I’m the opposite of a morning person, and I always have been. Since I was in elementary school, I’d snooze the alarm to the last possible minute until Mom was yelling at me that she could see the bus. Most of the time I made it, but the guilt was real whenever I missed the bus and Mom or Dad had to take me to school.
And as I grew up and started having my own relationship with God, I was consistently hearing about the importance of having intentional time with God, and it’s always supposed to be in the morning according to these teachers. Yeah, that’s going to be a no for me. Mornings: not my thing. And that’s how I’ve operated for my 27 years. I’d do my best to spend time reading my Bible and intentionally praying before bed, but many times I’d just bypass the time and go to bed. I’ve been terrible about spending time with God in prayer, study or solitude.
However, in February, our church synced up with over 400 other churches in the Nashville area to spend 30 days praying and fasting for our city, and it was an incredible month, not just for our church or our city, which it was, but for me personally. There are four things that come right to mind when I think over those weeks.
1. Making time in the morning is actually important.
I wanted to address this first because I feel like I may have perked some ears when I mentioned this earlier. I still struggle with the importance of starting my day with God. Our pastor always talks about spending our first cup of coffee with God. I don’t drink coffee, so I guess I’m off the hook. However, during our 30 days, I really got to experience different days when I started them off with God. My perspective was totally shifted going into the day. I was praying for people I knew that I would interact with that day, and it totally changed how I would approach those people during the day. Feeling fresh in the morning, I tried to be intentional to hear from God, not just ask things from God, which set me on the lookout for those things during the day. I was more open and receptive to God showing me things that He wanted me to see in my life. My days were different when they started right. And our pastor said a line that kicked me in the gut during this season. He said, “There’s nothing wrong with spending time with God at night. But think of it this way. I’ve never met a musician who tuned their instrument after the performance.”
2. Prayer isn’t an one-way connection.
I don’t know when it happened, but along the way, prayer become a request line. I’d tune in to make my requests for the day, week, month, life, whatever it was, and then I’d hang up and wait for them to happen. However, the Bible teaches us that prayer isn’t just sending God a voicemail that He checks when He has a second. Prayer is a conversation and spending time together. Prayer is sitting down and sometimes not saying anything. “Hearing from God” has always kind of freaked me out because I don’t know what I’m supposed to hear. But sitting in silence with the intent of hearing from God leads us to follow our thoughts. If we want to hear from God, let Him direct our thoughts and take notes. Like I said before, if nothing else, you’ll be more aware of the things in your life. But many times, God is more than willing to share something with you, and when you stop the incessant requests to take note of what is being downloaded, you might be surprised by what you start to recognize.
3. Fasting brings awareness.
Again, this is a discipline that’s scared me out because I didn’t really understand it. However, we’re called to prayer and fasting, and I was challenged to lean into that for the first time a few months ago. One of the biggest challenges came when it was pointed out that the Bible says “when you fast” not “if you fast.” Well, guess the option’s gone. But I’m glad I was forced into it because I learned so much about being disciplined to do something uncomfortable with the goal of being more in tune with God. I fasted one day a week for those 30 days, so I was by no means “hard core” about it. However, on the days when my wife and I were fasting, we found ourselves both hyper-aware. For me, I became really aware of the people in my life who didn’t know God, so at lunch time on Wednesdays, I had a reminder in my phone go off with their names. That reminded me to pray for them during a time when I’d normally be eating, and that spilled over into even the days I wasn’t fasting.
Fasting doesn’t just mean not eating, but fasting is an active participation in becoming more aware of what God has to say in your life.
4. Prayer like this shouldn’t be seasonal.
Our 30 days of prayer and fasting ended at the end of February, and as I’m writing this, I’m on a 12-hour flight from Cairo to JFK. I had the opportunity to visit Egypt for the past 10 days with a team from our church, and we saw God move in incredible ways. However, what’s sticking with me the most is the faithfulness of the people we met. Egypt is a Muslim nation, however it’s not illegal to be a Christian. It is illegal to convert, though. So people who live in Egypt doing ministry have their work cut out for them. Each person we met, though, said that a crucial part of their work was prayer. They told us stories of person after person who have met Jesus through a dream or vision and gone seeking out someone to tell. They told us how simply telling their own stories moved people to want to know Christ. And each one of them believed firmly that those stories were the results of prayer. It all made me wonder why I don’t pray that faithfully for the people in my life. I did a great job for a month, but even since that season ended, I’ve felt the slip. Why don’t we pray like we want to see God move in a miraculous way? Why don’t we do this all the time?
Just because we have a dedicated season to fast and pray doesn’t mean it’s the only time the God is available.
So I’d encourage myself and much as I’d encourage you to really consider all of these things. What hit you in the feels and made you think, “Yep. Need to work on that”? Where in your life do you need to pray for God to move in huge ways?
A prayer for me lately has come from a song that the team at our Cross Point Music team wrote called, “No Matter How Long It Takes.” The bridge says, “In ways that we can’t explain, in ways that leave us amazed, where all we can do is praise, we want to see You move that way.” Let’s make that big prayer our prayer.