Harvest House Publishers
An Invitation to…Become a Woman of Prayer
Making Your Desire to Pray a Reality
Beginning the Journey into Prayer
Praying from the Heart
Finding God’s Will Through Prayer
Discovering God’s Formula for Effective Prayer
Developing the Habit of Prayer
Imagine what kind of transformation would occur
Just say the word and I begin to yearn and squirm at the same time! As a woman after God’s own heart, I yearn to pray. My soul longs for it. My spirit craves the communion with my heavenly Father that only the act of prayer provides. My heart emotes along with the words of King David of the Old Testament, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God….My soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You” (Psalm 42:1; 63:1).
And yet I also squirm at the thought of prayer. Why? Because even though I know praying to God will most definitely be rewarding and a blessing, I also know it is a serious undertaking. Approaching our thrice-holy God, while both a joy and a privilege, is an awesome and almost fearful consideration. Then there is the challenge of finding and making the time, of seeking out and arranging for solitude, and of putting forth the effort focused communion with God through prayer requires. What a battle! I fully recognize that I need to pray. Furthermore, I want to pray. I covet the desired results and blessings reaped through prayer. And yet there is the sober recognition of the work and the discipline such communion calls for.
Do you, dear reader, share these same mixed sensations? Then together let’s purpose to heed God’s call to us to be women of prayer…no matter what! Let’s embark on a joint journey of learning more about prayer. Let’s seek a life lived “on bended knee.”
Ultimately a first beginning step must be taken to launch out on any journey because, as the well-known saying goes, “Every journey begins with a single step.” And that’s true, too, of a journey into prayer. Even today I still remember the first step that I took toward seriously learning to pray on bended knee…
Little did I realize on Mother’s Day, May 8, 1983, that God was setting into motion His invitation to me to begin my own personal journey into the depths and disciplines— and delights!—of becoming a woman of prayer. On that particular Mother’s Day, my daughter Katherine gave me the gift of a little blank book, a tiny wordless book. It was purple…and I still have it.
Needless to say, that tiny purple wordless book is still a real keepsake to me for numerous reasons. But the main one is that Katherine gave it to me. She had initiated and arranged with Jim (my husband and Kath’s dad) to do extra work chores to earn the money to purchase a Mother’s Day gift for me. Then the two of them had gone off together to shop for just the right present for Mom. The little treasure was then painstakingly inscribed by Katherine on the bookplate in her juvenile printing, lovingly gift wrapped, and proudly presented to me on that Sunday morning those many years (actually two decades!) ago.
Oh, believe me, I screamed! I squealed! I did everything but turn cartwheels to express my thankfulness to my sweet daughter. But then I faced a problem. I don’t know about you, but I never know what to do with a wordless book. I mean, they are just so…blank! Their covers are breathtaking works of art, but inside they are just so…blank! So what to do? For a number of months I let the tiny purple wordless book lie on the coffee table and began to faithfully dust around it each week. I wanted my dear Katherine to know how much I truly appreciated it.
Then one day in a dusting frenzy, I moved the tiny purple wordless book over to the edge of a shelf in the bookcase and began to religiously dust around it there. And then the fateful day came when, in yet another dusting frenzy, I slipped the lovely tiny purple wordless book in between two other books in the bookcase…and it was gone forever. Until September 12, 1983, four months later, which was my tenth birthday in the Lord. I was sitting at the old farm table that served as my desk and the place where I had my daily quiet time. As I sat there, I looked backward over my first ten years of being a Christian. Soon I was profusely thanking God for His mercy, His grace, His care, His guidance, His wisdom, my salvation through Christ….
On and on my prayers of thanksgiving to God gushed. Then after dabbing my eyes and nose with a tissue, I turned my thoughts forward and I earnestly prayed to the Lord, “Lord, as I embark on a new decade of walking with You, is there anything missing from my Christian life that I should concentrate on for the next ten years?”
Dear friend, I can only report to you that before I put the question mark on the question, I knew in my heart what the answer was. It was prayer! And suddenly I knew I had “heard” God’s call to prayer. And just as suddenly, I knew what to do with that tiny purple wordless book. I ran to the bookcase, pulled it out, opened it up, and wrote on the very first page: “I dedicate and purpose to spend the next ten years in the Lord, Lord willing, developing a meaningful prayer life.”
Why did I choose ten years when making my commitment to answer God’s call to prayer? Perhaps it was because it was my tenth spiritual birthday. Without having written it out formally, my first decade as a Christian had been devoted to reading, studying, and getting acquainted with the Bible.
Or…perhaps it was because of my special friend Pat. Pat was a Christian mentor to me who constantly told me that I should never undertake anything that I was not willing to devote ten years to developing. And precious Pat’s case for making long-range commitments has certainly proved true in my life. For instance, I’ve taken tennis lessons five or six times in my life. And I’ve taken golf lessons three or four times. But because I didn’t make a serious commitment to either, it was easy to give up on those endeavors. To this day, I still cannot play tennis or golf very well! The same principle would be true of any venture…such as learning to play the piano, to speak another language, to become an artist, or…to become a woman of prayer!
For whatever the reason, I picked ten years for my commitment to develop a meaningful prayer life. And I want to testify to you right now—I am still learning how to pray! We just don’t arrive one day at the point where we can mark “learn to pray” off our to-do list! It’s as my Jim always says, “If you want to humble the mightiest Christians, ask them about their prayer life.” No, none of us prays enough. None of us prays as fervently as we would like to pray or should pray. None of us prays for as many people as need to be prayed for.
And so it is an ongoing challenge to continue in the journey of prayer until we “get it,” until we can even say that we’ve begun to know something about prayer and a little bit about how it’s accomplished. And until that happens, a lot of us pray what I call “Christopher Robin” prayers. He’s the little boy who struggled with his evening “Vespers.” He became so distracted by anything and everything that he couldn’t remember who or what to pray for. He ultimately ended up praying “God bless________” prayers, filling in the blank with each of his family members’ names.
Can I ever relate to Christopher Robin’s “prayer” experience (and maybe you can, too)! That’s exactly how I prayed…that is, before my commitment to answer God’s call on a Christian’s life to pray. Yes, that’s how I had prayed. And, like little Christopher, my mind wandered. I didn’t know who to pray for or how to pray for them. So my prayers basically consisted of a few stabs and weak efforts, until they wound down to a muttered “God bless me and my family today.”
But, praise God, I can say that some progress has been made! I believe my prayers and my prayer-life have matured. And I want to quickly say, no, I have not yet arrived. Being a woman of prayer is still a daily challenge and constant struggle. And I suspect that it will always be that way until I see my Savior face-to-face.
In the chapters to come, we’ll go deeper into what it means to answer God’s call to prayer. But for now (and at the end of each chapter) I want us to pause and consider the practical steps we can take right now to grow in this most vital area of every woman’s life and in her heart-relationship with God.
Pray now!— It’s one thing to read about prayer, to talk about prayer,
to dream about being a woman of prayer. It’s quite another thing to actually
pray! So Step 1 is this: Put your book down, grab your kitchen timer, and go
somewhere where you can shut the door or be alone. Then pray for five minutes.
Use these initial golden minutes to share with your
heavenly Father your heart’s desire to answer His call upon your life to become—and be!—a woman of prayer.
Get organized— Round up some kind of notebook. It can be a spiral stenographer’s pad, a yellow legal pad, a three-ring binder, a section in your daily planner, a leather-bound journal. Whatever it is, do what you can to make your choice personal, pleasing, and inspiring. For instance, is your favorite color purple? Then find, purchase, or create a purple prayer notebook. (And don’t forget to include a pen with purple ink!) Don’t worry about your choice being permanent. And don’t get hung up on needing to make the “right” choice. Just choose something that will aid you and inspire you to take your first beginning steps down the path of your journey into prayer.
I just looked in my own little purple wordless book, and my last entry in it was 11/22/83…which means it served me well for ten weeks…which means it was enough to strongly launch my commitment to learn to pray…which also means it was enough to reveal my need for a different kind of record-keeping tool. This is probably what will happen to you as you hone your prayer skills and mature in your prayer efforts. You’ll be growing as your journey into prayer lengthens.
Look ahead— Look over…and pray over…the next week on your calendar of events. Pay particular attention to the pattern of your life—of your daily routine, of the needs of those in your family or those closest to you. Then mark on each day for the next week the exact time you will designate as your prayer time. It can be the same time each day, or it can be tailormade to fit the demands and schedule of each individual day. Next mark your prayer appointments in ink on your calendar. Then be sure you keep them…just like you keep your dental, medical, beauty, and lunch appointments. As one of my principles for prayer states, “There is no right or wrong way to pray… except not to pray!”
For an ongoing record of the fruit of your commitment to pray faithfully, I’ve provided a “Prayer Calendar” in the back of this book. Just shade in the squares for the days you do pray, and leave those blank when you don’t pray. And then, my dear friend, one picture is worth a thousand words! One picture tells the whole tale. Now, what tale will your efforts in prayer tell?
Answering God’s Call to You
Prayer is truly the queen of all of the habits we could aspire to as women of faith. I know we’ve addressed the seriousness of prayer. And we’ve noted the discipline and diligence a life of prayer requires. But as we leave this chapter about “Beginning Steps in Prayer,” I want you to take yet another thought with you.
I’m sure you caught the word “learned.” But I hope and pray you also caught the pay-off to all of your learning and all of your efforts and perseverance in prayer—“a holy and a happy life”! And the beautiful miracle is that a holy and a happy life can be yours each day, one day at a time, as you answer God’s call to pray on a daily basis. So let the outpourings of your heart begin now— today! The opportunity and privilege of talking to God through prayer is yours… if that is the desire of your heart and if you act on that desire. Now, what will your beginning steps be?
Excerpted from A Woman’s Call to Prayer By Elizabeth George. Copyright © 2004 by Harvest House Publishers. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.