Prepared for Prayer
From Storming the Gates of Heaven by Anne Graham Lotz, copyright Anne Graham Lotz
A Prepared Place for Prayer Daniel had a specific place designated for prayer: an upstairs room in his home to which he withdrew three times every day.1 His preparations may have been as simple as setting aside this particular place where he could be undistracted and undisturbed. I’m convinced we all need this kind of sacred space for time alone with God. My prepared place for prayer is the corner of my living room. On one side of the chair where I sit is a fireplace in which I light a fire on cold winter mornings. On the other side is a table with a drawer in which I keep several translations of the Bible, three small devotional books, a Bible-study notebook, a personal journal, my reading glasses, pencil, pen, legal pad, iPad, and tissues. I want everything in place so that once I sit down to pray, I don’t have to keep jumping up to find what I need. I have also set aside a place for prayer in my ministry office. I did this when, in my early-morning devotional study of Exodus, I was struck by the fact that Moses had set aside a tent outside the camp of Israel and designated it for prayer. I selected a room in the center of the building and placed enough chairs in it for every staff person who serves at AnGeL Ministries. I had the walls painted a navy blue to give it a quiet, secluded atmosphere. At one end of the room is a small bench in front of a large cross. At the other end of the room is an easy chair with a table beside it on which is a lamp, a box of tissues, a Bible, and a card box containing prayer requests people send to our ministry. Outside I hung a small framed sign: The Meeting Place.2 While God meets us wherever and whenever we call out to him, a Daniel-like commitment requires preparation in order to maximize the impact of our prayers. Do you have a designated Meeting Place? Would you consider establishing one? Make the commitment to place prayer at the heart of your home or office. I understand that not everyone has the space to set aside. When my sister’s children were young and she was living in a small house, she kept her Bible-study materials in a cardboard box underneath her sofa in the family room. When she had a few moments, she pulled out her box and had everything she needed for prayer. She found a way to make it work within the context of her circumstances — something we all can do. A Prepared Time for Prayer I know business professionals who go to their office an hour earlier in the morning to have time for prayer. Their “materials” have been downloaded on electronic devices.3 Would you not only consider designating a place in your home or office for prayer, but would you make the commitment to do so? Prayer helps us anchor our faith in God. It’s like setting our spiritual compass so that, regardless of the twists and turns during the day, the needle of our focused faith always turns to God. Daniel’s life was anchored in prayer. He established the habit of meeting God in his designated place for prayer three times a day, and he maintained that commitment even in the face of life-threatening attack.4 Do you have a set-aside time to meet with God? When do you pray? For years, I battled getting up early in the morning for prayer. I knew that any time during the day is acceptable to God, but I couldn’t seem to shake the conviction that early-morning hours were the ideal time. The woman who taught me how to study and teach the Bible, Miss A. Wetherell Johnson, said that when our prayer time is at night, it’s like tuning our violin when the symphony is over. While it’s wonderful to end our day in prayer, she urged me to pray in the morning when the day before me is a blank page yet to be lived out. I was also aware that a morning time of prayer is frequently referred to in the Bible. Just in the Psalms alone there are repeated references:
“In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait in expectation.” “I cry to You for help, O Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before You.” “Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul.”5
While these examples encouraged me, the one that drew me to make a commitment to an early-morning time with the Lord was the example of Jesus Himself. Mark reveals that after a pressure-packed day of intense ministry,
very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.6
I felt God was directing me to establish a prayer time in the morning. But I’m not a morning person. So although I felt convicted of disobedience when I slept to the last minute, I made no real decision to get up early and pray. There were actually times when I slept in and complained to God that He hadn’t awakened me for my prayer time! Or I would wake up, but then would deliberately roll over mumbling, “God, yesterday was frantically busy, and I got to bed so late last night. I’m just too tired today. I know You understand.” Yes, He did understand, but He also understood that I had never really made the commitment. I had good intentions but not obedient actions. And then God spoke to me very firmly and clearly. I was studying and meditating on His letters to the seven churches in Revelation in order to teach them to others. Let me paraphrase His words that lovingly scalded and scolded: Anne, I hold you in one hand and the Holy Spirit in the other hand, like balance scales. I’ve weighed your life against His, and you don’t measure up. I know what you’ve been doing. You are in ministry, traveling around the world, telling other people about Me and getting them to listen to My voice, but you are not listening to Me yourself. You have a reputation of being alive — people regard you as an exemplary Christian — but from My perspective you are falling short, spiritually dying on the inside. The prayers of your prayer team are not a substitute for your own prayers. Wake up!… I have not found your deeds complete in My sight because you are prayerless. Remember, therefore, what I have told you and repent.7 Talk about a wake-up call! I went down to the gadget store at the local mall, bought a clock that sounded like a seven-fire alarm when it went off, and set it for thirty minutes ahead of when I usually got up to start my day. The first morning it went off, it scared me silly. My heart was thumping out of my chest, my poor husband was startled out of his wits and yelled, “What in the world is that?” and I knew there was no chance I was going to roll over and go back to sleep. At last I had achieved victory over those blankets in the morning! But when I calmed down, I was still sleepy as I went to pray. Therefore I knew I had to make even more preparation for my early-morning prayer time. This is what I came up with. After bounding out of bed in the morning the moment the alarm went off, after doing my stretches on the floor to loud worship music, after walking-jogging outside for two-and-a- half miles, after getting a triple shot of espresso in my latte at the coffee house, then I would come back wide awake for my prayer time. And that worked! It still works for me today, although I no longer need an alarm to get me up. Getting up for early-morning prayer has become one of the joys of my life. And thirty minutes is no longer close to being sufficient, although there are days when my obligations don’t allow me to carve out any more time. When my schedule remains open, my daily time with the Lord can stretch into hours. I love it! I can’t wait to meet the Lord in my designated place at the designated time. But it took a firm decision, practical preparations, and dedicated follow- through to get me to this point. Storming the gates of heaven requires acting on your commitment. There is one other aspect to my preparation that I quickly learned the hard way. It’s quite obvious but not always as easy to practice. If I am to get up earlier in the morning, I must — this is not optional — go to bed earlier the night before. So I do. While every aspect of our prayer doesn’t necessarily need to be uttered in one place at one time, I believe the Daniel Prayer requires a set-aside place at a dedicated time to truly be effective. You can decide the place and time that are most helpful to you for focusing on prayer. The important thing is that you follow through with a consistent commitment.