Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.
Many years ago I learned about a spiritual discipline that literally changed my life: a half day of prayer. I learned about this concept through leadership training with The Navigators, and it has stuck with me ever since. One of the most dynamic experiences I have come to enjoy in life is to take a half day to get away to a place of solitude and just … pray! I highly recommend it to any who are reading this post.
But as you ponder this concept, you are likely asking yourself something like, “What in the world would I do for 4–5 hours of prayer? What would I say to God? What would I do with that much time?” Great questions! Let me give you some suggestions!
First of all, I would suggest that you break the time up into two key divisions: speaking to God and listening to God.
Speaking to God
For the first division of your time, you can take time to pray according to the acronym ACTS. Each of those letters stand for a specific theme of your prayers to God: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication.
A great way to begin your half day of prayer is to spend some personal time in worship with the Lord. Sing. Listen to worship music. Contemplate everything you can think of that makes God so great. Write down everything you can think of that demonstrates the awesome majesty of God. And then ponder the things you have written. Contemplate the greatness of God while you are there before Him.
After your time of adoration, then take time to confess to God any sin you can think of in your life. David said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Ask God to show you any sin that you have in your life that is interfering with your journey with Him. Ask for God’s forgiveness, and then ask Him to help you to turn from those sins.
Now spend some time thanking God for every blessing you have in your life. I have found it helpful to write these items down as they come to my mind. Make a list, and make it as exhaustive as you can. Don’t leave anything out. Thank God for every single way He has blessed you and those around you.
For the supplication portion of your prayer, invest time into praying for every single person who is close to you in your life. Remember every family member, every coworker, every friend, every neighbor, every church member you can think of, etc. Again, write down the names of the people as you pray for them. This will help you to think of others who should be on that list.
Listening to God
The next section of your half day of prayer will be the “Listening to God” section. This is likely to become the most important, life-changing experience of your half day with God!
Years ago I read a great book by Bill Hybels called, Too Busy Not to Pray. One of the eye-opening suggestions for me in that book was the idea that we should actually take time to stop and listen to God. I realized after reading that book that, in my own prayer life, I had always been the one who did all the talking! I never stopped long enough to actually listen to God. Most relationships that operate like that end up failing, so we should assume that our relationship with God will struggle as well if we are the only ones doing the talking.
So, then, how do we go about “listening” to God? Bill Hybels gave some recommendations for that, and I have expanded on those a bit in my own practice of listening.
When I get to the listening portion of my prayer, after spending time going through the vital sections of ACTS, I then take out a notepad and write these questions on the tops of separate pages:
“What is the next step in my journey with God?”
“What is the next step for my family?”
“What is the next step in my ministry?”
“What is the next step in my career?”
“What is the next step in my finances?”
“What is the next step in my education?”
“What is the next step in my relationships?”
Sometimes I will add more pages with headings like these, and sometimes I will have fewer pages. After I have these pages ready with these questions at the top, I then just stop talking. I stop asking God for things, and I just let Him do the talking. You will find that if you stop to listen to the Lord, He will speak. He will begin to flood your heart with ideas around each of these questions. He may focus on just one or two of these areas of your life, or He may broaden to many of the subjects you’ve listed.
Of course, sometimes God will not speak as you want. There have been times when I haven’t heard Him say much. But more often than not, He has flooded my soul with myriads of ideas, thoughts, and impressions about how I am to move forward in my life. This is epic. It is life changing. In today’s fast-paced world of technology, we rarely take time to just stop and let God speak to us.
Furthermore, I must warn you to be aware that not all ideas come from God. Occasionally my flesh will start talking, and sometimes it might be Satan himself who is chattering in my ears. That is why it is so important to take time for worship, confession, and adoration before you begin your time of listening. It is also good to check the things you have heard with the Scriptures to make sure they are not in conflict with any biblical principles. If the ideas go against the Bible, then that was not God speaking. I have also found it to be helpful to check my notes with godly friends who can help me to make sure I am hearing God.
With all of that in mind, I have to say that the biggest step forward for me in my Christian journey was when I stopped talking and started listening to God! It’s one of the greatest experiences of my Christian journey!
The first step for you to experience a half day of prayer will be to put it on your calendar. Set aside a day, and then go out into a place of solitude to meet with God! You will never be the same afterward!
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