By Jonathan Graf
In Part 1 of Find Your Prayer Style, we learned that we all have a different prayer style. But what is our prayer style based upon, and how do we discover what ours is so we can develop as a powerful prayer warrior?
PRAYER AND SPIRITUAL GIFTS
We start by finding our spiritual gift. When we accept Christ as our Savior and the Holy Spirit indwells us, He gives each of us a special gift to serve the church (see Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12). Recognizing our spiritual gift is important because many spiritual gifts affect the way we pray.
But how does this relationship between spiritual gifts and prayer styles work? Prayer leader Alice Smith is a pioneer in the relationship between spiritual gifts and prayer styles. She and her husband, Eddie, have spent years researching and studying intercessors and prayer styles.
Smith lists nine different kinds of intercessors in her analysis:
• Flexible Intercessors. These intercessors do not adhere to any method or style. They are pliable in God’s hand, discern the Spirit’s direction, and can adapt to any style.
• Crisis Intercessors. These intercessors get into praying for others who are experiencing crisis. They sense the urgency and can easily go to prayer.
• Intercessors for the Nations. These intercessors find it easy to pray for the lost around the world.
• Mercy-Motivated Intercessors. Because of their merciful hearts, these intercessors find great satisfaction in praying for any person or situation needing divine mercy.
• Prayer-List Intercessors. These intercessors are perseverers. When God burdens them to pray for someone or something, it goes on their prayer list and is not forgotten.
• Prophetic Intercessors. These intercessors hear from God regularly. They often pray with great vision when lifting up situations.
• Special Assignment Intercessors. These people feel called or “assigned” to lift up specific religious, political, or social leaders regularly in prayer. God may give them a great burden to regularly pray for the President, for example.
• Warfare Intercessors. These intercessors seem to be able to scan the heavenlies for signs of trouble. When God reveals enemy targets or strongholds, these people can do battle in prayer.
• Administrative Intercessors. These intercessors may have differing prayer styles. They are great organizers and encouragers to see that things are prayed for.1
Perhaps you see yourself in one of these descriptions; perhaps you are just trying to understand where you might fit. Well, if you know your spiritual gift, here’s where you might fit:
Do you have a gift of mercy? You might pray with a crisis or mercy-motivated style. Do you have the gift of faith? Perhaps you fit best in the warfare, prophetic, nations, or crisis categories. Pastoral gifts? Perhaps you pray best as a special assignment or crisis, mercy-motivated intercessor. Do you have the gift of administration? Then administrative or prayer-list might be your primary style. Gift of evangelism? Interceding for the nations might be your thing.
While none of these are cut and dried, a knowledge of where you might primarily fit can help you understand why you are most comfortable praying as you do.
PRAYER AND PERSONALITIES
The next step in discovering your prayer style is to see where your personality fits in. Optimists pray differently from pessimists. Intuitive people pray differently from concrete thinkers. Active people usually pray differently from less active ones. And all of this is okay. God has designed us to be that way.
Ask yourself these questions: (1) What personality traits shape me as a pray-er? (2) How can I use these traits to become a better pray-er?
Are you an active person who has trouble sitting down for fifteen minutes to pray? While praying for a length of time is always a good goal to shoot for, don’t punish yourself if you can’t—and don’t force yourself into that box just to be disciplined if you don’t get enjoyment from it. Try praying a number of shorter times throughout the day. Discipline yourself to pray, but don’t feel you have to do fifteen minutes first thing in the morning. Perhaps look for different places to pray. If you exercise by walking or being on a piece of exercise equipment, pray while doing that.
If I were growing up nowadays, I would probably have been diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Disorder. I am easily distracted. As I attempted to pray for longer periods, I would constantly feel guilty because my mind got off track. I tried finding a place to pray where there would be no interruptions. But to no avail. Then I realized I can still be an effective prayer warrior without forcing it to happened at 6:30 in the morning. Rather than force myself into a style I couldn’t sustain or enjoy, I looked for ways to improve my prayer life outside that box.
Because I was easily distracted, I thought, Where’s a place I can pray where I can get distracted without feeling guilt over it, and still get back on task? Driving. I have a thirty-minute commute to
work each day. I spend a lot of that time praying. Yes, my mind has to wander to the road. But I can immediately get back on task without chiding myself.
If you find a solution that fits your personality, develop it.
Because you desire to grow in prayer, the most important point I can make is, don’t
force yourself into someone else’s prayer modes—or force them into yours.
Understanding prayer styles and personalities is particularly important when you are praying in a group. If you are a short prayer person, don’t be intimidated by people who pray longer prayers. Fight against being annoyed by an emotional pray-er if you aren’t one. Be yourself, and respect how others pray.
As you develop your style, try to discover the connection between your prayer style and your spiritual gift. If you find you have a gift of mercy, make sure you are feeding your prayer life with mercy-related intercession. If you have a gift of evangelism, make sure your prayers are loaded with requests for lost people you know. If you have a gift of administration, offer your services to your church to help oversee prayer ministries.
Start developing your individual style.
1. Alice Smith, “Praying Together: Annoying or Anointed,” Pray! 6, May/June 1998, p. 33. Article adapted from Beyond the Veil: Entering into Intimacy with God through Prayer by Alice Smith (Regal, 1998).
Jonathan Graf is the president of the Church Prayer Leaders Network and the author of 5 books on prayer, including The Power of Personal Prayer, from which this article is adapted.
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