PRAYER BOOT CAMP DEVOTIONAL
ON YOUR OWN
If you have never planned to pray on your own, let today be the first. Consider setting an alarm to remind you to pray.
How long does it need to be? This will depend on how much you’ve been praying in the past. If you’ve never planned prayer, start with 30 seconds. If you already pray for 5 minutes at a time, try to increase it to 10 minutes or improve the consistency of your prayer, carving out daily prayer time.
Pick one or two important topics that relate to your own life. Why? We are more likely to keep praying if prayer feels less of a burden and more like a relationship. God wants you to share your life with Him. For example, pray that God will increase your desire to read His Word or spend time meditating on the amazing blessings He has brought into your life.
First, we will pray together. Then, pray on your own as you read God’s Word.
Lord, We desire to be close to You. We choose to discipline our bodies, training them to follow You. When we look in the mirror, help us see strength like David, Elijah, and Paul. We give You our weaknesses. We give You our strengths. And we ask that You make us stronger. Make us prayer warriors.
1 Corinthians 9:27
PRAY OUT LOUD ON YOUR OWN
Do you ever pray out loud while talking to God on your own? If not, try it today. Consider it practice. If you would like to pray out loud with others, praying aloud on your own is a great opportunity to build comfort.
Sometimes we lack confidence, worrying that our prayers are inadequate. Typically, when we have these thoughts, it’s when we are around others who seem to pray more eloquent prayers. But in Luke 18, Jesus explains how the sinful tax collector’s prayer is more acceptable than the religious Pharisee’s prayer. Why? Because the sinful person was humble, honest, and focused on communicating with God rather than elevating himself.
When you begin to feel nervous, remind yourself that the goal of prayer is to communicate with God, not to impress others.
But why pray out loud?
Hearing your own prayer does a couple of things.
1) It helps keep your attention focused on prayer, preventing your mind from wandering.
2) There’s something about hearing your own prayers that instills a bit more faith into your heart.
God, Strengthen our ability to pray for others. As we pray out loud, increase our faith and confidence in You.
1 John 5:14
PRAY SCRIPTURE OUT LOUD
Now that you’ve begun praying out loud, begin incorporating Scripture into your regular prayer time. If you’ve hidden God’s Word in your heart (Psalm 119:11), it will be easier to recall verses while you’re walking around your home, school, or workplace.
Recently, while traveling across a rainy university campus, I (Ashley) felt a bit overwhelmed by life. I began to pray, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). My confidence began to shift. I had the opportunity to stay overwhelmed by the rain and my circumstances, or I could turn my attention to the One who controls the rain. God didn’t suddenly stop the rain. But He encouraged my heart through His Word.
God, Help us hide Your Word in our hearts. As we go about our days, bring the right verses to our hearts to encourage us and remind us that You are with us. Give us thankful hearts, filling us with peace and a desire for unity in our relationships.
ASK GOD FOR BOLDNESS
As you continue with regular prayer time, ask God for boldness. Then, notice that God will provide opportunities for you to engage with neighbors, pray with friends, or invite someone to dinner.
Some of you introverts may be rolling your eyes about now! But, God will use your unique personality to glorify His Name. We (Chuck and Ashley) are extroverts who have been praying with others and engaging in other “bold” activities for years. Yet, it is still difficult for us.
Every boot camp exercise session we attended required endurance. And that’s ok. We humans enjoy challenges. Although it should get easier, being bold will always bring about some resistance because the enemy doesn’t want us to be brave. When the next opportunity to be bold appears, and defeating thoughts approach, take them captive and make them obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Invite God’s Holy Spirit to supernaturally fill you with boldness as He did for many in the book of Acts.
Lord, There have been times we have been too busy, too fearful, or have overlooked opportunities to reach out to people around us. “Give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word” (Acts 4:29).
2 Timothy 1:7
INCORPORATE PRAYER INTO YOUR DAILY ROUTINE
Have you heard of the psychological term “association”? Scientific studies have shown that we that we can build associations between activities, such as brushing our teeth and prayer. As we remind ourselves of the association we are trying to build, we develop neural connections that make it easier to continue these behaviors. We can train our bodies and our minds to behave and think in new ways. Science has confirmed what Scripture says; we can renew our minds (Romans 12:2).
Consider a few tasks you do daily. For example, when you brush your teeth, pray. If you jog, spend some time talking with God while you exercise. While giving a baby a bath, walking a flight of stairs, or commuting, you can pray. Begin a habit of praying during one of your daily routines. It’s easiest if you start with one or two places in your day where your mind is relatively free to focus. Consider putting notes around these places to help you form an association between the daily activity and prayer.
Here’s another option to consider. If you listen to music, create a play list with songs that direct your attention to God. Commit to playing at least one song each day.
Chuck regularly plays worship music in the morning and evening while we are at home. In fact, I (Ashley) am enjoying the benefits of a calm mind as I share these words because Chuck turned on music this morning. Godly music has a way of redirecting our hearts toward The Father and prompting prayer as we listen.
God, Help us become more aware of places in our day where we can direct our attention to You. Lead us as we seek to grow in our relationship with You.
1 Thessalonians 5:17
WRITE YOUR PRAYERS
What would happen if we did not document important information? Imagine the stories in history that would be lost or distorted.
What type of information gets penned? Typically, material that is considered very important such as contracts, stories, or certificates are documented. Many of us use social media to document important events we want to remember each year.
Since prayer, community with our Creator, is more important than nearly everything else in life, let us commit to writing down our prayers.
I’ll wait while you grab a notebook.
Remember, this is prayer boot camp, not prayer “I’ll do it later” camp.
Write your thoughts and prayers to God. You can list topics, needs, and people you would like to remember to lift up in prayer. If you write down your requests, you will be able to more clearly see where He has answered your prayers.
We (Chuck and Ashley) have written our prayers in different ways. Sometimes we have used small notebooks to make lists. Other times, we have journaled. Over the years, I (Ashley) have made several prayer boards where I use craft supplies to create art that will remind me to pray for people, organizations, and topics.
Lastly, when we meet new people, we sometimes list their names in the notes section of our devices and pray for them as we try to connect on future occasions.
Remember, you don’t have to be just like us. Choose what works for you. Many of you will have more creative ideas than we do.
God, Help us form new habits. Change is tough. We ask for supernatural strength to create space for You in our lives.
USE A TOOL TO HELP PRAY BALANCED PRAYERS
Take a moment to consider the contents of your previous 2-3 prayer moments. Did you ask God for something? Did you pray for someone else? Did you honor God for His amazing attributes? Were you thankful?
Using a tool such as an acronym or prayer worksheet can help you be more balanced in prayer.
The acronym ACTS was first documented in writing back in the 1800’s to guide prayer time.
ACTS stands for:
How many minutes would you like to pray today? Divide that number by four and spend time on each topic. For example, if you want to pray for 8 minutes, spend 2 minutes on each topic.
Spend time adoring God; take time to contemplate His amazing qualities. He is your Creator, Father, and Friend. He holds time and is High above all things, yet He deeply cares for you.
As you move to confession, reflect upon your life and commit to turning away from sin. During this time, you may also feel compelled to make amends with those you have hurt as a result of your behavior.
Giving thanks can be so much fun. We (Chuck and Ashley) enjoy helping our toddler pray. We begin by saying, “Thank You God for ___.” He loves to look around the room and fill-in-the-blanks. Thank You God for… “mommy,” he exclaims. Thank You God for… “blanket,” he whispers as he looks around and smiles.
As our hearts are filled with gratitude, jealousy dissipates. Our mind can only actively process one thought at a time. When we choose thankfulness, we create neural pathways that make it easier to be thankful in the future.
What is supplication? Simply put, it is making requests to God. After taking time to glorify Him, repent, and thank Him, spend some time asking God to meet your needs and the requests of people around you.
God, Our Creator and Friend, please forgive us of our wrong attitudes and behaviors. Thank You for mercy. Lead us toward the path of life.
1 Peter 5:7
PRAY SCRIPTURE OVER SOMEONE VIA TEXT OR CARD
Moving from praying alone to praying with others:
How are you doing? Are you sore from training? Don’t be too hard on yourself if you
find it difficult. We are sharing these thoughts from a place of praying every day for decades. And we still struggle.
But this is prayer bootcamp. You chose to do something hard. You have grit, and you can do it.
Today’s challenge moves us from praying alone to praying with others. Are you ready for it?
Pray scripture over someone via text or card:
This can be super simple. Here’s a sample you can follow.
I have been thinking of you. I’m praying for God to give you peace.
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3 NIV
How are we kept in peace? By keeping our mind… steadfast…
What does that mean? Merriam-Webster defines steadfast as being “firm in belief.” We can be firm in our belief that God will take care of us no matter what we go through. As we are determined to believe that God brings peace, we will increase in our confidence that He is enough. And we can help others find God and discover peace.
Go ahead and take a minute to send a text or write a note to someone. But don’t get distracted. Get back here and finish the plan for the day or consider writing a sticky note or setting a reminder for later.
God, Continue to increase our boldness as we choose to deepen our commitment to prayer. Put someone on our hearts who needs to be encouraged today.
PRAY FOR A MEAL WITH OTHERS OUT LOUD
This is prayer bootcamp, so hopefully along the journey, you’ve already taken time to pray over a meal with someone. But if not, here’s your chance to push yourself. If you typically eat alone, you can earn some bonus points. Consider asking someone to eat with you. Then, volunteer to pray.
I’ve also witnessed people eating alone or with others who take a moment to bow their head and pray. The purpose of prayer is to connect with God, not to impress others or avoid embarrassment. I (Ashley) personally have found it easier and less embarrassing to invite people to pray by asking, “Can I pray over our meal?”
Just push yourself. You can do hard things!
We can be intentional with our thankfulness. Taking time before meals to thank God teaches our mind to direct attention to God with our daily routines. Let’s bring God into everything we do.
God, Thank You for providing food each day. We want to regularly express our gratitude, even when we are around others. Use moments when we are with others to remind them of Your provision, Your greatness, and Your love.
PRAY SCRIPTURE OUT LOUD WITH SOMEONE YOU LOVE
Have you ever prayed together with someone close to you?
Ask someone if they would be willing to pray. If you already pray on occasion, consider suggesting a regular time to pray for a few weeks. Remember, this is prayer bootcamp. You can tailor this exercise to meet your individual needs and abilities. Just remember, we are all pushing ourselves.
If this is new to you, pray the Lord’s prayer together. It provides a great pattern to follow and is a wonderful first step to building community with God.
If we want to learn to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), it is important to bring God into everything we do. As we grow in our ability to pray with others, we increase spiritual intimacy with them. We can grow more comfortable praying with our colleagues, friends, and family.
God, We invite You to remind us to pray with our loved ones. Increase our ability to see opportunities to pray. When we are upset, we can pray. When we are happy, we can come to You. You are our strength.
PRAY WITH SOMEONE WHO IS HAVING A HARD TIME
Do You Feel Stronger?
Take a moment and reflect upon your growth in the past week or so. Have you followed through with each of the challenges? If you’re unsure, take time to go back to the past few days and review the activities. Are you praying more on your own? Aloud? With others? Over a meal? You can do this! Even if you find that some activities do not come naturally, remember that you will get better as you train.
If you feel nervous to pray around others, remember this story. I (Chuck) committed to following Jesus at age 19 and went from partying to following God with everything inside of me. I knew I wanted to minister to others, so when I was asked to pray at church, I said yes. However, I felt quite uneasy and accidentally prayed, “Thank You Lord for this food…”
It was not mealtime, and I felt humiliated. But people were gracious. They appreciated my passion.
Being nervous is part of the process. At some point most of us choose to do activities that increase our heart rate (i.e. asking someone one on a date, riding a bike, etc.). We push through because it is worth it. Prayer is important. God is important.
Pray with someone who is having a hard time:
People will be gracious. They will remember that you prayed for them. They probably will not remember the words you prayed unless they’re hurtful. Don’t try to say too many words, especially eloquent words. If you do, you're trying to impress them. They don't need impressed. They need love. If you’re praying when someone is grieving, try to put yourself in their shoes. Don’t try to offer divine guidance or reassurance that their loved one is in a better place. Ask God to draw near to them (James 4:8). Thank Him that He’s near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34: 18).
God, Open our eyes so we can see the people who are hurting around us. Give us the courage, the words, and the Scripture to share with them. Fill us so we have the stamina to pour into others.
MAKE A VIDEO OF YOURSELF PRAYING FOR SOMEONE YOU LOVE
Ok. You signed up for boot camp. If you haven’t been challenged yet, today is the day for you.
Yep. That’s the challenge. It may be uncomfortable. But for today, you can simply record the video. You don’t even have to send it.
Why record a video?
It’s a simple way of showing someone you are thinking of them and are willing to be vulnerable. Have you ever recorded an ordinary video of yourself?
Let today be the first of many days where you record a prayer and send it to someone you love. We haven’t ever received a video of someone praying for us, but we’re pretty sure we may get watery eyes when it happens.
If it’s too difficult for you, modify. Maybe a voice memo would be an option you could choose.
God, Thank You for Your amazing power. We want You to be Lord of our technology use. Give us courage to think of others above ourselves (Philippians 2:3), thinking of how we can be vulnerable and care for them. Who should we pray for? Give us courage to send them a video of us praying for them.
SEND THE RECORDED VIDEO
Did you record a video? If you haven’t already sent it, do it now.
If you’re doubting yourself, direct your attention toward God. Perhaps if you seek Him, He will grant you courage through His Spirit (Acts 4:29).
God will use you.
Recently, we sent out some texts, videos, and emails to encourage and pray for others. In one situation, we received a response saying, “I appreciate your words of comfort… I needed to read that Scripture, because it’s been very difficult. Thank you for your prayers.” In moments like these, we thank God for using us. We are needed.
Look around our world. The average person is lonely, depressed, overweight, and in debt. Let’s direct our attention to the One who Saves. He is our hope; let’s take courage and do hard things.
God, We ask for courage to finish the hard things we begin. Help us pray for opportunities and then follow through with them. We can pray for others. Use us today.
SET UP ACCOUNT-ABILITY
You’ve been working to establish some new habits. Now it’s time to get some accountability to ensure that you keep praying once you finish this reading plan.
If you’re not part of a church community, find one today. There are online and brick and mortar churches across the world; pastors and volunteers love to see others growing in their faith. Reach out and learn about opportunities to build relationships and find accountability.
If you want to create your own community, consider inviting 1-2 friends to pray.
But, be aware of some prayer group tendencies.
Have you ever been in a group where people take turns asking others to pray for their distant family members? “Great Aunt Karen isn’t doing well”…These type of prayer moments can feel quite burdensome and difficult to remember later. Although it would be inappropriate to do so, we’ve often wanted to say, “We don’t know Aunt Karen, so it will probably be difficult for us to remember to pray for her. But we know you and care for you. How can we pray for you?”
But why do we find it easier to request prayer for others? The reasons may vary, but here are a few we’ve seen.
1) It is less vulnerable to share others’ weakness than to share our own.
2) It makes us feel more spiritual to care for others.
3) We may feel it is selfish to ask prayer for ourselves.
But remember, we are not comparing our prayers to others’ prayers. We are spending time with our Creator. He already knows our needs, and He knows we spend a lot of time thinking about our own worries.
If you begin a prayer group, ask, “How can I pray for you personally?” Spend several minutes discussing life. Share how they can pray for you as well; then take turns praying for one another. Turning on worship music will help keep your mind focused on God. Don’t feel bad if your first few sessions are 20 minutes long with 18 minutes of conversing and 2 minutes of prayer. This is boot camp. Start where you are. It is usually easier to talk than pray. Next time, determine to pray a little more than you did last time.
God values relationship with us and with other believers. In Acts 2:42, the early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
Two of the four items mentioned were friendship-based: fellowship (spending time together) and breaking bread (sharing meals). It’s in these contexts that we develop spiritual intimacy that allows us to deepen our confidence in prayer, comparing our prayers less to those around us and leaning in to our relationship with Jesus. That relationship simply becomes important enough to include in our other relationships as well.
God, Help us establish accountability, developing spiritual intimacy with other believers as appropriate. We are determined to be people of prayer. We need You.
LET'S REVIEW YOUR PROGRESS
Hopefully, you’re praying more on your own, adding prayer to some daily habits, and are regularly looking for opportunities to pray with others. If you’ve followed each of these steps, you are moving toward confidence in your prayer life. But guess what? It’s still tough. After years of praying out loud, we still get nervous. We still cower and sometimes choose to remain silent. Although we feel scared, it is ok. Let’s remember that when we feel prompted, we are getting the chance to live like Jesus.
You are just about finished with prayer boot camp. Congratulations! Whether you completed all of the challenges or created a few modifications along the way, we are proud of your accomplishment.
Now, invite someone to go through prayer boot camp with you. Send this plan to them, and do it together. Prayer will change your life. Praying with others…changes their lives, too.
While on earth, Jesus prayed. In Hebrews 5, it is stated that Jesus’ prayers were answered not because of His perfection but because of His “reverent submission.” Let’s humbly give everything we have to God.
God, We devote ourselves to prayer. We desire to have a reverent and submissive position before You. We are at Your feet, inviting You to lead us. As You continue to provide strength, we will do our best to follow Your direction. Thank You that Your strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
2 Corinthians 12:9