Last week, I embarked on a “40 days of prayer” journey. What this looks like is quite simple for me. In addition to my regular morning devotional time, I am spending at least 1 hour in private prayer and solitude during the day. In addition to that, I will be fasting 7 times over the course of those 40 days. That’s not to say I’m fasting for a whole day, but just one meal during the day.
Maybe you are wondering how this emerged? Well, I got to thinking about the number 40 in the bible (I am now in my 40th year). Right around the time of my birthday, someone mentioned they had just gone through a “40 days of prayer” exercise and how powerful it had been in their life and church. I thought and prayed about it, and decided I wanted to try this too.
If you remember, please pray for me. Pray specifically that this “40 days of prayer” would be a powerful experience of seeking God, drawing nearer to Jesus, and growing in my sanctification and holiness. Pray that I would persevere in this exercise and not cut corners. Many in my church family have already told me they are praying for me as I seek to be more intentional about personal prayer. I am grateful!
The fact of the matter is that we get to know God through prayer. Yes, we must be in the Word of God, studying and meditating on a daily basis (Psalm 119:97), but we get to know God through prayer. It’s just like any other relationship. If you are going to get to know another person, you need to spend time listening and sharing with them.
How much time do you set aside time for private prayer with the Lord? How much time do you set aside to get alone with God in the closet to seek His face (Matthew 6:5-6)? I think if most of us were honest would say that we are lacking in this area, and yet that is what we find modelled and taught in the Scriptures.
In Mark 1:35, we find Jesus’ model for prayer. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” The night before, Jesus was up late healing and ministering to people, but that didn’t mean he slept in the next morning – far from it! Jesus was up at the crack of dawn to spend time with his heavenly Father.
In his little book, Power Through Prayer, E.M. Bounds writes, “The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early morning – its opportunity and freshness – in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day. If God is not first in our thoughts and efforts in the morning, He will be last during the remainder of the day.”
Just think of some of the great men of God through the ages – Martin Luther, John Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, David Brainerd, Robert Murray McCheyne – they all rose early in order to pray.
I have always said that when you have your quiet time with the Lord, find the time of the day that works best for you. There are verses where Jesus also prayed in the evening and night (Luke 6:12). But if you pressed me and asked, what would you recommend? I would say early in the morning. Sometimes we think, “Oh I’ll get to that later.” But in the busyness of life, often we don’t.
Jesus’ model for prayer also shows “where” to pray. Jesus went to a solitary, desolate place where there would be no distractions (Mark 1:35b). It is important to understand that Jesus’ days were filled with non-stop activity. First thing in the morning was probably the only part of Jesus’ day that he could be alone with God. But Jesus took the further step of finding that “quiet place” where he could get alone with His heavenly Father, without the chance of being interrupted or distracted.
I don’t have to tell you that there are a million different distractions we deal with. And it’s not that all those distractions are bad – some of them are good and entirely necessary. But the point is, there is nothing more important than time in prayer with your Heavenly Father.
For some of you, that quiet place is out in the woods. For others, it is in the garage, or a special room in your house. Whatever the case, you need to have that quiet, solitary place, to get alone with God. This affords opportunity to speak to Him, listen to Him, and delight in His presence. As it says in Colossians 4:2, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”
As I have started down my “40 days of prayer,” journey, some of the verses I have been meditating on include: Luke 18:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Psalm 63:1, Psalm 84, 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, 1 John 5:14, Ephesians 1:16, 6:18, and John 15:7. These are all verses that speak to the power and priority of prayer.
If you are anything like me, you might need to re-orient your life in the direction of a greater emphasis on prayer. My hope is that in a month, when I finish my 40-day journey, this emphasis on prayer and fasting will not stop. My hope (and prayer) is that I will have an even greater zeal and desire to draw near to Jesus. As King David writes, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1). Amen!