This is for all of my deer hunter friends. A little hunting season homage to praying without ceasing.
I love the light-hearted look that the Skit Guys put on this (I am pretty sure I have uttered some of those same Deer Lord prayers.) I also wanted to share with you some real words of encouragement, a real life guide to prayer, that I have gone back to many times since first hearing this message from Matt Chandler. In this sermon from 2013 he is studying from the book of Nehemiah and introduces us to two essential types of prayer, big block prayer and rifle-shot prayer.
First up, big block prayer…
You have a big block of prayer. You have this kind of set-aside block of prayer. If you have a background in church, in your teenage years you were taught it. It was called a “quiet time,” that you are to set a part of your day aside for the sole purpose of being in the Word of God and praying.
I always thought we probably should have named it something other than “quiet time.” That sounds a little bit like discipline, like you’re in trouble. “You get in the corner and think about that.” We probably could have done better at that, but it’s called a quiet time, a set time of your day you are to just commune with God in Bible study and prayer.
And then there are what Chandler has dubbed rifle-shot prayers…
What I want you to notice is also on top of this communion with God that was day and night, this set-aside time, you also had these kind of rifle-shot prayers. “Okay, God. I prayed about this earlier today.” It’s a rifle-shot prayer. So you have these two kinds of prayers being established here, where you have a built-out set of time just between you and the Lord, and then you have these little rifle-shot communications throughout the day.
If you have a set time where you’re saying, “I’m going to pray, I’m going to lay these things before the Lord,” wouldn’t it make sense that it would overflow as you… Let’s take that guy at work you don’t like. Let’s take him, whoever he or she is. You have that person at work you kind of struggle with being kind to, having compassion for, showing patience toward.
If in your prayer time in the morning you say, “Lord, help me with this person. I just do not care for them. I know you love me and I have ugly stuff in me, but I just lack patience with this person,” and then you say, “Amen,” and you get in your car, and there’s Bill walking up to you as soon as you walk in, you’re aware, “I’ve laid this before the Lord.” Now you can Nehemiah rifle shot and go, Here we go, Lord. Here we go. “Bill, how are you? Are you doing all right? No, I can’t have lunch. Good to see you this morning, though, Bill. Blessings,” and then run and lock your door and hide behind the desk. Those little blocks bleed out into the rest of your life.
Now, if we were honest, for relationships to really flourish and have a lot of vibrancy, both of these are necessary. If human relationships work this way, how much more do our relationships with our heavenly Father work this way? Here’s what I’m saying. If you don’t have a set block or you don’t rifle shot prayer, I’m not saying you’re not a believer. I’m just saying the vibrancy of your relationship with God has suffered. You’re not robbing God; you’re robbing you, because to behold Jesus, to have a relationship with God, is to be transformed by him. I fear so many of us are stuck in bad patterns simply because we won’t connect with the relational component we’ve been rescued into. If you’re thinking morally and not relationally, you’re thinking wrongly.
Now, I want to say this, because I believe it’s true and it’s helpful. You will live your life or it will live you. You are never going to fill your spaces with prayer…ever. If you get an hour to kill, if an hour opens up… I don’t even know if that would happen in your world. It rarely happens in mine that “I have an hour here with nothing to do. How should I fill it?” If that happens to you, you will never fill that with prayer. You’re going to catch up on The Walking Dead. You’re going to do whatever else it is you do, but you’re not going to fill that hour with prayer.
I’ll tell you why. Because there is a war, a spiritual war and tear occurring about you connecting relationally with God. If all God is is an ambiguous idea to you that you love…you love the idea of God, but not necessarily love God and have a relationship with God…transformation is slow or doesn’t happen at all. So you begin to be churchgoers who are not walking in the fullness of life God has brought about in Christ.
But if you connect relationally with God, if you set aside periods of time to pray and consider and then from there have that overflow into the rest of the areas of your life, now we’re moving. Now transformation is occurring. Now you’re a bit dangerous to what is evil and dark in the world. If you don’t think our Enemy has a vested interest in us not praying, then you’re walking in some foolishness. That’s why you don’t fill your space with prayer. That’s why this is a struggle.
Prayer is one of those really weird things. I’ve said this over and over again. We all know we should. No one in this room right now is going, “Wait a minute. Are you saying…? You cannot be saying that as a Christian I’m meant to pray.” I just don’t think anyone is doing that. We know we should, but we’ve taken this poll (about seven times since I’ve been the pastor here) about how well we’re doing at that, and we generally have a consensus in the room that we stink at it.
So here’s the way I want to encourage you this week. If you’re one who struggles with setting aside a block of time, you’re going to have to say, “This is when I’m going to do it.” If you don’t, you’re not going to do it. Here’s what I would encourage you. Don’t try to go Michael Jordan right off the bat. Don’t go, “I’m going to set aside an hour a day this week.” Go for it if you want, but I’m saying I’ve seen guys come into the gym and set aside an hour of hard labor and then haven’t ever seen them again. They’re somewhere in an ice bath.
What I would do if I were you is set aside 5 or 10 minutes. You have 5 or 10 minutes. Set aside 5 or 10 minutes just to pray to the Lord, and part of that prayer needs to be, “Help me be mindful of you during the day.” One of the things I do is pray my calendar. I’m praying for the meetings I’m going into. I’m laying those things before the Lord, so that when those meetings come, I get to circle back around and do the rifle shot and go, “Okay, Lord, I laid these things before you. Recall to my mind, strengthen my heart, give me the courage I need,” and then I move into the meeting.
You need to get in your head now, “This is when I’m going to do that,” or you’re not going to do it. Then don’t make it law. If you make it law and you miss for this reason or that reason, then you broke the law and you’re not going to have a tendency to go back, if it’s just, “This is when I set aside time to pray.” Listen. I’m going to throw this out there. I miss sometimes. I have my little block that occurs right after I get up in the morning, and there have been times, because of situations or scenarios or other things, I miss that time.
I don’t think in that moment God is like, “You make me sick.” I think the blood of Christ covers that, and I’m going to rifle shot prayer that day, and I’m going to wake up the next morning and start over, and the mercies of God will be new. God will not be disappointed, although I do believe he’s a jealous God who longs for time with us. You’ll have to set out a little section to do this, or it’s simply never going to occur. You don’t need to view it as law, and you don’t need to view it as “Jordan-esque.” You need to start somewhere small and let it build. That’s how everything good works.
Then maybe you’ll get up to like a Calvin and Luther, praying an hour and a half a day or something. All right? I don’t know. But it should start small and sustainable, and let the Lord grow it from there. Don’t overestimate your own awesomeness. If you can take the posture, “I really stink at this,” then you can set up goals that are attainable. If you think, “I should be able to do what people who have been following Christ for 30 years should be able to do,” then I love you, but you’re a fool.
Don’t overestimate your own awesomeness…but don’t let your life live you either. Just start the conversation and you will be amazed what happens.