to listen as well? Do you mostly vent to God about all that is wrong in your life, or do you take time to thank Him for all that is going right?

If you're like me, your prayer life can be a lot like a train. You chug along really well for a while, remembering to praise God, to confess your sin, and to wait quietly while you listen for Him to speak to your heart. But then, before you know it, you're off the track, talking to Jesus like He's a genie or a vending machine where you can plug in your requests and have Him spit out the answers you want. Just like a train chugging along beside the track, you can still get where you're going—meaning you can still love Jesus and serve Him, but it's going to be a bumpy ride.

You see, God wants you to come to Him with your needs, wants, and worries.

Philippians 4:6 ?says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."

But the Bible also highlights several other important elements to our communication with God.

Thanksgiving

"Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!" (1 Chron. 16:34).

Quiet Listening

"Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth" (Ps. 46:10).

Confession

"I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin" (Ps. 38:18).

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).

These elements of prayer are for our own good. We need to give thanks in order to recognize that the gifts in our lives come from God, rather than being something we've produced in our own strength. We need to wait quietly because God's ways are not our ways, and it is important to make room for His voice to change, encourage, and challenge us. We need to confess our sins as a reminder of how desperately we need a Savior.

There's nothing wrong with asking God to intervene in your life, but if that is all you are doing your walk with Christ can easily become all about you when it needs to be all about Him.

How are you doing in each of these areas? Do you have rhythms of thanksgiving, listening, quiet waiting, and confession in your relationship with God? Or do you tend to approach your time with Him more like a business call, where you check items off your to-do list and then wrap up the conversation with routine?

I want to do what it takes to get my prayer train back on track this year by integrating each of these elements into my time with the Lord. How about you?

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