As much as I love what E.M. Bounds wrote about the need for prayer, I have three faults with his writings on the subject. First, chapters tend to repeat the same ideas. He ends up saying the same thing over and over without actually advancing beyond his main idea for many pages. Second, he fails to define what he means by “prayer.” Does he mean a constant monologue to God? Does he mean a time of solely spending time with God through talking to Him, quietly reflecting on Him or His Word, reading His Word, singing–what? Third, and related to that second fault, I don’t recall having found in his writings any kind of pattern or template of prayer time. Yes, we need to get alone with God; but what do we do when we get there?
Prayer is work. Our busy minds and hearts do not go easily into quieted concentration. We’re also amazingly legalistic and ritualistic creatures. Our first instinct in religion is to do, when it should be not to do. Because of these effects of our sin-tainted natures, what should be to us a delight can turn into a drudgery–a fault entirely our own, and not at all of the One with whom we seek an audience. Is there a solution?
Baptist pastor, financial administrator, and author of over 20 books, O.S. Hawkins, does what Bounds forgets to do. In his very practical, helpful book, “The Pastor’s Primer” (Disclaimer: The link takes you to the extra single copy I have for sale on Amazon.) Hawkins disciples his reader in private prayer by sharing a model from his own life. Here’s a summary of Hawkins’ plain-and-simple primer on making better use of our time before the Lord:
Begin the time with prayers of confession, confessing your sins before God.
Move to thanksgiving, for physical and spiritual blessings, other people, etc.
Then praise Him for His attributes and works
(Maybe singing or thinking through a hymn would be helpful to you in this time.)
Transition to a time of intercession for others.
After that, petition the Lord for your own needs.
Finally, spend time in further communion by opening the Scriptures
(Maybe read several chapters or reflect on just a verse or two.)
I’m being general here. Hawkins would be the first to say that his is not a “method.” It is not intended to be precise (or taxing). It’s just one man’s short outline of how he spends his own time before the Lord, should anyone be interested to know. Nothing more, nothing less. It even fits on a 3×5″ card–I know because I wrote it out on one that I now keep on my desk.
I have been leaning on this older brother’s prayer wisdom for about two weeks and have found my times with the Lord quantitatively longer and qualitatively more meaningful as a result. Hopefully, you will too.