How To Start Each Day With Heartfelt Prayers – Part 1 of 2

4931133631_a8ee225125_mA young professional man asked me for help to make Bible reading and prayer a daily part of his life. With his permission I share the essence of my response with you, my reader.

SUGGESTION ONE. Between 15 and 30 minutes first thing in the morning is a good target time to aim for. But preparations must begin the night before. When and how we retire each night either supports or sabotages this devotional exercise in advance of the next day. Planning sleep time accordingly is just one element in a disciplined Christian life. In another context, the Apostle Peter exhorted, “Be self-controlled and alert” (1 Peter 5:8). Even try leaving your Bible open to the passage for the morning.

SUGGESTION TWO: Read the Bible according to a plan. Flipping aimlessly from place to place will not challenge your attention or hold your interest. And it is not likely to give you biblical patterns. I suggest you begin with the Gospel of Mark, the shortest Gospel, reading either a paragraph or a chapter at a time. Perhaps even say aloud at the beginning “This is the Word of the Lord.” And when you finish Mark, be prepared to begin another plan. For this morning time, I prefer to follow a Bible Reading Guide published by the Canadian or American Bible Societies. This prompts me to keep aware in an ordered way of all sections of the Bible. Copies can be ordered by a phone call: 416 417 1757.

SUGGESTION THREE: The time spent in prayer need not be long but should be active, countering any drowsiness that lingers after showering and making preliminary preparation for the day. Use the exercise to commit yourself and the new day to the Lord, declaring your trust in Him, and thanking him for his care. Ask him to grant mercy to family, friends, neighbors. Offer prayer for your church. If need be take extra time for specific needs, or to offer special words of gratitude, but don’t fixate on one matter alone.

SUGGESTION FOUR: Choose the posture for prayer that best enables you to remain concentrated. Kneeling reflects reverence but may invite sleepiness or wandering thoughts, especially early in the morning. Many pray sitting or standing. The late Oswald Smith walked back and forth in his study while he prayed. From that exercise he wrote the gospel song that begins, “I have walked alone with Jesus in a fellowship divine.”

SUGGESTION FIVE: Whenever possible, pray out loud. This will keep your mind alert to what you are doing. It is good to voice your prayers, even if only in a whisper. Hearing your words increases concentration.

For example, while sitting in silence next to a friend, your thoughts could go in several directions, but that is not as likely to happen if you are communing with that friend in conversation. Prayer can be conversation with God. It’s amazing how hearing one’s own words in prayer helps prayers to remain focused.

SUGGESTION SIX. Keep in mind that Bible reading and prayer at the outset of the day can set a tone for the whole day. Once the practice is fixed you will discover that the impulse to pray manifests itself at various times in the day. Call them flash prayers. They’re like spillover from the early morning’s prayers. Perhaps something like this is what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he exhorted, the Thessalonians, “Pray continually,” or “Never stop praying” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Remember that my suggestions are only starters. For many believers, prayer is a lifetime development. And beginners should be mindful of this: the establishment of a disciplined life of prayer may begin with a struggle against the flesh (prior habits, fatigue, distractibility) but if pursued will turn into one of the day’s great joys — communion with the Eternal God.

(Next week I’ll share the five elements of prayer)

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Photo credit: Vinoth Chandar (via flickr.com)

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4 thoughts on “How To Start Each Day With Heartfelt Prayers – Part 1 of 2

  1. Thank you for the instructive words on morning prayer. I care for my husband 24/7 and of late he has been very restless and not able to go to sleep. I changed my routine of having some time to myself at night. I felt it was best to go to bed the same time he seems want to go to bed, being 8:30 PM. I am now waking early and have time in the quiet of the morning when rested. A perfect time to spend time in prayer and preparing for another day.I am glad to have a good plan to follow. Time to myself is one thing, time to pray is another—- a better way to prepare for another long day. Thank you, Mary Fullmer

    • Simple yet profound advice that I know is true. I work shifts and must adapt my times. Sometimes this makes it easy to “forget”. Thank you for the encouragement. Looking forward to next weeks.

  2. Leaving our bedside bible open at the morning’s reading is a very good idea.I actually do this on the eve of major feast days like Christmas,Maundy Thursday,Good Friday,Easter Day and Pentecost.Somehow it makes me look forward all night to the morning’s reading and when I wake it’s almost as if I’ve been preparing in my sleep.I’m ready.

    Now I’m going to start doing thisr every day.

    I notice something on days when I don’t hear my alarm and oversleep.This sometimes happens. I never oversleep so much I’m too late for my work or appointments,but it means I have to rush.Sometimes I miss my scripture reading and have to pray on the hoof as I’m walking from the house

    .Invariably this makes for a strained day in which things don’t go as smoothly as norma .lI’m happy praying in any situation or posture,-walking,waiting in a queue.But I do miss that serene early morning prayer time at home if I don’t get it.And I miss that unrushed bible reading time.I don’t read big long extracts,just a chapter.But I like plenty of time to reread the chapter and think carefully about it.Ideas around the chapter come to my mind all day long,and I feel where I want to be and long to be – close to God.

    I’ve tried it a few evenings now and opening my bible on the evening before ,in advanced preparation,has worked well so far.I’ve been waking ready and no oversleeping as yet.

    I like to read bible passages to fit the Christian year.I use a Lectionary which gives a choice of bible passages for each day,from the Gospels,the non Gospel new Testament and the Old Testament, including Psalms of course.

    I normally pray at home sitting esasily but upright and slightly forward as if ready to embark on something.Praying while walking is a particular favourite of mine and I love to pray while alking in a garden or a woodland walk In the past I’ve loved to pray by the sea or by a lake.

    I always like to pray aloud.My voice is not loud and at home I pray in a conversational voice as if God is bending over me and can hear me closely.I live alone and this is easy for me at home,to speak outwardly..In my church ,in private prayer,I like to light a prayer candle sometimes.Even here I pray aloud ,but in a very quiet intimate voice,so others cannot hear or barely hear..

    I remember as a student getting a book called ‘How To Study’ and some fellow students laughed.They said that time spent reading my how to study book could have been spent studying.I saw their point but I found it really helped to set good routines and practises.Similarly thinking about how to pray is very helpful and I have already found this week’s blog advice very helpful .

    Once again,thank you very much for your good words,Pastor Don.I hope you’re well.

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