How To Pray An Hour Each Day
Prayer is one of the ways in which we communicate with God. It is vital to our growth as Christians. Yet some statistics do not look good for our prayer life, at least here in the United States. According to a 2014 survey performed by the Pew Research Center, there are a growing number of Americans who do not pray at all. A full 23% of Americans reported that they never pray. This is up from 18% in 2007. This means that approximately 1 out of every 4 people that you run across in your day to day life never prays. Barna Group had similar findings in a poll released in 2017. In that poll, they found that 79% of American adults prayed at least once in the last 3 months. However, this means that over 1 in 5 American adults had not prayed in three months. If prayer is vital to our spiritual growth, then it is significant that there are this many people, even professing Christians, who simply do not pray.
Another aspect that troubles me is that prayer is not clearly defined in either of these surveys. Furthermore, there are other indicators that the prayer lives that many have, including many pastors, is not as healthy as we may think. According to an Ellis Research Survey cited by Church Leaders in a 2011 article, only 16% of pastors are highly satisfied with their prayer lives. In addition, 47% are somewhat satisfied, 30% of pastors were somewhat dissatisfied, and 7% of pastors were highly dissatisfied with their prayer lives. To draw an analogy, this would be akin to a survey showing that only 16% of people surveyed ate healthy, 47% ate "kind of" healthy, 30% ate "unhealthily," and 7% ate "incredibly unhealthily." If we saw these statistics in regards to our food intake, we would think that there was a crisis. Why do we not think the same when it comes to prayer, which provides us with spiritual nourishment that we need? Would it not alarm us if 23% of people simply did not eat at all? Then why does it not alarm us when 23% of people have no prayer life at all? If the satisfaction of the average pastor in his or her prayer life is any indication of the overall health of the church in this area, I cannot help but conclude that the prayer life of the church is more unhealthy than may at first be evident. This is why I am writing this post.
One resource that has helped me tremendously in my own prayer life is a small book by Dick Eastman entitled The Hour That Changes The World. I knew that giants like John Wesley and Martin Luther committed more than one hour to prayer each and every day, but I personally thought this was impossible for me. That is, until I began reading this book. In this post, I would like to share some insights from this text, as well as lessons that I have learned on how to have a healthy prayer life. I am by no means perfect in this area, and everyone's prayer life will look slightly different. However, my hope is that some of what I am about to say will have an impact on your own prayer life.
Dick Eastman divides his one hour of daily prayer into 12, 5-minute sessions. Of course, practically speaking, some of these sessions will take longer than others. However, what he has provided is a method of structuring prayer so that it does not simply become something that we do in passing, but rather have to commit time to. At the same time, this structuring of prayer helps us to remember everything that we have to pray for. If you are anything like me, I sometimes forget to pray for a particular need until some time later. These two benefits will come from Eastman's method.
Eastman's method involves 12 sessions of at least 5 minutes each. Eastman's method begins with praise. He first praises God for who God is. After this, Eastman begins a period of silent waiting and listening for God. Third, Eastman spends time confessing his sins and shortcomings to God. Fourth, Eastman prays from the Scriptures. Fifth, he begins a session that he entitles "watching." This is a time of obedience to the commands in Colossians 4:2 and Matthew 26:41 to be mentally alert and aware of what is going on around you and the needs that are there, both yours and others'. Sixth, Eastman begins a time of intercession for others. Seventh, Eastman begins a time of petitioning God with his personal needs. Eighth, Eastman begins a time of thanksgiving. Ninth, Eastman praises God in song. Tenth, Eastman meditates on God's word and God's work. Eleventh, Eastman listens for God to speak to him. Finally, Eastman ends his prayer time with praise. Each of these, if done for five minutes, will help you pray for an hour. However, there are some other considerations that I would like to bring up.
As I mentioned above, each person's prayer life will reflect different. Practically speaking, I have found that it is better to spend time in prayer at the conclusion of a time of devotional study of Scripture. This will make the fourth session easier, and it helps remind us of things that we need to pray about in our own lives. This may involve waking up early in order to spend time studying Scripture and then getting into prayer. However, I have found that my prayer life goes more smoothly when I spend time in Scripture to prepare my heart for prayer. Prayer also helps prepare us to better receive the Word, so it may be a good idea to sandwich your prayer time in between two sessions of devotional study. If you study for 30 minutes, pray for an hour, and then study for 30 more minutes, you have spent 2 hours in devotional time for that day. This is approximately how much time John Wesley spent in prayer each day. Martin Luther spent his best 3 hours per day in prayer. Indeed, I know of no successful ministry that has not been bathed in prayer.
Providing structure to your prayer time also helps you to ensure that nothing is missed during our prayer time. If you have ever promised to pray for someone, and then forgot about that person when you began to pray, you may have realized this. Sometimes making a list of people and things to pray for in each session will help us with this, as well. Perhaps adding a session to Eastman's list just for the purpose of praying for a specific person or group of people would help. For example, creating a special session just to pray for our governmental leaders may be a good idea. Remembering to set aside specific time for them ensures that they are not missed. Of you may add a note to your list of people and things to pray for during your intercession time. This method is not rigid, but is simply a way to help structure our prayer life.
Finally, some of you may be saying, "I don't have 2 hours to spare in the day." As I have pointed out in other posts, this is false. According to the data, the average time spent on social media per person each day in 2020 was approximately 144 minutes, or 2 hours and 24 minutes each day. Another study showed that Americans spend approximately 24 hours on the internet per week. This boils down to approximately 3 hours and 25 minutes per day. We give our time to what we prioritize the most. If we can spend an average of two and a half hours each day on social media and three and a half hours online each day, but cannot find two hours for prayer, this does not mean that we are too busy for prayer. It means that we value social media and the internet over our prayer lives--a sure sign of an unhealthy prayer life. In other words, and this may step on some toes, if you were thinking that you don't have the time for this kind of devotional life, what you are saying is false. If you think you don't have time for a prayer life, your prayer life is likely unhealthy. If you have time for social media, you have time for prayer. It all boils down to which one you value more. I am not saying that we can never use social media or the internet, or that these things are bad. If I thought this, I would never have started this blog, and you would never have read this post. However, when these things interfere with our prayer lives, then we have a major issue. Make those spiritual practices that will help you draw closer to God the priority, and everything else will be seen in proper perspective.
In conclusion, prayer is as important to the Christian as eating or breathing. Yet, it is unnecessarily neglected by many. If you would like to have a healthier prayer life, then perhaps adopting Eastman's method is for you. At least, it can't hurt to try it if you would like to improve your prayer life.