One of the most defining moments in my life occurred late one evening in a restaurant. I was having dinner with my friend and his father, a pastor whom I admired deeply.
As I listened to this man share his wisdom with us, I was even more encouraged to go deeper with God. Before we left the restaurant, I was eager to ask him how to be a godly minister, so I asked him something like, “Sir, if there is one thing we need to know as young preachers, what is it?”
His penetrating eyes looked into mine, and he said, “Ronnie, if you will learn to spend one hour a day with God, there is no telling what God may choose to do with you.”
I didn’t have any better sense than to take him at his word. Since that day in 1975, I have honored his challenge to me — and it has changed my life.
What is prayer, you may be asking?
Prayer is a relationship, a fellowship that occurs between you and God. Prayer is the vehicle that takes you into the privilege of experiencing fellowship with God.
How do you talk to God in a genuine and transparent way? While everybody may have their own way of communicating with God, here are four principles that have helped me in my prayer life and can help you as well.
1 – Confession
As I write this, the topic of confession has been getting a lot of media attention. Last year, the #MeToo movement exposed many individuals who had engaged in abusive behavior toward others. The movement was so successful that many of those involved put out statements of confession for past instances of abhorrent behavior against others.
While this movement received much attention and confession for wrongs toward others, as it should have, it is even more important that we understand the need for confession of our own sin before God each day. Additionally, we have a dire need to simply confess our own personal weaknesses to God daily.
This is why I like to begin with a time of confession in my personal prayer time. I confess I am nothing without the Lord, and I confess my sins to him. Confession sets our hearts and minds in the right position to talk with God.
2 – Praise
Once I have spent time before God, confessing to him my great need for him and confessing to him about my sins, my heart is bursting with joy because I am granted his compassion. I am now ready to move into a period of time when I offer praise to God.
Praise is expressing your love and adoration for who God is. God wants to be praised for who he is, not just for what he has done for us. I find it helpful to focus each day on three attributes of God’s character.
For example, attributes such as his holiness, his mercy, and his love. Each day they can be different or the same, but praise is about getting your eyes on God and adoring him for who he is.
3 – Thanksgiving
While praise is adoring God for who he is, thanksgiving is thanking God for what he has done for you.
Think about it: When we do something for someone, we like to hear the words “Thank you.” We do not do something for someone for the purpose of being thanked, but we do something for them because we love them.
God loves you. He moves in your life regularly. He does many things for you that you do know and some that you do not know. He is always active in your life.
Take time daily to offer thanks to God. Thank him for the physical blessings he has given you, for the people he has brought into your life and for the spiritual blessings he freely bestows upon you as you walk with him and trust him with the details of your life. Discipline yourself to have a thankful heart before God.
4 – Petition
Once my heart is overflowing with thankfulness, I am ready to offer my life to the Lord. I do not think of my personal petitions in prayer as being selfish. When I pray, I am showing my dependence upon the Lord. Since God is interested in me personally and in my life, I believe he wants me to petition Him about whatever is on my heart.
I begin this time of petitioning the Lord by surrendering my entire life to God. I offer Him my mind, my will, my emotions, my spirit, my body, my attitude, my tongue, my motives, my dreams, my goals, my past, my present, my future, my family, and my career.
And when it comes to offering my petitions, I remind myself God already knows everything about me. God can meet all my needs. Therefore, I discipline myself to have a transparent and open heart before God in prayer. I believe God is attracted to my transparency before him.
Oswald Chambers once wrote, “Prayer does not equip us for greater works—prayer is the greater work. . . . Prayer is the battle, and it makes no difference where you are.”
Many people today ignore or undervalue prayer because they see it as a secondary discipline in our spiritual walks. But as someone who has made prayer a central element in my life, I can tell you there is real power in it. I challenge you to spend one hour a day in prayer with God. I promise you won’t regret it.
This article was adapted from How to Pray: Developing an Intimate Relationship with Godby Ronnie Floyd, now available in an updated 20thanniversary edition.