Recently I found myself strolling down memory lane again. Older people (I am 83) tend to do this. I began to think about my prayer life and my journey in prayer. It has certainly changed through the years, and I am deeply grateful to God for this journey and His leadership.
When I was a very young child, I noticed that prayer was happening in various places. Our family always prayed at mealtimes. I heard people pray in church. My Sunday School teachers prayed during our class time. However, I do not remember being taught much about prayer, the importance of prayer, and how to pray. My parents did not pray with me as far as I can remember.
As a teenager, I had the fortune of being in a church that had a great youth ministry. We did outreach activities, had camps each year, and held youth-led revivals. We prayed for lost people, sick people, and our church leaders. Even though we prayed more, I still did not learn much about praying. I was told to pray, but no one really taught me how to pray.
Then came college, seminary, and my early years of ministry. During these years, I still prayed for sick people, family, and church leaders. I also began to hear and learn that I was to pray for missionaries. I heard missionaries speak, and they always ended their message or presentation with a request that we pray for them. So, I began to pray for missionaries – when I thought about it or when I heard a missionary speak.
Through all these years from childhood through my early years in ministry, I did not hear nor was I taught about the importance of prayer and how to pray. Having a daily quiet time with God was not on my radar.
As I grew older, I began to pray more. I prayed for my family, my pastor, and other staff members with whom I worked. I also prayed for the activities we planned as a church. However, most of those prayers were asking God to bless something we planned. It hardly ever occurred to me that I should pray and ask God what activities and projects we should plan.
Later in my life, I had the privilege of being hired by the Arkansas Baptist State Convention as the Associate Executive Director. One of my responsibilities involved serving as the state coordinator of prayer. We tried to lead churches to have a prayer emphasis that included enlisting a prayer leader, having a prayer room, and regular events involving prayer.
During this time, I also had the privilege of attending a national prayer conference annually with other state and Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) prayer leaders. Our national leaders were Henry Blackaby, T.W. Hunt, Avery Willis, Minette Drumwright, and others. I really began to think about my own prayer life after hearing and praying with these SBC and state prayer coordinators.
Suggested Prayer Books
T.W. Hunt and Catherine Walker authored a book, Disciple’s Prayer Life. that had a great influence on my prayer life. For years, I have read and re-read this book. It has many truths and suggestions that have helped me understand prayer and how to pray. I also developed a close friendship with Dr. Hunt, and for many years before he died, I would call him several times a year and discuss prayer. What a blessing that was!
In addition, Dr. Hunt along with Claude King, wrote a very small book, In God’s Presence, that greatly helped me develop my prayer life. We also invited Dr. Hunt to come to Arkansas and speak to prayer leaders on several occasions.
As I listened to these SBC prayer leaders, I was greatly impressed with Henry Blackaby. He wrote a book, What the Spirit is Saying to the Churches, that detailed his experiences in prayer as he served in Canada. He followed that with Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God. If anyone goes through that study, their lives will be changed forever. Mine certainly was!
In the last several years, our state has had a very special, intense effort on prayer for revival and spiritual awakening. The primary event related to this emphasis has been an annual Prayer Gathering for pastors and other ministers. I’ve had the privilege of leading the Prayer Task Force that planned this event and other prayer activities and events.
As I sat around a conference table leading this task force, my life was blessed and challenged as I heard from some of the best prayer leaders in our state. They shared their thoughts about prayer; how God led them to a greater understanding of prayer; and the need to pray for revival and spiritual awakening. What an impact these state leaders had on my prayer life.
Now in my later years, prayer has become a major part of my life. I anxiously look forward to each morning when I spend time with God in prayer and worship. This time has become more important to me than anything I do. When I miss this time, which is not often, I feel something is missing in my day.
I am truly thankful to God for my prayer journey. I certainly have not arrived in knowing about and practicing prayer, but God has changed my life through prayer. To Him be all the glory. I am totally dependent on His leadership and guidance in my life. Without prayer, I would be nothing. Thank You, God!