SuggestionsIn seeking to put all this into practice, I have found the following suggestions to be helpful.
The first is to live by the motto, ‘Prayer first, study and activity second.’ My normal routine is to get up and have breakfast, engage in family and personal devotions, shave and shower, and then to give myself to a session of sustained prayer before doing anything else at all.
The second is to pray outside. This keeps me from giving in to the temptation to start other work before having a time of special communion with God. During thirty-five years of pastoral ministry in the inner city, this meant walking the streets and parks, and praying out loud – but not too loudly. At certain times a large umbrella and waterproof trousers proved useful!
The third is to have a prayer schedule. I have a small and robust notebook divided into five sections. In each section is a list of church members, regular attendees, family members, friends, ministers and missionaries, church activities and Christian ministries. I seek to pray through one section each day. So why are there only five sections? This is because I do not follow this system on Sundays, and also have a ‘free day’ to catch up on any day’s intercession that has been interrupted or hindered.
The fourth is to use aids which will stimulate prayer. Almost every day I recite a portion of the Westminster Shorter Catechism and use it as a foundation for prayer. I also make frequent use of the writings of E.M. Bounds, especially his ‘Power through Prayer’, using each sentence as a ‘prompt’.
The fifth is to prepare sermons in this spirit of prayer. On my walks I often take a photocopy of the Scripture passage on which I will be preaching. I run it round in my head, talk to the Lord about it until the message is clear, and then make notes. Such prayerful interaction with the text adds a marvellous freshness to the exegetical and other preparatory work which will then follow in the study.
‘Prayer is the first thing, the second thing, the third thing necessary to a minister. Pray, then, my dear brother; pray, pray, pray.’ (Edward Payson)