Baby Steps to an Excellent Prayer Life

I’m following the Bible’s plan for spiritual growth this year, and as I’ve prepared to switch gears to the next item in the list from 2 Peter 1:3–5, I’ve been studying the word translated goodness in the NIV. Other versions commonly translate the term as moral excellence or virtue.

The word is used only five times in the New Testament:

  • In 1 Peter 2:9, it applies to God, who has called us out of darkness and into light.
  • In Philippians 4:8, it identifies things which are worthy of our thought and attention.
  • In our passage of primary concern here, 2 Peter 1:3–5, the remaining three uses occur. One refers to God’s calling us and giving us His promises. Two refer to the area where we are to grow.

I had no reason to think goodness was a bad translation, but after examining these references, I still felt fuzzy on the meaning of the word. Looking just at the five references, a lot of words could have fit (gracious, beautiful, praiseworthy, for starters).

I looked back to the concordance and saw the Greek word in question was arete. I then turned to Google. Sifting through the results, I saw most agreed that the word meant “being the very best you can be.”

As a friend of mine with young children has pointed out, excellence can be an overwhelming concept when surviving the day is sometimes the hardest thing you can imagine doing.  “Good enough” sometimes has to be the motto.

I agreed with her because I had similar thoughts. I asked myself, How do I work toward excelling in a way that will bring glory to God? Numerous ideas popped into my head because there are so many areas where I could improve drastically. But who has time and energy for them all? The thought was almost paralyzing. But I’d read this encouraging post weeks earlier, “What My Train Set Taught Me about Transcendence,” which warned against this kind of paralysis. Reflecting on that message, I prayed God would help me identify one area that’s most important to Him where I could take small steps toward being the best I could be, given my current circumstances.

As I prayed, my mind kept returning to the idea of pursuing all-day prayer. This is something which has been heavy on my heart for a long time. During a hard time of life, I found praying throughout the day to be a natural response. Van won’t start? Pray. I have to drive in traffic where no one seems to observe any rules? Pray. My husband didn’t get his paycheck? Pray. Worst fight of my life? Pray.

But that crisis season passed. I was so grateful, and yet in the comfort that change brought, prayer slowly slipped away. I have prayed many times since then for a return to that place where prayer was part of everything I did. But just as many times, I have been distracted or given up.

The time has come to try again. Inspired by Frank Laubach’s “Game with Minutes,” I listed 46 simple activities I do almost every day, such as getting out of bed, preparing meals, brushing my teeth, turning lights on, and turning lights off.

For the next two months, I’m going to add a prayer for one activity each day. In this way, I hope to take baby steps toward a constant prayer life, each day filled with a few more moments of prayer. When I get to the end of the list, I’m going to keep practicing prayer in those activities and see what other cracks of the day I can fill with prayer.

Won’t you join me? What could be more important than learning or relearning to focus on God throughout the day?

One thought on “Baby Steps to an Excellent Prayer Life

  1. Hi Rachelle, It is so true that in times of crisis praying constantly comes to us naturally, but when things are going well we can so easily let minutes, hours, sometimes even days, go by without sending up a spontaneous prayer. Maintaining communication with God throughout the day is so important – bringing all our needs and concerns to Him, thanking Him and praising Him, and also listening for the still small voice that can speak to us anywhere, at any time. I think this kind of prayer is so crucial to developing a life lived ‘with God’, as Richard Foster talks about.

    I wish you well in your journey – I am on a journey of my own exploring the spiritual disciplines, and discussing it on my blog at http://evefulton.wordpress.com/. Over the past weeks since I came across your blog it seems we are thinking about many of the same issues and I look forward to hearing about your progress.

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