Becoming A Praying Person | Matthew 6:5-9

A Praying Church

This week we begin our new sermon series on the topic of prayer. We want to be a praying church, not just a church that prays. Prayer is the primary pathway to greater intimacy with God and the people who experience the greatest intimacy with God are the people who have tapped into the joy of prayer.

Timothy "TA" AteekJan 14, 2024Matthew 6:5-9

In This Series (3)
Becoming a Praying Church | Matthew 21:12-13
Timothy "TA" AteekJan 28, 2024
Becoming a Praying and Fasting Person | Matthew 6:16-18
Timothy "TA" AteekJan 21, 2024
Becoming A Praying Person | Matthew 6:5-9
Timothy "TA" AteekJan 14, 2024


Prayer is the primary pathway to greater intimacy with God. The people who experience the greatest intimacy with God are the people who have tapped into the joy of prayer. Watermark Community Church wants to be a praying church.

Key Takeaways

  • Why should we pray?
    • Jesus assumes we will pray (Matthew 6:5, Matthew 6:6, Matthew 6:7, Matthew 6:9)
    • Jesus prayed (Luke 5:15-16; Luke 6:12-13; Luke 22:41-42; Luke 23:46)
    • Prayer is how we get more from God (Matthew 7:7-11; James 4:2)
    • Prayer is how we get more of God (Matthew 6:6, 9)
  • Why don’t we pray?
    • We have an enemy who hates prayer
    • We have a small view of God
    • Maybe something in you wonders how much more of God is there really worth getting.
    • God failed to answer prayers
    • You asked and didn’t receive
  • How should we pray?
    • Matthew 6:5-6: Not to be seen and heard by others but to be seen by God. Not to impress others but for God to give you more of himself. Not to appease, manipulate or get more from God. Pray to get God.

7 ways to pray so you maximize enjoyment of God:

  • The Lord’s Prayer: Use it as a framework for ways to pray to God.
  • A.C.T.S: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication
  • Pray Scripture: Let what you are reading determine what you are praying.
  • Lectio Divina: Sit quietly. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide You. Pick a verse. Write down your thoughts. Listen to God. Pray.
  • The Examen Prayer: Sit quietly in God’s presence. Walk through your day and express gratitude to God for what he did. Ask God to reveal key moments of your day. Ask Jesus if He ever dealt with this or what He wants you to learn from this.
  • Ask & Listen: Ask and then see if God brings a thought to mind or a specific verse, or some impression on your heart. Who do You want me to pray for right now? What are You trying to show me right now? What attitude do You want me to have right now? How do You want me to respond in this situation? Is there anything I need to confess right now?
  • Chair Time: 15 minutes a day for 30 days. Like entering the throne room. Listen just as much as we talk in prayer.

Discussing and Applying the Sermon

  • How do you feel about prayer? Is it a duty, delight, discipline, drudgery? Why?
  • Can you see why prayer is “the chief exercise of faith” (Calvin)? See, for example, in Daniel 9:1-3 where, after reading God’s Word, Daniel sought the Lord in prayer.
  • How does God’s Word cultivate prayer?
  • How does knowing and believing the good and powerful news of the gospel transform your prayer life?
  • Do you think God has failed to answer a prayer of yours? How can we cultivate belief in His goodness, wisdom and sovereignty in these moments?
  • Which of the seven ways TA suggested to pray will you try this week?
  • What kind of steps do you need to take to accept God’s invitation of intimacy and communion with him?
  • This week pick 1-2 of Paul’s prayers in his letters (Ephesians 1:15-22; Philippians 1:9-11; Colossians 1:9-14) and look for the priorities in his prayers. How can Paul’s prayers help you pray more effectively? (For an excellent book study on Paul’s prayers, see D. A. Carson’s Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation.
  • Join Watermark on our 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting from February 1 – 21, 2024. Sign up for daily prayer prompts and find more resources at

Good morning, Watermark. How are we doing today? Hey, you made it. Way to go. I got out on the streets in my car today, and I was like, "Man, we're the people who are really braving it out here." I mean, the streets are bone dry, but it's like, "Man, this is treacherous." So I'm glad you made it. If this is your first time ever at Watermark and you made it, way to go. I'd love to shake your hand afterward that this was the day you chose to make it your first day at Watermark.

My name is Timothy Ateek. I'm one of the pastors here, and I'm really excited about where we are heading today. We are starting a series we're calling A Praying Church. When I think about prayer, I can't help but think about this experience I had with prayer right before my freshman year at Texas A&M University started.

I was a Christian when I moved to college. My best friend and I were rooming together in Dunn Hall. Before school started, we were just hanging out in our dorm room, and this guy knocked on the door and said, "Hey, there are some people gathering together to pray on the front lawn of the university. Do you guys want to come?" I was like, "Yeah, we're Christians. That's kind of what we do." So we decided to go out to this prayer gathering.

I really didn't have that much experience with prayer to this point. We started praying, and 20 minutes led to 30 minutes, which led to 40 minutes. Here's the deal. When we were 30 minutes in, I began to get antsy. I was like, "I think we've covered it." I found myself getting to that place where I started hoping there would be enough silence so the leader would wrap it up. Do you know what I'm talking about? Don't act like I'm the only one. You know exactly what I'm talking about.

Finally, we had been praying for about an hour, and the leader wrapped it up and said, "Amen." I'm just being honest. When he said, "Amen," I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Like, "Okay. Those first 30 minutes were amazing. The last 30 were a little bit of a struggle, but we made it. Amen." Then this girl spoke up and said, "I don't think we're done yet." I was like, "Oh, no, we're done. You can't undo an 'Amen.' When that is said, it's done."

"I don't think we're done yet." We went back into it for another hour. That was a struggle. I tell you that just to say prayer is something I really struggled with for the good majority of my life. I'm about to turn 43. It took 40 years for me to finally tap into the joy of prayer. I would imagine there are people all over the spectrum in this room when it comes to prayer.

Some of y'all are the "I don't think we're done yet" type of people. You love prayer, and you get it, and you enjoy it. If that's you, awesome. Keep going. But I would imagine there are other people who are "I think we were done about an hour and a half ago" type of people. So, there are people here who love prayer and get it.

There are other people here who… It's not about whether or not you enjoy prayer; it's just that you're disciplined to pray because you know that's what you're supposed to do because you're a Christian and you want to do what Christians are supposed to do. Then there are other people here… Because you're a Christian, you know you're supposed to pray, but you don't pray, and you feel bad about the fact that you don't pray. So it's probably good for us to spend some time talking about prayer.

We said last week… If you weren't here last week, let me ask you and urge you and beg you to go back and listen to the message from last week. We said, "Hey, this is the win at Watermark. We just want to reclarify for you who we are, who we're going to be in 2024 and beyond." We unpacked 10 markers that we want to mark Watermark. One of those markers was that we want to be a praying church.

When we talk about being a praying church, we are drawing a distinction between a church that prays and a praying church. We are talking about the people who call this place home living with a deep conviction that there is actually nothing more important we can do as Christians than to pray. That's the whole point of this series. We want to move toward being a praying church. We just want to pour more gasoline on the fire of prayer.

So, we're going to spend the next three weeks talking about prayer. This is where we're headed. On February 1, as a church, we are kicking off 21 days of prayer and fasting that will go from February 1 to February 21. On the night of February 1, we're going to gather together as a church to kick off with a night of worship and prayer.

On the 21st we're going to do the same. We're going to give you more information. It's coming. You can actually text the word pray to 40585, and that will subscribe you so you can get prayer prompts and guidance all along the way. This is where we are heading as a church. We want to be a praying church.

The goal today is just to encourage you to take a step with prayer. If you don't pray, the hope is that you would begin to pray. If you pray occasionally, the hope is that you might begin to pray regularly. If you pray regularly, the hope is that you might move toward praying constantly. That's the goal.

I firmly believe that the people who experience the greatest intimacy with God in our world are the people who have tapped into the joy of prayer. Prayer is the primary pathway to great intimacy with God. So, today, I think the most helpful thing I can do is bring clarity to three questions…three questions that will drive our conversation today: Why should we pray? Why don't we pray? And…How should we pray?

I'm going to get very practical. The latter half of this message is just going to be me unpacking seven different prayer practices you can leave with so you have a variety of practices to experiment with in hopes of experiencing more joy in prayer.

If you have a Bible, turn with me this morning to Matthew, chapter 6. Matthew, chapter 6, is going to anchor us. We're going to look at a bunch of different Scriptures today. Matthew, chapter 6, is where we find what we know as the Lord's Prayer. We're not going to actually walk through the Lord's Prayer today, but we are going to anchor ourselves in the teaching Jesus gives on prayer right before he shares the Lord's Prayer. Here's what he says. Matthew 6:5:

"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name."

  1. Why should we pray? There are a few reasons as to why we should pray. The first reason is that Jesus assumes we will pray. Did you see how verse 5 started? "And when you pray…" It doesn't say, "And if you pray…" It says, "And when you pray…" Jesus assumes prayer will be a normal and central practice in the Christian life.

That's why, as we shared last week, Martin Luther said, "To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing." John Calvin referred to prayer as the chief exercise of faith. Michael Reeves referred to prayerlessness as practical atheism, because the assumption is that prayer is a normal part of the Christian life. It is one of the key ways we pursue intimacy with God.

The second reason we should pray is that Jesus prayed. Our goal, as Christians, is to become more and more like Jesus every day until the day we die. Jesus prayed. He prayed before, during, and after major milestones in his life. I don't have time to go through all of the verses now, but I would encourage you to go and do a word search of prayer through the book of Luke. Do you know what you're going to see? Jesus was praying at his baptism. Jesus prayed after long days of ministry, healing people. He would withdraw to pray.

Do you know what Jesus did before he appointed his twelve disciples, making a big decision? He stayed up all night praying. The God of the universe stayed up all night praying before making a big decision. What do you do to make a big decision? Make a pros and cons list. Ask ChatGPT what we're thinking. Have you ever stayed up all night praying? You might give it a try. That's what the God of the universe did.

What's Jesus doing before he's arrested? He's in the garden of Gethsemane praying, "Not my will but your will be done." What's the last thing Jesus does before he dies on the cross? He prays. "Father, forgive them. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." Jesus prayed. The goal of the Christian life is to become as much like Jesus as possible. So, why should we pray? Because Jesus prayed.

Another reason we should pray is prayer is how we get more from God. There's that famous verse in Matthew 7: "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." Jesus tells us to ask, and then it's given. In Matthew 7:11, Jesus says, "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" James 4:2 says, "You do not have, because you do not ask [God]." So, prayer is how we get more from God.

Do you know why I think I struggled with prayer for the first 40 years of my life? I majored in the Word of God and minored in prayer. It's because I just assumed "God is going to do what he's going to do." I didn't feel the urgency to pray, because it was like, "God is sovereign, and he's going to do what he's going to do." But this is what I learned.

I came to the realization that, yes, God is sovereign and he is going to do what he's going to do, but part of God's sovereign plans is for his people to pray. One of the ways God is most glorified is when his people ask him to move, and then he moves, and then they say, "Thank you for moving." So, there are times where God will wait to provide or wait to move until we ask. Prayer is how we get more from God.

Then the final reason we should pray is… To me it's the key. Prayer isn't just how we get more from God; prayer is how we get more of God. If you're sitting there saying, "You know what? I just feel dry. I feel disconnected. I feel like I want more of God, and I don't know how to get it," I assure you that prayer is the answer.

Jesus says in Matthew 6:6, "But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." With what? More of himself. That's the greatest thing God could do for anyone in this room and anyone watching online right now. Do you believe that, that the greatest thing God could give you today is more of himself? It's how we get more of God.

When Jesus teaches us the Lord's Prayer, he teaches us to pray, "Our Father who is in heaven…" Here's the reality. Because of what Christ has accomplished, we have access into the family of God. The good news, the gospel, is that every person in this room, everyone in the world, was born an enemy of God.

You're like, "How is that good news?" It's good news because Jesus Christ went to the cross and made payment for all of the things that made us enemies of God…sin. He died, was buried, and rose from the dead. In doing so, a miracle has happened, and he has made a way when there was no way for enemies of God to become children of God. Prayer is the way we cultivate this father/child relationship that the gospel, Jesus Christ, has purchased for us.

So, I want you to think about this. The reason the eternal Son of God left heaven, came to earth, took on flesh, lived perfectly, died gruesomely, and rose victoriously… The reason he did all of that was to give us the privilege of praying. He has made a way for us to boldly approach the throne of grace and commune with God.

So, I just want to make sure we're all on the same page. When I talk about prayer, I'm not just talking about getting better at talking at God. When I talk about prayer, I'm talking about talking to God and God talking to you. I'm talking about nothing short of communing with the living God and experiencing deep joy that comes from intimate connection with him. Do you want more of God? The key will be prayer. So, that's why we should pray.

  1. Why don't we pray? Pew Research did a survey. They found that 68 percent of Christians pray daily. That's pretty encouraging, right? You hear that, and it's like, "68 percent? That's a majority of Christians pray every day." Well, let's not talk about that. Let's talk about the 32 percent who don't. Of Christians, people who know Jesus Christ, children of God, 32 percent go entire days without talking to God.

So, which statistic better represents you? Are you in the 68 or the 32? Here's the reality: it is possible to really struggle with prayer. So, the question is…Why don't we pray? Well, there are a few reasons. First, we have an Enemy who hates prayer. I want you to think about this. Michael Reeves' book Enjoy Your Prayer Life was really, really helpful for me in seeing this.

If John Calvin says the chief exercise of faith is prayer, if prayer is the primary pathway to greater intimacy with God, if prayer is the way we get more of God, then we have to assume that if Satan hates anything, he hates prayer. He hates when you pray and he hates when I pray, which means there are bull's-eyes, there are targets, on our prayer lives. Have you ever thought about the fact that our Enemy, the Devil, spends considerable time thinking strategically how to discourage you from praying? He doesn't want you to pray.

So, one of the reasons we don't pray is we have an Enemy. Another reason we don't pray is it might be we have too small of a view of God. Some of y'all heard me say the greatest thing God could give you today is more of himself, and you were like, "Are you sure about that? That's it?" Something in you wonders how much more of God there is that's really worth getting.

It's like, "I could think of a million things that would be better, like more money. That would be nice. A better job would be nice. A better spouse would be nice." You might be sitting there like, "I can think of a lot of things God could give me that feel more pressing than him giving me more of himself." The reality is you don't pray because your view of God is too small. He's just not worth communicating with.

I think the main reason people don't pray is that God failed to answer prayers in the past. You asked and didn't receive. I know this. I've experienced this. There have been times where I've asked God, I've begged God to do something, and I've looked at it, whether it's heal someone or do something in someone's life, and I'm like, "God, this would be so easy for you to do. You have all the power in the world. All you have to do is simply say the word and they will be healed or something will flourish. This will work out. Just say the word," and then he doesn't.

That can be really discouraging. It can be really frustrating. I would imagine there are people in this room who are frustrated with God or mad at God, and you don't want to talk to God because you tried in the past and he didn't respond. So you're in a place where you're like, "What's the point?" Let me just tell you how I've navigated this.

Here's the conclusion I've had to come to in my own life: the cross of Jesus Christ and the empty tomb have to inform how I think about unanswered prayers, because the cross and the empty tomb show me that God has been infinitely good to me already. He has been infinitely good to me. The cross and empty tomb also show me that his ways are higher than my ways.

If you and I actually take time to get our minds around the cross and the empty tomb, it doesn't make sense. It makes zero sense that a holy, perfect God would leave heaven, come to earth, and take on flesh to die in the place of people who hate him, who rebel against him, who have cursed him. That makes no sense for him to give his life for people who don't deserve it.

What that shows me is that his ways are higher than my ways. His thoughts are not my thoughts. God is going to do things I can't comprehend, starting with the gospel. So, here is what I can hold on to. This is what grounds me. What grounds me is that the cross and the empty tomb are the greatest displays of goodness our world has ever seen. God has already been infinitely good to me, so I don't have to question his goodness.

I can also hang on to the fact that there are going to be times where God moves and acts or doesn't move and act in ways I can't comprehend. A good example is the gospel. What the gospel can remind me of, though, is the fact that if God allowed me to see what he sees, if I could see the beginning of time and the end of time at the same time and I could see how the whole tapestry fits together, I wouldn't change a thing.

That's where faith takes deep root: when you bank on the fact that if you could see what God sees, you wouldn't change a thing. You wouldn't be like, "Okay, God. Yep. That's where you missed it. If you could have a do-over, you should do that over." The reason we don't pray is God failed to answer prayers.

  1. How should we pray? Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:5. "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward." Here's his point. The reason people in Jesus' day prayed was to be seen by others. His point is that's not why you pray. You don't pray to impress other people. You don't pray to get other people's approval. Your best prayers shouldn't be prayers that are prayed in public.

The goal of prayer is to be seen by God. That's why he says in verse 6, "But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." Is Jesus telling us we can't pray in public? No. That's not what he's saying. There's a lot of freedom in prayer. His point is the goal of prayer is to commune and connect with God, not others.

Something we have to understand, though, is God wants to give us more of himself. He delights to give us more of himself, but God will wait to give us more of himself until we are willing to withdraw to be with just him, to see just him, to hear from only him. Some of you are frustrated because you're like, "You know what? I pray." You're praying in the car on the way to work while you're listening to a podcast at the same time and you're answering texts, and you're like, "I don't understand."

Here's what has happened: it has become socially acceptable to be halfway distracted in relationship. Isn't that crazy? We eat lunch with friends with our phones on the table. We respond to texts in the middle of meetings. We check Instagram while putting kids to bed. We have made it socially acceptable to be halfway distracted in relationship, and God is like, "I will play no part in that. I will have no part in that."

God might wait to give you more of himself until you're actually ready to receive it. If God wants to meet with you, why would you want to meet with anyone else? If God wants to speak to you, why would you need to hear from anyone else in that moment? If God wants our undivided attention, then the last thing we want to do is be interruptible.

Jesus goes on in verse 7 and says, "And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." We're answering the question…How should you pray? Well, Jesus is telling us how not to pray. He's like, "Don't pray to be seen by others, and here's the deal: worry about substance, not length."

There were people in the first century who believed it wasn't about substance, it was just length, so they would just babble on. Is Jesus saying, "Don't pray for long periods of time"? He prayed all night, so I don't think he's saying that. I just think he's saying God knows what you need, so you don't have to try to manipulate God by just going on and on. He cares about the substance. Don't manipulate God. Don't try to appease God. Don't pray to simply get from God. Pray to get more of God.

So, what I want to do with the remainder of my time is get really practical. You might hear that, and you're like, "Yeah, that's great. I understand why I should pray and why I don't pray." But we really need to dial in on how to pray, so I'm going to give you seven practices, and I hope it's really helpful. You don't have to leave here and try all seven, but it would be a miss if you left here and tried none.

The first practice is simply the Lord's Prayer. Now, one thing I want to point out is what Jesus says at the beginning of verse 9 right before he gives us the Lord's Prayer. He says, "Pray then like this…" Jesus doesn't say, "Pray this." Jesus isn't encouraging us to just recite the Lord's Prayer once a day every day. Jesus gives us the Lord's Prayer as a framework, as a structure, for what is good to include in your prayers.

So, a practice you can do is you can take the Lord's Prayer and use it as a framework for how to pray. Let me give you an example of what this might look like. You can pray like this. You can say, "Our Father in heaven… God, thank you that you are my Father, which makes me your child. Thank you, Jesus, that you died for my sins and rose from the dead to bring me into the family of God.

You are my Father in heaven. Meaning, you are a perfect Father. Hallowed be your name. God, you are holy, holy, holy. There's no one like you. You are big and I am small. You don't exist for me; I exist for you. Your kingdom come. Your will be done. God, would you rule and reign in my life today? You're in charge. Your way is the best way. You lead, and I will follow." You can use the Lord's Prayer as a framework.

The second practice is the acronym ACTS. The A stands for adoration, the C is confession, the T is thanksgiving, and the S is supplication. Adoration is just praising God for who he is. The focus is on his identity. Confession: acknowledging before God the ways you have sinned against him. Thanksgiving: saying "Thank you" for every single thing God has done. Then supplication: asking God to provide and to move. You could spend two minutes working through this acronym. You could spend two hours. You can do all four at once. You can just do one here and one there, but you can use that acronym to drive your prayer life.

The third practice…we've already done it…is to pray Scripture. This is the primary way I pray. This is what I do most days. I'm on a reading plan. I'm doing Join the Journey right now. When I read, I let what I'm reading determine what I am praying. What we just did with the Lord's Prayer, where we took Scripture and turned it into prayers… You can do that with any Scripture, not just the Lord's Prayer.

So, I would encourage you to let the Scriptures determine what you pray. The reason that is such an effective thing to do is when you're praying Scripture, you're praying according to God's will. If you want to see more prayers answered in your life, pray according to Scripture, because you're just praying God's heart. Jesus says in John 15, "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you."

What he doesn't say is, "If you abide in me, ask whatever you wish, and it'll be done." No. He says, "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done." Here's the thing. When you read this, you're aligning your heart with God's heart, and you begin to pray what God would have you pray. He loves to answer prayers that are in accordance with his heart and will. Pray Scripture.

Fourth is a practice known as Lectio Divina. The difference between the fourth prayer practice that we're looking at now and the third one is that praying Scripture is you talking to God about Scripture; Lectio Divina is about God talking to you about Scripture. This is a really sweet practice. The way Lectio Divina works is you find a quiet place. You can set a timer for two, three, or four minutes. I'd encourage you to try this, where you just sit quietly.

You're not praying. You're just quieting your heart and your mind and becoming aware of God's presence with you. You are thinking about God and the fact that he is with you. Then you want to ask the Spirit of God to lead and guide your time and speak to your heart. Then you choose a verse. You can choose one verse. You can choose two verses. You read that one verse or those two verses slowly. You read it a few times. Then you begin to write down what sticks out to you. The key to Lectio Divina is you then sit and ask God to speak to you about that verse.

We did it as a staff here at Watermark this past week. We were on our staff retreat, and 250 of us did Lectio Divina together. What did it look like for us? We set a timer. There were 250 of us in a room together, and we sat still for two minutes just quieting our hearts, making ourselves aware of the presence of God.

Then we took Proverbs 3:5-6 and broke it down into four sections. I said, "Okay. First, for two minutes ask God, 'God, what do you want to say to me about "Trust in the Lord with all your heart"?'" So we just sat for two minutes and listened for the Lord to take that phrase and apply it to our hearts. The timer went off. We set another timer.

"Okay. Next phrase: 'Lean not on your own understanding.'" We did that for two minutes. "In all your ways acknowledge him" for two minutes. "He will make your paths straight." Two minutes. After that, we sat around and shared. "Okay. What was God speaking to you through these two verses?" It's really encouraging. It took 10 minutes total, and people heard from God. God spoke to them through his Word.

The fifth practice is known as the examine prayer. This is a great exercise. It can be really enjoyable. It can draw you close to God in a really sweet way. It's something good to do when you're driving home from work. Or when you get in bed at night and everything is kind of powered down, and all you're left with is your thoughts, the examine prayer is something good to try.

Here's what the examine prayer is. You might sit quietly for a couple of minutes, again, just making yourself aware of God's presence with you. Then you walk through your day with God. You ask God to remind you of all he did in your life during that day. As you walk through your day with God, you express gratitude for each thing God brings to mind from that day.

The next thing you do is ask God to reveal key moments from the day to you. I heard one pastor explain it as like power surge moments. If you think about a light bulb having a power surge where it really glows… What are those one or two moments from the day? It could be an intense moment of joy. It could be an overwhelming moment of temptation that you experienced. What was that light bulb, key moment?

Then this is the secret sauce of the examine prayer. When God brings those key moments to mind, you ask Jesus if he ever dealt with that or experienced that or you ask him what he wants you to learn from it. Let me tell you how this looked in my life, my favorite experience with the examine prayer.

I sat with the Lord. I became aware of his presence. I walked through my day just expressing gratitude for what happened. Then I asked God, "What were key moments during the day that you want to draw my attention to?" He drew me to this one particular moment in the middle of the day. Here's the background to this experience.

When we lived in College Station, one of my sons was committed to trying to scare me every day. Without fail, every night he would go lurking in the house and look for an opportunity to scare me. He did this for an extended season every single day. One day, I was home by myself, and I heard the garage open, which meant Kat and the boys were coming home. I was like, "Now is my chance to scare him."

If y'all are where the door is to the garage, then there is a wall right here. I hid behind the wall, waiting for them to walk through. The hope was that this one son would come and I would just pounce on him. Well, he walked in and went left, which was a bummer, but I was already committed, and I have two other sons, so I might as well take the opportunity.

The second boy walked in, and this was the moment, because he walked in, and right as he walked past me I was like, "Bah!" Instead of losing his mind being terrified, he literally collapsed on the ground laughing. He just melted and fell over laughing. The reason God drew me to that specific moment is that specific boy was in a challenging moment in life.

Life was an uphill battle for him. He was taking some medicine that made him not feel that great, made him feel lethargic. He didn't smile that much. Life felt heavy for him. When I saw him collapse on the ground, his face lit up, and it was something I hadn't seen from him in a long time. I saw a lightness in him, like the weight of the world had been lifted from him.

So then I asked, "Jesus, have you ever experienced something like this?" It was like Jesus spoke right back and was like, "Of course. Every time I healed someone." That's what he saw. He saw the weight of the world lifted. He saw joy restored to them. My heart connected with Jesus' heart in that moment. It was like Jesus was drawing me in, like, "That's why I came: to give joy, to lift burdens, to make people whole." See, that's the beauty of carving out time to meet with God.

The sixth prayer practice is called ask and listen. A mentor of mine, Doug Sherman, has committed his life to teaching people the beauty of conversational prayer. He takes 1 Thessalonians 17 very seriously when it says, "Pray without ceasing." What Doug encourages is the idea of asking God questions all throughout the day and listening for him to respond.

So, here's what I'm going to do. I don't have time to roll through all of them. I'm just going to put five questions on the screen. I would encourage you to take a screenshot and try asking one of these questions tomorrow. Just try it. I'll just highlight one right now. If you have a meeting tomorrow, a hard meeting tomorrow, or before you come home to engage with your roommates or your family, just ask God, "What attitude do you want me to have right now?" and sit and listen and see if God will bring a verse to mind. See if he will direct your thoughts a certain way.

Let me give you an example of how this worked in my life. One of my sons was getting bullied a little at school. If you want to see me kind of… Just come after my kids. You know what I'm talking about. He had just gotten braces, and he was nervous to go to school because he was worried what some kids would say about him having braces. I was like, "Do these kids have braces?" He was like, "Yeah."

Well, this is me… When I'm in my flesh and someone is coming after my kid, I just snap into middle school mode. I start thinking of comebacks to give my kid. I was like, "Okay. If a kid with braces makes fun of you for getting braces, here's what you say to him. When he makes fun of you, here's what you say. You say, 'Yep. We're just two ugly dudes with braces.' That's what you say to him." Aren't you glad I'm one of your elders? Doesn't that really encourage you?

That was what initially came to mind. "Yeah, we're just two ugly dudes with braces." Then I went for a run, and I was talking with God. I was like, "God, how would you have me encourage Noah?" He was like, "Not like that. That's not what I would have had you say." So I finally asked God. I was like, "God, what would you have me say? How would you have me encourage him?" What's amazing is on my run I was just listening to the Lord.

If you think about it, the examine prayer and Lectio Divina are things where you want to get into the quiet place to meet with God, but then there are other things, like ask and listen, you can do on the go. As I was on a run, I asked God this, and he brought Matthew 26:63 to mind, which says, "But Jesus remained silent."

So, I got home from my run. I was like, "Hey, Noah. I gave you some really bad advice. Don't do that. Here's what I want to encourage you with. Jesus remained silent. That doesn't mean you always remain silent. There are some times where you need to speak up in life, but in this moment, just suck the oxygen out of the room." So, I just encourage you to try it. Ask and listen.

Finally, it's something called chair time. Chair Time is actually the name of a book I read that God used in a significant way in my life. I'm not exactly telling you to go and read it. It's 35 pages long. I'll summarize it for you right now. The idea of chair time… It was a challenge to find a chair and sit in that same chair every day for 15 minutes for 30 days straight, and for those 15 minutes you just sit and listen for the Lord to speak to you.

You're not praying. For 15 minutes, all you're doing is quieting yourself before the Lord, making yourself available and attentive if he wants to say something to your heart. This was really significant, because in the summer of '21 I did it…30 days straight, 15 minutes a day. The thought behind chair time was the idea that if you got to step into the throne room of God right now, what do you think would happen?

Do you think you'd walk in and be like, "Okay, God. Yeah, I'm glad you're here. Here's what I want to talk to you about. I want to talk to you about my singleness right now, because that's really problematic" or "God, let me talk to you about my job"? Do you think you'd just start running your mouth? No. I think if we walked into the throne room of God we would all be like, "You drive. What do you want to talk about? You talk; I'll listen." So that's the thought.

I began to do it, and God began to speak to me. Now this is key. I would always do it after I had read his Word, because the best thing God can do is continue to speak to you about what he has already spoken to you about. He would bring Scripture to mind in a new way. He began to bring people to mind to pray for. He spoke to me about insecurities. He spoke to me about ministry. He taught me to enjoy just being with him.

So, I'd encourage you to give it a try. Even this week, I've had meaningful time of just setting a timer. For this week I did it for 10 minutes. I set a timer and just sat, and God in his kindness took his Word and applied it to my life in a key way. Do you know what it did? It drew us closer together, and the result was intimacy.

So, there are seven practices for you to try. You don't have to try all seven, but I would encourage you to at least try one. Here's how I'll close today. I want to make sure everyone understands there is an invitation to intimacy on the table for you today. There's an invitation to intimacy for everyone in the room.

If you're not a Christian, if you don't have a relationship with Jesus Christ, then you might not be able to pray, "Our Father in heaven…" You might not be able to say that yet because you're not a child of God. You might still be an enemy of God. You don't have to stay that way. You can receive Jesus Christ today. You can come to grips with the fact that he died for you. He rose from the dead to deal with all your rebellion, all your sin, to bring you into the family of God.

Your next step is a step of surrender, inviting Jesus Christ into your life so you can become his child. If you already know Jesus, then maybe what you need to hear is that God doesn't want more from you; he wants more for you and with you. Prayer is the primary pathway to greater intimacy with God. Let's take a step this week. Let's pray together.

Lord Jesus, I pray that you, God, would come and move in our lives. Lord, I pray that we would take a step with prayer, that we would each this week taste and see that you are good, that we would draw near to you and you would draw near to us. Lord, would you open up the rabbit hole for all of us here on prayer? Would you draw us closer?

If there's anyone here today who doesn't know you in a real way, God, I pray they would leave here being able to call you "Father" for the first time, authentically, and that they would rest in knowing that they are your child and it's all because of what you've done, Lord Jesus. We love you. Amen.

About 'A Praying Church'

There is no greater joy than connecting with God through prayer.