Growth is about consistency. Whether in savings, health or relationships. The same is true of prayer. The depth of our relationship with God is as much dependant on consistency as any other factor. Few would argue with that.
The big question is, if we develop the consistency will we lose the spontaneity?
Structure for Spontaneity
The short answer is to remember that developing a routine does not substitute the substance. Spontaneity is not enhanced by inconsistency. Spontaneity is enhanced by consistency.
The regularity of our routines frees up our hearts and minds to be spontaneous and intimate with God because it takes the effort out of decision-making. Once we have decided we are going to pray at a certain time in a certain place we are not thinking about the decision. We are set free to focus on God.
Two years ago I ‘woke up’ to the realisation that I was less close to God than I had been. My prayer-life was inconsistent, and I was moving into shallower spiritual waters. Not what I wanted. Not what was healthy.
I made a decision that changed everything.
Penny and the Park
My wife Penny leaves for work at 6.45 in the morning four days a week. On those days she drives past a park. The entrance to the park is a 30-45 minute walk to my house, depending on the route taken.
For the last two years, I have donned my walking boots, jumped in the car with Penny, and jumped out again when she pulls over in the layby beside Cassiobury Park.
I walk through the park come rain, shine, snow or fog. Once in the park, I am in a place where I pray. I know why I am there. I am not deciding where to pray and when. That part is done and dusted. Now, all I have to do is decide to start praying.
Consistency and Intimacy
Some may object that this method takes away the spontaneity of prayer. My experience is the opposite. Consistency maketh intimacy. The more often I talk to God the closer I feel.
Imagine I spoke to my wife one day a week. Not good. We don’t talk the same amount every day, but we speak every day unless illness or travel gets in the way. Even then…..
Jesus and Daniel
Jesus modelled consistency in his prayer life:
“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5.16
We don’t know what time he prayed (although Mark 1.35 is recorded for a reason). And we don’t know how often he went back to the same ‘lonely’ places (although see Luke 22.39).
I imagine it like this. Jesus is travelling, preaching and teaching. He knows he needs to pray. He sees a ‘lonely’ place and says, “Excellent, that’s my prayer spot for today.”
Daniel sets a similar example:
“Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” (Daniel 6:10 NIV11)
We Christians sometimes treat ourselves as if we don’t need ‘normal’ disciplines to grow. I have news. We benefit from disciplne. Treat yourself like a normal human and add some consistency to your prayer-life.
Make it your own. Don’t do what others do just because it works for them. Remember that the point is to spend time with God, not to maintain consistency. Consistency is the tool. Growth is the goal. Intimacy is the vision.
What do you do? What suggestions do you have? What questions come to your mind about the connection between consistency and intimacy?
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best, when we learn in community.
I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.
God bless, Malcolm