The Secret to a Consistent, Energized Prayer Life
“In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.” Psalm 5:3 NAS
David, the shepherd, psalmist and king of the Old Testament, is the author of this remarkable declaration. In it he reveals the secret to a consistent, energized prayer life. The secret is contained in his use of the word “order” to describe the manner in which he prays. There is something compelling about the way David ordered or arranged his prayer time that drew him back again and again with genuine expectancy. That coupled with his enjoyment of God’s presence led him to make a commitment to daily take his place before God to watch and pray.
So what is it about his choice of the word “order” to describe his prayer that led to such an eager commitment to daily watch and pray? The Hebrew word for order, “arak,” means “to arrange” or “set in order.” In other places in scripture it is used to describe how they built an altar, arranged wood to light a fire and/or arranged the offering on the altar. It is also used to describe the way in which the showbread was to be arranged and presented to God in the Holy Place. (Exodus 40:4) And it is used in reference to the setting forth in order of a legal case. (Job 13:18)
Order is one of the first principles instituted by God at creation. It is a means by which God initiates and establishes His purposes in the earth. Most notably we see it in His creation of day and night, seed time and harvest, and His institution through the Sinai covenant of the tabernacle, system of sacrifices and prescribed approach of the High Priest into the Holy of Holies.
Given the thoughtful and logical way in which things can be ordered, what then does it mean to order one’s prayer life? I believe the ordering of David’s prayer had to do with his choice of key elements of prayer and an intentional arrangement of their sequence to bring him into the presence of God. From a study of his life we can identify at least five things that David did when he prayed that illustrate this intentional arrangement of his prayer time to insure its vibrancy.
1. Praise and thanksgiving – In the reading of the Psalms we notice immediately that typically the first order of business in David’s approach to God was to begin with worship. This priority was reflected in how he instituted singers and musicians to thank and praise God day and night within the tabernacle he erected to house the ark during the years before the temple was built. (1 Chronicles 16:4)
It is my conviction, both from Scripture and personal practice that establishing a vital and vibrant prayer time is directly linked to beginning with praise and thanksgiving. It literally is the doorway that ushers us into the presence of God. That is why we are clearly told “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” (Psalm 100:4 NIV)
2. Acknowledgement of Dependence – A critical touch point for David in his prayers to God was always an acknowledgement of his dependence upon God both for the forgiveness of his sins and the carrying of his burdens. He knew that if he tolerated unconfessed iniquity in his heart the Lord would not hear him and so he prayed repeatedly for God to cover his transgression and cleanse him from his sin. (Psalm 66:18 & 51:1-2) The other thing he did without hesitation was to make sure he regularly gave his burdens to God. “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22 ESV)
In order to experience an unfettered and rejuvenating time of prayer it is contingent that we make a point of laying all of our sins and burdens at the foot of the cross of Jesus. That secures a freedom from distraction and instills a confidence to proceed in prayer as the Holy Spirit leads.
3. Confession of God’s Promises – The basis of our authority in prayer is the word of God. When we pray God’s promises back to Him and declare the beauty of His character as revealed in the Scriptures we align ourselves with His will. He has promised that “if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him.” (1 John 5:14-15 NIV) There is power in praying God’s promises that far eclipse praying our problems. Prayers that get answers and energize the pray-ers are prayers that declare the scriptures, because faith comes by hearing the word of God proceeding from our own mouths. (Romans 10:17) David repeatedly rehearsed God’s promises as he prayed, choosing to stand on God’s word and the faithfulness of His character as the foundation of his authority. (Psalm 86:15, 2 Samuel 7:21-29)
4. Responsiveness to the Leading of the Holy Spirit – An ordered or structured approach to prayer is like a launching pad for inspired spontaneity. (See Structure and Spontaneity in Prayer.) Beginning with worship, proceeding through an acknowledgement of dependence upon God and then moving into a bold profession of God’s will in His word positions the pray-er to sense the leading of the Holy Spirit and respond accordingly. In many of David’s psalms as he proceeds to pour out his heart, we notice a sudden shift in the tenor and Spirit of his prayer. Often he concludes his psalms with confessions of faith and confidence in God. (Psalms 6, 7, 11, 13, 16 & 17 just to mention a few) In some we see an ebb and flow throughout the psalm of Spirit-inspired prayer mixed in with the other elements. (Psalm 18)
5. Variety – One of the salient features of David’s prayers as demonstrated primarily in the Psalms is the variety of types and foci of prayer. There are psalms that are petitions, complaints, laments, spiritual warfare, prophetic declarations, litanies of God’s faithfulness and hymns of praise. There are psalms focused on Israel, the nations, the enemy, the oppressed, the overcomer, the sinner, the forgiven, the past, the future, the wonder of creation and the glory of God. Variety is the byword and it is a critical ingredient without which sustainable and energized prayer would not be possible. Paul said it best. “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” (Ephesians 6:18 NIV)
These five ingredients that David used in ordering his prayer are by no means exhaustive. But in the whole scheme of things I am of the deepest conviction that when all five are incorporated into a person’s daily prayer time, they like David will have a sustainable consistent, energized prayer life. I can personally testify that by God’s grace, my commitment over the past year to ordering my daily prayer time using these five keys has reenergized my prayer life and relationship with Him.
What keys have you discovered that keep your prayer life energized? Your comments are greatly valued!
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