This year as I began to prepare for Lent, it was heavy on my heart that I need to be more diligent/consistent/mindful when it came to spending time in prayer.  God called me not to give something up this year, but to give of something, my time, in order to gain more of him.

So I committed to wake up early and to sit with him for 40 minutes everyday, I did that for the past 40 days. I actively listened for him and to him. I slowed my heart, my head, and my body. When I woke I began the day with him: no email, no social media, just coffee and quiet.

For the most part I kept that commitment. I missed a few days here and there. And I didn’t meet my 40 minutes every single day. But as I moved toward Easter and reflected on Christ’s death on the cross, I focused on more of him and less of everything else.

To do this I used the acronym SLOW to help guide my prayer time. Slow stands for: Still, Listen, Obey, Wait and Watch.

Still

Still is more than a physical position, it is a condition of the heart and mind. And I take 1 Peter 5:7 literally, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” That is exactly what I do. I list (sometimes in my head and sometimes on paper) all my anxieties. All the things I am worried about, or need to do, guidance I seek. People who need prayer.  I clear my mind and my heart. I empty it all out.

Listen

As I still my heart, mind, and body I then move on to Listen. All believers see and hear the Holy Spirit move differently in their life. The way I may hear him speak may be very different from the way you hear him. That’s okay. Listening however, is not a passive process but an active one. During this time, I wait to hear from the Lord. Sometimes he may provide guidance for me in an area I have been asking for prayer, sometimes it is something he presses upon my heart to take action on or to surrender,  or someone to pray for. And sometimes it’s a sin I need to confess, a behavior I need to change.

Obey

Many times while I listen for, and to, the Holy Spirit, he prompts me to take action. This is when I Obey. 1 Samuel 12:14-15 MSG says, “If you fear God, worship and obey him, and don’t rebel against what he tells you.” Obedience is small action steps which lead to a richer, deeper, more meaningful relationship with God.
I have found that when I rebel against what God is telling me to do our relationship stalls. His voice grows quiet. He seems distance. The more I surrender to him, the more I follow his commands, the better I can hear him and the easier it gets to say yes, to conform to his ways again. Small steps. Little yeses. The easy way to obey, is to simply do it.

Wait and Watch

The final process in my prayer time is a two part process. Wait is the first. I use this section of time to prepare myself to move out of my current time of prayer and into the day. I usually wait for a few minutes before I close with prayer. I wait to see if the Holy Spirit has anything else to put on my heart. It also prevents me from rushing out of my quiet time and into the busyness of the day. When I stop and wait I am always met with this amazing sense of peace. Waiting allows for a pause to usher in peace.

The second and final process is watch. My prayer time doesn’t stop there it continues into my day as I watch for signs of his love, prompting, and presence. I can get so busy going about my day that I neglect to look for and seek God throughout my day. This process has changed that. Watching is an ongoing process. I don’t simply shut my bible and get on with the day. I ask God to open my eyes to how he is working in the world.  Instead of quiet time and the rest of my day, my quiet time flows into my day.

What now?

Martin Luther said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”

I have found this to be so true. When I put God first. Everything else falls into order. This was such an amazing 40 days for me. It really reminded me that if I’m not actively seeking a relationship with God how easy it is to grow distance. I also think that he truly desires us, for any amount of time.

I am going to keep up my quiet time with him while using the SLOW prayer process. I encourage you, whether you can devote five minutes or fifty, to begin your day with the Lord I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Ways I saw him move over the past 40 days:

answered prayers
guidance in difficult (and not so difficult) decisions
contentment- this surprised me a bit
prayer for others
a shift in my daily perspective
clarity
more love, hope and patience