Would you say that prayer has been an ongoing and critical part of your day? The reality is many Christians maintain a very narrow prayer life that is either confined to morning devotions, a word of thanksgiving at dinner, or the occassional “Lord, help me!” prayer of the moment. All of these are good, and should be a part of our prayer life, but the idea of maintaining a posture and practice of praying throughout the day is beyond most of our expectations. We know that Paul calls the church to pray without ceasing, but we quickly remind ourselves that he obviously doesn't want us on our knees in a prayer closet all day. And just like that we give ourselves a pass on the exhortation and leave it behind. But there it is. “Pray without ceasing.” Those words mean more than an encouragement to persevere in prayer. Wrapped up in the command is the expectation that we will be a people whose lives are characterized by prayer.
The trouble is many of us live the bulk of life (everything between morning devotions and prayer before bed) apart from a practical awareness of and dependence on God. And this is paradoxically the root and fruit of prayerlessly going about our business. Most of us want to pray more: deeply, frequently, and effectively, but are at a loss as to how to pull it off, and we have learned along the way that simply trying harder does not grant success.
A Strategy for Prayer
Practical strategies are important when it comes to something as important and troublesome as the discipline of prayer. Most people benefit from a method that is simple and fruitful. I do, and that is why I developed a daily prayer schedule that is easy to follow, and not only leads me in prayer but teaches me how to pray. It's not just a schedule that helped me, but what the schedule was built around was what made the difference. The Valley of Vision is a collection of Puritan prayers, and one of the most helpful resources on prayer I have found. It is theologically rich and truly gospel-centered. Over the years I have benefited from reading and praying through it, and I wanted to find a way to maximize its usefulness. So, a couple years ago I developed a schedule and rhythm for my personal use of the Valley of Vision. It has been a great help to me, and I am happy to share it with you.
I rearranged the prayers into three daily readings, five days a week, and scheduled them to be read/prayed at 9 a.m., 12 p.m., and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday (see prayer guide schedule below). This method took me through the entire Valley of Vision in 13 weeks, only repeating two prayers once each. The arrangement is not arbitrary. The Valley of Vision is organized thematically collecting prayers that share similar themes in each section. I wanted to mix the prayers up so that as I am praying throughout the day it's not all hitting the same note. For example, as much as is possible I attempted to have one prayer that pushes repentance on each day, and those prayers that relate to corporate worship moved closer to the weekend (Fridays). Evening prayers are pushed to the afternoon, and morning prayers are scheduled for the mornings.
To stay on top of the discipline I used the calendar/alarm feature on my phone to alert me when it was time to pray (otherwise I would forget), and with those alerts I would stop whatever I was doing, pull out the Valley of Vision, spend a moment in prayer using the assigned reading, and then return to work. If I was in a meeting, I would excuse myself, step outside or even hit the washroom, and meet with God. Occasionally I found myself in a situation where I simply had to wait before I could get away, but most of the time I could slip away without a problem.
I found that when using this schedule, my days were rich with an awareness of God's grace, and I was encouraged to look to God throughout the day in a new way. I looked forward to these appointments/interruptions, and my prayer life is better because of it.
You should definitely get the Valley of Vision, and if you would like to use it as I have described, you can download the prayer guide (see below), print it out, and tuck or tape it inside your own copy of the Valley of Vision. There are versions for the leather bound edition, as well as the paperback (page numbers and sizes are different in each).
Consider this guide and approach to prayer as one method to help you seek God and maintain a posture of prayer throughout the day. It should not be the totality of your prayer life. Think of this as one means of fueling your meditation on Scripture, dependency on the gospel, and exercise of faith in and love for Jesus.
You can download the Walking Through The Valley of Vision prayer guide here.