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  • Writer's pictureS Oliver

Why Pray? The 21 Day Prayer Challenge

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

As a youth minister many years ago, I decided to teach a group of 12 to 14-year-olds about prayer. As is a habit of mine, I began the class with a question. “What is prayer?”, “Talking to God”, one girl yelled out. Others simply shrugged their shoulders or laughed as adolescents do, but the most striking and profound answer I received was from a twelve-year-old boy. His response? “Begging!” It doesn’t happen often, but I was dumbfounded. Begging??!!?? What on earth?! As Leon shared with me the prayers he had most often heard, I began to understand his answer. “Lord, bless our service today.” “Lord, comfort and strengthen us in our grief.” “Lord, make a way out of no way”. If you have not heard these requests, you have probably heard something similar.

I always thought that prayer was important and powerful. After all, the disciples never asked Jesus how to heal or do miracles, but they did ask to be taught to pray. I had to admit that Leon’s answer was gripping. Could it be that I had it all wrong? I wondered if there was far more to prayer than what meets the eye. It led me to pray that much more. It led me to ask, seek and knock on the door of the God who commanded that we should pray and not faint. (Matthew 7:7-8, Luke 18:1)

man praying

I read books on prayer and went to prayer meetings. I diligently studied our Lord’s Prayer, but more importantly I brought my authentic self to the altar before the Lord, the God of the universe. I began to have conversations with God about who I was and what I was not. I began to tell God my deepest secrets. I even confessed that I didn’t agree with everything the Bible said, but that I was open to hearing God’s truth. I waited for the lightening to strike. It did not!

On the contrary, I found that instead of rejection and condemnation me, God came close and I took delight in God’s presence. Second, when I asked questions, I got answers. (Jeremiah 33:3) I didn’t hear an audible voice, but I would somehow be directed to a scripture. Sometimes I found answers in the sermon I heard that week, a conversation I had with a stranger, or something I read. The more I prayed, the more “coincidences” happened. Third, I learned who God is. I began to gain some insight to God’s great love for me and you and all of us. I was overwhelmed by Love. Fourth, I began to grow strong and confident. I felt anchored and rooted. I began to believe I was who God said I was. My fear became courage. I walked with power and I talked with authority. I found, the more I prayed, the more I was transformed. I learned I could trust God with my life. It’s my heart’s desire that you experience delight in the Lord. So, I’ve designed a 21-Day Prayer Challenge.

This 21-day challenge is designed to woo you into a relationship with the Living God. There is a Christian method of prayer called ACTS. It includes Adoration. Giving God praise and honor for who God is as Lord over all. Confession. Honestly dealing with the sin in your life. Thanksgiving. Verbalizing what you are grateful for in your life and in the world around you. Supplication. Praying for the needs of others and yourself. Sometimes you will pray one or two of them. Sometimes three or all of them. Don’t see ACTS as a list to check off in prayer. It is not. It is a guide to how prayer can be shaped. Instead, let your heart be open; invite the Spirit to lead you and speak your heart. Approach your prayer time as if you are talking to your dearest friend. Be genuine. Ask God to manifest Godself to you and if you’re brave enough, ask God to show you who you really are. Most of all, enjoy your time with God and embrace all that happens in that space.

Many Ways to Pray

There are many ways to pray. Find the way or ways that are most comfortable for you. You can journal/write, pray while walking, meditate in nature, pray with music and/or dance. You can pray the scriptures and the newspaper. If you artistic, pray through your paintings or collages. I am sure there are many more ways to pray. Be creative. Explore the ways that work for you. I have many ways of praying. One of my favorites is to write my prayers in a journal and listen quietly for God’s response. The second is Lectio Divina. I like Lectio Divina (you’ll find it in the challenge guide) because it has a two-prong benefit. I can pray as well as study. Try it. You may like it.

I hope that this 21-Day Challenge will usher you into a deep and intimate relationship with God. My prayer for you is that this experience will transform your life! Prayer is an invitation into the presence of God. It not only changes things, it changes us. I encourage you to bring your whole heart to God during these 21 days. Invite the Holy Spirit to pray with you and through you and allow God to shape your heart and life. Embrace, enjoy, and be empowered by your journey. Are you up to the challenge?

“Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one's weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” Mahatma Gandhi

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