A friend invited me to participate in a retreat which was intended to challenge the women to be more intentional in our prayer life. The venue was lovely for the occasion, held outdoors in a beautiful garden which provided a tranquil setting for contemplating prayer.
In the morning session, there was an interesting exercise in which we each created a personal timeline labeled with high points and low points by month for the prior year. For some, the timeline revealed answers to prayers. For others, like myself, it showed how desperately I still longed to see God’s hand in my family circumstances.
We then broke up into small groups and shared what we had discovered about the bigger picture of our lives, and then prayed specifically for each other. There was a real sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence as we shared one another’s burdens. Some women confronted on-going sins, some shared their need to forgive, and some sought God’s direction in certain problems.
The morning continued with a discussion of how we could incorporate prayer into the daily rhythm of our lives. We acknowledged how regular prayer times can frame our abiding in Christ. Then we admitted to the excuses we use for not setting aside daily prayer time. This was a universal issue, young mothers pointed to the demands of children, women who worked out of the home cited time constraints, and older women pointed to physical ailments. But regardless of age or stage in life, it was apparent that without spending serious time in quiet prayer, we cannot see the movement of the Holy Spirit in and through us. Our timelines proved it.
After a lovely lunch, we created a second timeline, this time marking time points in the months where we felt the most spiritual growth, and those times when we felt we were far from God. In overlaying these two timelines it was amazing to see how often spiritual growth followed suffering and hardships. It was equally impressive to see how many needs had been met over the year, prayers answered, and doors opened. Within the twelve-month period we could see times when we waited on the Lord, times when we could not move forward until the Holy Spirit first completed some sanctifying work in us, and times when we experienced overwhelming doses of God’s mercy.
It became abundantly clear from our timelines how essential prayer was for changing us—how essential to our spiritual transformation in both good and bad circumstances. The Bible tells us we are to pray to the Father, acknowledging His sovereignty, and giving honor to His name. We are also commanded to pray because it prepares our hearts, helps us to articulate our needs, and heightens our sense of dependency on God for the mercies we receive. In prayer we become aware of the Holy Spirit’s movement in our lives. In prayer we have silent communion with God to listen for instructions and insights. These blessings come when we make regular prayer time a priority, praying in both seasons of suffering and in seasons of joy. James 5:13 reminds us, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.”
The remainder of our afternoon was spent in private prayer. There was confession for putting the events of our lives at a higher priority than precious time with our Lord who ordered those events. There was a spirit of refreshment as we set aside time to hear His voice. There was a sense of gratitude for answers to forgotten prayers from long ago, and for the endurance and patience extended by the Father in desperate times over the past year. There was a renewed sense of purpose as we thought of performing our work happily for the Lord, without grumbling and without worrying about the opinions of others. Finally, there was a sense of unity, as believers we remembered our deliverance out of darkness and our entry into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. Our prayers produced an attitude of seeking things above, initiating true devotion to prayer and staying alert in it, with a heart committed to being faithful to whatever God has called us to do. We left our one-day retreat quietly, refreshed, wiser, strengthened, and thankful.
What might your personal prayer timeline look like? Have you ever found spiritual growth to follow hardships? In 2020, may we all make a commitment to significant personal daily prayer time so that our life choices reflect more and more of Christ’s presence in our lives.
Father, create in us the good discipline of faithful prayer and rule our hearts with Your peace.
About the Author:
Sharon is recently retired from a career first as a chemist and then as a regulatory affairs consultant to the medical device industry. She has served on the women’s ministry team at Grace Presbyterian Church in her hometown of Yorba Linda, California, and has worked as the west coast regional advisor for the PCA. Her husband, two married daughters and two married sons are all engineers, who provide interesting technical conversations for a dinner table. Sharon is working on completing her bucket list which includes raising orchids, attending culinary school, bird watching and traveling. She has three baby granddaughters and is looking forward to the new grandson coming soon.