(If you'd like to read part I: Habits of Sanctification Part I: Daily Surrender)
In one of His last prayers before His death, Jesus asked God to “sanctify them through thy truth” (John 1:17). In Philippians 1:6, God promises that He will continue the process of sanctification until Jesus returns. Sanctification involves being made holy and equipped for God’s service, and while we are saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8), we must remember that human effort is part of the sanctification process, for it is evidence of whom we serve (John 14:15).
Last month we focused on the importance of developing a daily habit of surrender. This month we will focus on a second habit of sanctification, developing a habit of continual prayer.
#2 Develop a Habit of Continual Prayer
Ephesians 6:18, Colossians 4:2, and 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tell us to be in a state of constant prayer. This does not mean that we neglect our responsibilities and duties, but as we fulfill them, we can do it with an attitude of prayer. We can praise God in our conversations and in our heads throughout the day. When experiencing frustration, we can cry out to God rather than vent to a co-worker. Instead of zoning out as we drive home from work, we can talk aloud to God as we would to our friends. As the famous hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” proclaims: “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege it is to carry, everything to God in prayer.”
According to Mark 1:35, Jesus rose very early to pray, and Luke 6:12 states that He also spent nights praying. He seemed to enjoy praying out in nature, such as in the wilderness (Luke 5:16) and the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36). Many Christians have found solace in nature, and while some of us may not be able to go far, many have found that having a special place to pray on the porch, in the backyard, or even on a morning walk has helped them start their day the same way that Jesus did.
While our prayers should be continual throughout the day, there is another method of praying that is more organized and systematic. Jesus gave us a model of how to pray. Found in Matthew 5:8-13, it is commonly referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer.” This model of organized prayer can be described with an easy to remember acronym, ACTS.
This involves praising God for His character attributes. Examples of these prayers are found in Exodus 34:6-7, Psalm. 145:8, and Numbers 14:18, which praise God for His mercy, graciousness, slowness to anger, and more of His holy character traits.
There are times when we must repent of sin in order to be restored to unity with God. Examples of prayers of confession are found in Psalm 32 and Psalm 51, when David repented of his sin with Bathsheba and against her husband. Maybe we have not commit the specific sins he was guilty of, but we continue to struggle with pride, selfishness, and a multitude of other sins. Instead of harboring a defeatist attitude, let us confess our sins to the One who loves us more than anything in the world, claiming His promises to forgive us (1 John 1:9).
Prayers of thanksgiving involve thanking God for specific blessings. Psalm 103 records a whole list praising God for health, protection, salvation, and other blessings. 1 Samuel 2:1-11 and Luke 1:39-79 contain the joyous thanksgivings of women who were granted a son. God loves to hear our proclamations of gratitude, and this is a perfect way to get in the habit of specifically praising Him for what He has done for us. It will also help fortify our souls for times when we experience difficult times. Job made a habit of praising God, so even when he was grieving the loss of all that he held dear, he was able to say, “the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the Name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
Simply put, supplication means to plead humbly. When the Hebrews sinned against God and deserved the punishment of death, Moses pleaded for God to spare them in Exodus 32. In John 17, Jesus asked that His Father protect and sanctify His disciples. This phase of prayer is when we pray for the healing of the sick, for example, or for the salvation of wayward family members, and for the victims of nature disasters.
Another way to remind ourselves of who to pray for during this time of supplication is the “Five Finger Prayer.” Our thumbs are the closest to us, reminding us to pray for family and friends. The index finger prompts us to pray for those who point us to God, such as pastors, conference leaders, and teachers. The long finger is the tallest, reminding us to pray for those in authority, most especially our government. The ring finger is generally the weakest, prompting us to pray for the youth, the elderly, and those who are sick. Lastly, the pinkie is left for last, reminding us that while our needs are important, we should put others first.
Let us remember that: “Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make known to God what we are, but in order to enable us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him.”1 Our prayers should be frequent throughout the day and do not have to follow a tightly organized pattern. However, if we find ourselves repeating the same things, remembering the acronym ACTs and the “Five Finger Prayer” can remind us to pray for other people and situations that we may have overlooked.
Call to Action
Many Christians have found it helpful to keep prayer journals. Others like to keep a prayer jar or shoe-box where they jot down answers to prayer. When they are feeling discouraged, they can read them one by one and encourage themselves in the Lord, just like David did when he was going through a difficult time (1 Samuel 30:6). Some put up Post-It notes around their house to remind them of specific requests, and other print off a two-column chart to record their praises and requests, making a note when the prayers are answered. More and more people are finding it convenient to keep a running prayer list on their phones to have with them throughout the day. However way you choose to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), we encourage you to be intentional and develop a habit of continual prayer.
Developing a habit of daily surrender and continual prayer are just two ways that we can become sanctified and more like Jesus. While this certainly is the work of a lifetime, we can enjoy immediate benefits such as peace with God, renewed physical and emotional strength, improved moods, and the ability to focus on God and others instead of self. Join us later this month as we discuss the importance of daily Bible study and share a variety of techniques that will help us cultivate this lifelong habit.
Habits of Sanctification "Part III" will be published in three weeks on December 24.
All scripture taken from the King James Version.
- Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1892), 93.