I have always wanted to be a prayer warrior. I imagine myself old and gray sitting in my rocking chair, praying over my loved ones, missionaries, and troops serving overseas. For this imagined future to become a reality, I must strengthen my prayer muscles and gain the stamina of a true warrior.
As any athlete will tell you, the only way to be good at something is through practice. You have to build muscle, and you build muscle by doing reps. At times in my prayer life, I feel like a naïve beginner who walks into the weight room trying to lift 50 pound weights. When in reality, I need to build up to that, and start my reps with 5 pounds.
Thankfully, I started doing reps under the guidance of my parents from an early age. My parents guided my brothers and me in prayer before meals and every night before bed. This was a helpful foundation for learning the habits of prayer. Since then, my prayer muscles have been strengthened in other ways too. A few areas I still seek to practice and grow as I journey toward becoming a prayer warrior include:
Prayer as conversation (1 Timothy 2:8)
In high school, I went to church camp each summer. One summer we got together for prayer time, and one of the counselors encouraged us to pray with our eyes open. This was the first time I fully realized prayer is a conversation. This led to me feeling more confident doing prayer walks in college, praying out loud when driving to work, and learning how to pray in response to anxiety or fear as I go about my day.
Structured prayer (James 5:16)
My first bible study in college covered some great foundational topics. We talked through the structure of prayer using ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.
Although this model may be familiar, I have found myself returning to it again and again in my prayer life. You start with adoration because God delights in our praises, then move toward confessing your sins to receive God’s cleansing. This helps to remove any barrier in our communication with God (1 John 1:9). Next, thanksgiving simply means being thankful to God and giving him the glory for answered prayers. Lastly, supplication is how we pray for our needs and for the needs of others. We may also want to pray for God’s guidance, wisdom, and opportunities to serve.
Supplication-oriented prayers often consume my conversations with God. My prayers are filled with request, and I forget to praise him as Lord. This ACTS structure shifts my focus beyond my current circumstances to Christ.
Prayer in the moment (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
There are moments where I have an impulse to pray with someone. Perhaps it is with a friend over coffee or in talking with someone who is having a hard time. It can be easy to tell someone I will be praying for them, but I often forget to pray for people. In response to my forgetfulness, I have started to pray for and with people in that very moment. My older brother started doing this with me, and it always encouraged my heart to hear him respond at once with prayer.
At first responding to this impulse to pray was a bit uncomfortable—you have to ask someone to pray in the middle of conversation—but pretty soon it became natural for me. As I started doing this more and more a common theme occurred in peoples’ reaction to my desire to pray with them and for them: They felt surprised and grateful.
While I am not old and gray yet and my training has not reached the status of prayer warrior, I am encouraged to know I am growing stronger.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)
What areas of prayer are you seeking to grow? Do you struggle with any of the areas listed above?