I find that the older I get, the less I venture with things in life. I eat the same things, wear the same things, do the same things, and listen to the same things. We are creatures of habit, aren't we? While that's not necessarily bad, it's important to recognize that sometimes that can bleed over into other things like...well...our prayer life. When do you pray? How do you pray? What do you pray? Has prayer simply become a thoughtless ritual in our life? Or is it truly an outpouring of my spirit to God? Let's make a habit of prayer, but let's never make prayer simply a habit.
Hey everybody, and welcome back to the Set Your Mind Above Podcast! I’m your host BJ Sipe – I’m a Christian, a preacher, a husband, and a father. In this podcast we take everyday, ordinary events and explore how they can teach us extraordinary, eternal truths. I’m so glad that you joined me for this episode. Now, let’s open up our minds, our hearts, and our Bible’s together.
It’s funny how the older that I have gotten, the less adventurous that I have become. I look back at my youth at the kind of things that I did, and now I just laugh. I think about the kind of things that I wore – boy, middle school was not good to me, let me tell you. I’m talking zip off cargo pants (remember those? The ones that would turn into the most hideous shorts?), converse shoes, a bright Hawaiian style shirt with dragons all over it and a pooka shell necklace to top it all off. Today you wouldn’t catch me dead wearing something like that. It’s generally the same thing when I get ready for the day now a days – jeans, a polo or flannel shirt, and some white sneakers. That happened to be exactly what I was wearing today – jeans, a flannel shirt, and white sneakers. I walked into my coffee shop (the same one I always work at), and before I could even get a word out, my barista Brenan asked, “the usual today?” “Yes sir,” I replied. I don’t even need to order anymore – they know what I want. It’s a 1 & 1, which is essentially a cortado with a shot of espresso as a chaser. I sat at the same bar stool I always sit at and pulled out an earbud to stick in my ear. What should I listen to? While I do enjoy exploring new music from time to time, whenever it comes to my work music there is no wavering. Again, it was going to be the usual: lofi instrumental beats as background music to study to. After wrapping up my day of study and some class prep time with my dear friend Smitty, I went home early to greet my parents who are in town for a visit all the way from Oregon. We went out to dinner at Cheddars tonight, which is one of our favorites, and we were seated and handed our menus. I looked over the selections, but I don’t know why, I already knew what I was going to order: the creamy grilled tilapia & shrimp. It’s what I get every time, and it’s fantastic every time. I don’t know what’s happened to me, I used to be so adventurous. I remember always wanting to try something new on the menu every time we went somewhere, now I’m just the guy that gets the same thing every place I go. I wear the same things. Do the same things. Eat the same things. Listen to the same things. After I wrap up this podcast tonight and I go to unwind with a show in bed, I can guarantee you it’s going to be Perry Mason – just like it always is. We really are creatures of habit, aren’t we? We get set in our ways and get comfortable with the way that we do things, so moving away from the norm is just not something that we’re all that willing to do. Now, that’s all fine and well if that’s what you want. There is certainly nothing wrong with not being as adventurous with your clothes, food, entertainment, or routine. You might even be able to argue that you’ve just become more refined throughout the years, and hey that suits me. But it got me thinking about other areas where I have become a creature of habit, and one that really got me was with my prayer life.
Prayer is such a huge part of our lives as Christians, or at least it should be. But the more I thought about the way that I approach prayer in my spiritual walk with God, the more I realized how much I am a creature of habit. Now please don’t misunderstand what I am trying to say – if you’re going to have a habit of doing something, prayer is perhaps the best one that you could develop! So that’s not what I am trying to suggest. But more like…when you pray, what you pray, and how you pray are what came to my mind. So let me ask you…when do you pray? Well, traditionally, when do most people pray? You might say something like, “Well, before each meal, and before I go to bed at night” or something to that nature. Does that pretty much sum it up for you? But when are we supposed to pray? While these are certainly good times to pray, I think sometimes we can get into a spiritual rut in that they are the only times that we pray. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” When should you pray? The correct answer is anytime! When you get that big promotion that you had been hoping for, why not stop right there in your office and give thanks to God then? When you are sitting in the doctors waiting room anxious and concerned, what better time to pray than right then? As you’re listening to someone pour their heart out to you in the church parking lot and they ask for your prayers, what’s preventing you from praying right then? We need to take a page of out Paul’s book and do as he as admonished us to: pray anytime. What about what you pray for? Again, we are creatures of habit, aren’t we? Many that I know, including myself, often have their own what I like to call “prayer formula”. It’s kind of your go to things, where whenever a person is about to pray, you could probably pretty much guarantee these are the things they’re going to pray for. But is that how God wants us to pray? Just some ritualistic, going through the motion’s kind of formula prayer? Paul says to the Philippian church, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6) Did you catch that – in everything we are to go to God in prayer. The Psalms are such a perfect example to me. Just take some time to read through them, and you will see the following: prayers of praise, prayers expressing trust & submission, prayers for deliverance, prayers for protection, prayers for help with anxiety & fear, prayers of worship, prayers for mercy & grace, prayers praising God for answered prayers, prayers of gratitude, etc. If you ever find yourself just praying for the same things over and over again without much thought…just read the Psalms. They will challenge you. Finally, let me ask one perhaps we don’t think about much in our Western culture…but how do you pray? You might think, “Well that’s a silly question! Of course, I bow my head, close my eyes, and fold my hands while seated.” That’s generally how most of us pray, right? You wanna know what’s fascinating about that – that is the one posture that we see most infrequently in Scripture. In fact, we see all kinds of different postures in prayer. We see bowing (Ex. 34:8), we see kneeling (2 Chron. 6:13), we see laying prostrate on the ground (Neh. 8:6), we see hands lifted high in the air (1 Tim. 2:8), and even lifted eyes wide open (John 11:41). Our posture is important, and it means something – especially depending on what you are praying for. If you are offering a prayer of remorse and confession, perhaps there is no greater posture than flat on our face. If you are offering a prayer of praise & worship, lift your eyes & your hands towards heaven! If you are praying a prayer of thanksgiving and gratitude, perhaps kneeling before God would be appropriate. All of these are good & beneficial ways that we can and should pray. My friends, the point is this. Being a creature of habit is all well and good, until it comes to our prayer life. Prayer is something that should be an outpouring of our very heart & soul to God, not a quick thoughtless ritual at the same time, same place, over the same things. May God help us to learn to speak to him like any Father would want his children to do. So make a habit of praying, but don’t make prayer simply a habit.
Thank you for tuning in for this week’s episode, and I would invite you back every Tuesday for a brand-new episode each week. If you haven’t already, be sure to find us on Facebook for occasional announcements and special video sessions. If you have benefited from this podcast, please if you’re able to be sure to share it with someone else that you think could benefit from it as well. Until next time, know that I love you, that God loves you, and may we all each & every day set our minds above.