I'm gonna be completely honest here.
I've pretty much had my life planned out since middle school.
My to do list is color coded.
Each day of the week i intentionally focus on a different section of my job description... Who does that?
I have a disease. I realize that. Please pray for the people I love the most.
My ability to operate without plans and structure is not entirely unlike Jack Garratt's ability to write terrible music.
...These things are just not in the cards for Jack and I.
This was all in the interest of full disclosure so you can take what I'm about to say with a grain of salt.
We've been talking about Jesus' promise to give us joy in the place of prayer (Isaiah 56:7), and wrestling with some of the reasons we don't experience that.
So with that said, this is one of the easiest ways out there to NOT enjoy prayer:
Definitely go in without a plan
Early on in my process with Jesus, I was at some sort of meetings when I was first introduced to the idea of planning/structuring my prayer times. We were in a pre-service prayer setting, when one of the speakers walked us through the ACTS model.
- Supplication (fancy KJV word for asking God for stuff)
I should have known. The answers to life's greatest mysteries have always been hidden within the same medium:
But seriously, 15 years later and I'll still bust out the ACTS model from time to time.
Everything God builds...
Everything God creates is first given structure, and then given life. With the creation of Adam he first creates the bones, then breathes his Spirit into him. With Ezekiel he does the same thing - skeletons and tendons, then ruach. With Moses, first he gives intricate construction details for the tabernacle and liturgical process, then he fills it with glory.
Sometimes in prayer and in our other endeavors, we give God something to use, something to work with, something to move through. I think it's his way of involving us in the process.
But here's an important caveat: You WANT structure. What you DON'T want is your prayer life to become wrote religious exercise, instead of life giving relationship. Tyler Speegle has a great piece on that here.
Other than the ACTS model here are a couple other ways I've structured my prayer times:
1. Praying Through A Psalm
People talk about the power of praying the scriptures all the time. The Psalms are a great place to start praying the word, since most of them are prayers already... So it doesn't take a lot of imagination. Psalms are an easy way to give your prayer time a path to travel. Read a verse then apply that verse to a situation in your life e.g. marriage, finances, relationship with God, then use the textual language to pray it back to God. Then on to the next verse.
2. 20-20 Challenge
From time to time I'll issue the 20-20 challenge to my students. It's connecting with God for 20 minutes a day for 20 days. Why 20 days? So glad you asked. Because it takes 21 days to build a habit (the 20-21 Challenge wasn't nearly as catchy).
I'd also chart their 20 minutes for them:
- 5 Minutes: Turn on your favorite worship leader and worship for 1 song
- 5 Minutes: Read a Psalm - why a psalm? Because they're short - baby steps people, baby steps.
- 5 Minutes: Pray about your prayer life like the disciples did when they said "Jesus, teach us to pray". This is huge in the beginning - Your getting distracted, great, talk to him about it. "God I'm bored." "God give me a hunger for you." "God I'm trying here, but I need your grace." "God I want to want you" "Jesus teach me to pray."
- 5 Minutes: Requests/Needs
These are just ideas. Ask people you respect in this area, create your own, see what works for you.
One final thought. If you're in one of those seasons where you are falling deeply in love with Jesus, hearing from him all the time, and thinking about him in every waking moment, you probably don't need a lot of structure. Mountaintops should be enjoyed, but structure will help us to be faithful in prayer in the valleys and arid places that lie in between.