Welcome to our 21 Days of Prayer Devotional! Below you’ll find daily writings from members of our staff and leaders at Access. If you have young children, you can find the Access Kids 21 Days of Prayer Guide on our parent resource page. We’re excited to see what God will do in these next three weeks and in the year ahead.
a note from pastor jason
Hi, Access fam! Since the beginning of our church in 2007, we have set our hearts to be people of prayer. Our rally cry this year is “Pray First.” In every situation, whether good or bad, we try to pray before we act. Many times people act first and then want God to bail them out of that situation, but prayer should be our first response, not our last resort.
Understanding the necessity of prayer is not enough. For it to become a part of our lives, it needs to become something we look forward to doing. I’m convinced most people don’t enjoy prayer because they have never been taught how to pray. That’s where this simple prayer devotional can help. Our goal is to make prayer more personal. This devotional is designed to bring joy into your time with God.
When you discover the beauty of daily conversation with Him, you’ll experience the presence of God that will change your life.
Once you learn how to pray, prayer can become a part of everyday life. And then…
Before the day begins — Before you go to bed — Before you go to work or school — Before you send that text — Before you eat, drive, or travel — When bad things happen — Before bad things happen — In every situation — PRAY FIRST!
Prayer changes everything!
- Teach Us to Pray
- by Pastor Jason Burns
One of the most refreshing moments to me in the whole Bible is found in Luke 11:1.
“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray…”
Why is this encouraging? Even the disciples who were closest to Jesus needed help when it came to prayer.
Have you ever had this experience? You were inspired in a moment to spend more intentional time with God, but when it came time to do it, you prayed everything you knew to pray in 39 seconds and then didn’t know what else to do.
Or maybe you find yourself frustrated because you create the space and time for prayer, but you keep getting distracted. I heard one pastor once say that prayer often felt like a jungle full of banana trees and every time you’d focus on one, a monkey would swing by and distract you.
To make it worse, we all compare ourselves to our perception of others. I have friends who like to talk about how they pray with their spouse, holding hands, for at least an hour every day. I never seem to have time for that.
Here’s an entirely new way to think about prayer. Instead of seeing distractions as distractions, view them as opportunities to share with God what is actually in your mind and on your heart. If it’s big enough for you to think or worry about, it’s certainly meaningful enough to talk to God about.
We tend to think about or process our thoughts over and over again. Experts call this ruminating. Ruminating is the process a cow uses when it chews grass, swallows, regurgitates, and then chews it some more, which starts the process over again. When a cow ruminates its food, is it getting better or worse? It’s worse – way, way worse. What do you think happens to your thoughts when you ruminate on them? The truth is, you don’t have the proper perspective on your challenges, struggles, and thoughts to think your way into a better life.
So what happens? You ruminate and your problems get bigger, scarier, and much worse than when you started. What happens when you take your problems to God? You get perspective. Your problems seem much smaller in comparison.
Let’s go back to Jesus. It says that Jesus was praying in a “certain place.” It means He had created an intentional space to be with God.
Here’s my challenge to you. Over these next 21 days, let’s create a habit of intentionality. The best advice I ever heard on this was to pick your best, sharpest time of the day. I’m a morning person, and often my time with God happens hours before my kids wake up. You might find that you are most alert at night. Either way, find a time and then designate a place for God.
When we do this, we’ll begin to develop the habits of prayer that God desires.
- Prayer for Healing
- by Pastor Lis Burns
“’He Himself bore our sins’ in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by His wounds you have been healed’.” – 1 Peter 2:24 (NIV)
When I was a little girl, tights were always worn to church with dresses. That sounds adorable, right? When you’re a hyper and wild child like I was, though, wearing tights was basically an invitation to ripping those same tights which led my poor mom to purchase countless pairs of soon-to-be destroyed tights.
Those ripped tights (and the scraped knees that accompanied them), however, provide one of the earliest memories of prayer that I have. Prayer for healing. Prayer for the hurt knees to stop hurting.
As a child, I was taught that Jesus could heal me and I believed that simply and implicitly. Scraped knees? Nothing a prayer can’t fix!
Fast forward to a more cynical version of that same girl who has now lived long enough to see true tragedy and pain. The prayers for healing still come but not as organically and blindly as the first iterations.
As adults, we may pray for healing as often as we used to, but is our faith and belief in that healing as pure as it once was?
As Christians, we believe the Bible to be the Word of God. If then, Scripture states that Jesus is a healer (Matthew 9:35) and that Jesus never changes (Hebrews 13:8), it would follow that Jesus still heals. Jesus isn’t the one who has changed from the times of my simple skinned knee prayers to now. I’m the one who changed.
I grew up and saw pain and wondered if healing could really happen or if my prayers were just words I said because it was the right thing to do.
Today I’m here to tell you that Jesus still heals.
Have I seen people that I prayed healing for pass away? Yes. Does that mean I stop praying? No. I pray for every sick person I encounter with full faith believing that God can heal them. I end every prayer, however, as Jesus did in the garden when He wanted God to take the cup of death on the cross from Him: “…yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
There is no perfect formula God is waiting for you to pray before he answers your prayer for healing. We don’t earn His good graces, they are gifts He has freely given. Instead, we pray and make our requests known to God while also trusting that He is Sovereign. In other words, He is God, He can heal, He does heal, but also, He is God so the way He chooses to heal may not be something my finite mind can understand.
Whatever you are believing for today, be encouraged! More than anything this world can offer, you have direct access to the God of the universe who created the very body that needs healing now! Who better to heal than the one who knows every single cell of our genetic makeup and the number of hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:30)? Jesus still heals! Isn’t that great news?
Lord, today I am believing for healing. I know You heal and am asking for you to do miracles. Thank You that I can come to You and ask for anything knowing all things are possible for You! As always, though, Lord, I ask for Your will to be done. Thank You for dying on the cross so that my healing is possible today. You are able and we trust You! Amen.
- Order Matters
- by Pastor Mike Burns
I’m really bad at baking! At one point I even thought about challenging myself to start a blog or vlog to get myself to be a better baker. For my family’s sake, I never started that project! Thank God my wife is a rockstar baker.
There is a huge disconnect in my brain with baking. I’ll read the directions, put the cookbook down, and immediately forget what I’d just read. Then I’ll skip a line (or two or three), put the wet ingredients in before the dry ingredients and the whole situation is a huge mess. The bread or cookies never come out right and it’s a frustration. Apparently, the order in which you put the ingredients matters.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because prayer is the same–order matters. In Matthew 6, Jesus gives us a simple step-by-step “recipe” on how to pray.
A quick caveat: if you don’t follow this order it doesn’t mean God isn’t listening or doesn’t care. He’s not going to nitpick every detail, He’s delighted to hear from you.
Let’s run through it together:
Before we even get to prayer Jesus gives us the right physical and mental place to be in. He tells us that the point of prayer isn’t a show but a time for you to get alone with God.
So, instead of yelling your prayers out loud in the grocery store, any place where you can get a quiet moment is the best place to pray. And because it’s not a show, you don’t have to make it a long speech. Talk to God from where you are and where your heart is. It’s comforting to know God doesn’t need a show, He wants to talk to YOU!
Step 1: Connect with God.
In verse nine, we begin the “recipe” Jesus starts with, “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” There are two things to note here:
1: We’re praying to God the Father. If prayer was a letter, it would always be addressed to “God, the Father.”
2: Prayer starts with worship. Jesus says “hallowed” or “holy” is Your name! It is a simple acknowledgment of our reverence and love for God.
Step 2: God’s Will First.
“…Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s will is always a priority to anything we want or need. It’s easy to start a prayer by immediately asking for our wants and needs. Instead, ask for what God wants in the world.
Step 3: Depend on God for Everything.
“Give us today our daily bread.” God wants to hear about and meet your needs. Not just physical needs but anywhere in your life you have needs; family, mental, social, spiritual…God wants to hear them all. There is no problem too big for God. Remember that when you pray, pray with boldness!
Step 4: Forgive and Be Forgiven.
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” We all mess up and need forgiveness. It’s part of being human. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” We can ask God for forgiveness and He will forgive us. It’s important that we follow God’s lead and forgive others.
Step 5: Ask for God’s Direction.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” The Bible makes it very clear that we have an enemy who is trying to steal from us, kill us, and destroy us (John 10:10). We need to follow God’s direction in every step of our lives.
Keep these steps in mind the next time you pray. You don’t have to use the same words that Jesus used, but use what He said as a framework when you pray. I love that Jesus gave us a practical recipe for how to pray!
Follow the recipe today and pray how Jesus told us to pray!
- Praying to See God in the Ordinary
- by Pastor Ida Mundell
“May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.” – Psalm 104: 34 (NIV)
Several times per week my son Auggie and I walk to the local library. On our way, we pass a long stretch of beautiful rose bushes and without fail, he stops to smell the roses. He moves slowly and takes in each scent, inviting me to do the same, and we discuss which color rose offers the sweetest smell. (If you’re wondering, the white roses are our current fave.)
It doesn’t matter that we pass these roses multiple times per week. Auggie lives life with childlike wonder and invites me to do the same.
When was the last time you were in awe? When did you last move slowly yet purposefully enough to “stop and smell the roses?”
I often wonder how our frantic pace of life is robbing us of the ability to see God rightly in the ordinary-holy moments of our days. We rush and we worry and our mind feels frantic as we try to pack one week’s worth of doing in just one day. We live as if our rushing around gives us more time, but I fear it is our rushing that is robbing us of our ability to see God rightly.
Psalm 104 is one of my favorite Psalms because the author writes from a place of awe and wonder over the majesty of God as presented in the created world. Sunlight and clouds, the wind and the water, mountains and valleys, food cultivated from the earth and bread…all of these things and more are mentioned in this Psalm as a reflection of God’s goodness, beauty, and compassion toward us.
We often beg God to show up in the scraps of time we give Him, yet this Psalm reminds us that He is here, if we will only slow to see and experience Him in the “ordinary” ways in which He shows himself to us.
Like my seven-year-old stopping to smell the roses, this Psalm invites us to stop and look around and see how God is already here and then rejoice. We are promised His presence, but will our pace allow us to partake in it? May our thoughts of Him make us glad as we see and experience Him every day.
Dear God, help me to see you rightly in all of the ordinary moments of my day. Please help me to slow down to experience the goodness of your presence. Let me be glad in You. Amen.
- Ask the Father to Draw Them
- by Pastor Shawn Mahannah
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.” – John 6:44 (NIV)
One of the greatest benefits for those with a personal relationship with Jesus is eternal life and security. We understand that some have not yet experienced the transformative power of God’s love.
If you are like me, we long for our loved ones, friends, neighbors, and even strangers to encounter the life-giving truth of the Gospel. It is in these moments when prayer should be our priority. We, believers, have the responsibility and opportunity to pray for the lost, knowing that it is God who calls men and women to Himself.
John 6:44 reminds us that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws them. The truth of this verse is that salvation is not dependent upon human effort, and no person is too far from His love. God draws people to himself. He is the one who opens the eyes and hearts of the lost! We need to be faithful in praying that the Father would draw those He’s placed on our hearts to Jesus.
Understanding this truth should give us hope today. We have an opportunity to partner with God in His redemptive work. Through our prayers, we have the ability to intercede for those who have yet to experience the saving grace of Jesus. We can pray that God would move, work, soften hearts, and heal past hurts that can cause spiritual blindness.
My challenge today is not to give up on interceding for those who need Jesus. We might not always see immediate results, but we can rest assured that God is at work, even in ways beyond our understanding. Our role is to persistently and faithfully intercede, knowing that God’s plan is for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
When we pray for the lost, we must remember that God’s timing and methods are perfect. We may not always see immediate results or witness the transformation we long for. However, we can trust that God is at work, even in ways beyond our comprehension. Our role is to persistently and faithfully intercede, knowing that God’s plan is for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
Today, let us remember that God loves the people we are praying for more than we love them! Our responsibility and opportunity is to continue to pray with compassion, persistence, and unwavering faith and know that it is God who calls men and women to Himself.
Father, I pray for the people around me (list specific names) that you would supernaturally draw them unto You. I pray that you will send the Holy Spirit to them. I pray hearts would be softened, past hurts would be forgiven, and you would give them a desire to surrender to Jesus! Open their eyes to see your loving grace and their ears to hear your voice. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.
- Pray the Worry Away
- by Pastor Barry Baugh
It’s been said if you are going to pray, then don’t worry, but if you are going to worry don’t pray. There are many things in our lives that we start to worry about. Maybe you are worried about finances, your marriage, your kids. Maybe you are worried about school. Some of us could be worried about not knowing what’s next for our future.
We all tend to worry about something happening in our lives. My question for you is, do you pray before you worry? In the midst of worry, do you run to God or to others?
Paul in the book of Philippians gives us words of encouragement on how to handle our worries. In Philippians 4:6 it says: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”
Think about this, Paul is writing not to worry while he is in prison. Paul has every reason to worry but is saying to us don’t worry about anything. Instead of worrying about everything, have we prayed about any of our worries?
I want to challenge us today in bringing our worries to God. We can run to God and bring every worry to Him! He can handle your worries!
When we pray, God will bring comfort and peace and we can rest knowing God is in control. We can’t forget the last part of this verse. We cannot forget to give thanks in every situation, in every worry.
Paul is saying give thanks for all God has done. He is writing this from prison. This is a reminder for us today to remember how God has been faithful in our lives. If God has been faithful then, He will be faithful now. If we prayed more than we worried, we wouldn’t be worried about a lot of things.
God, I come with a grateful heart, thanking you for your love and faithfulness. I cast my worries and anxieties to you, knowing that you are in control of every situation. I lift up my prayers and worries, trusting in your wisdom and grace. Help me to be content in all circumstances, finding peace in the midst of life’s challenges. Thank you for your promise to guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
- Prayer for Courage and Open Doors
- by Tara Jessup
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
Does it feel like a season of change for anyone? Not just for yourself, but for everyone you know? I feel like more than ever people are looking to switch something up in their lives, and not just because it’s the beginning of a new year, but because a lot of people are looking for a new chapter in their lives.
A few years ago, I had the biggest season of change in my entire life! It rocked my entire foundation. In the fall of 2019 Access got its first building, I got connected to my birth mother and family for the first time (I was adopted at 7 weeks old) and after being single for 30+ years, I was finally engaged to my sweet husband-to-be, Charlie.
It was both an exciting time and a daunting time. You may be asking yourself, why did these good things rock my entire foundation? Well, change is change. Whether good or bad, it forces us to do something new that we may not be ready for.
You may be looking at a new season and it can be expected or unexpected, but it’s still change and there’s a lot of unknown that comes with change. Am I choosing the right path? How is this going to change things for me and my family? Will I really be able to do this? Why are there still so many unanswered questions?
In Joshua chapter 1, the Israelites are about to finally go into the promised land after wandering the wilderness for 40 years. The thing that they’ve been hoping for holds a lot of unknowns. I mean, 40 years in the wilderness is a long time, maybe it’s just easier to stay there? How many times do we say that to ourselves, wouldn’t it just be easier to stay put?
In Joshua 1, as they’re getting ready the same phrase is used multiple times in the chapter: “Be strong and courageous.” We see a similar phrase often used in the New Testament when Jesus is encouraging people He’s talking to and says, “Take heart!” These phrases are great for us to plant in our brains as we look at our life before us and see that a change is coming.
Maybe you know what you need to do. You know that there’s a relationship you need to end, or a conversation that you need to have. Maybe you’re the opposite and you know you need to step out in faith but you’re not sure where God is calling you. You just know that where you are is no longer your path.
As you pray through these things, remember that God is always with you. He’s telling you to “take heart” and “be strong and courageous.” He’s behind you watching you all the way and He has been faithful with your past. He is faithful with your future!
God, as I enter a new year and a new season, help me to remember that You guide my steps and You have what’s best for me in mind. When I am feeling overwhelmed or discouraged with the changes that are happening in my life, help me to remember to be strong and courageous and that You go before me. Help my decisions and directions to be led by what You want for me and my life and give me clarity of mind as I choose. Thank you for the way You provide for me! In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
- Listen to The Silence
- by Lidia Vigil
As an introvert, I crave silence, yet we’re surrounded by constant noise. Our daily routines often include noise from TV, phones, music, you name it. In the car, we hear the traffic, music, GPS, and let’s not forget our ever-present helper, Siri. We’re constantly barraged by noise. We’ve grown accustomed to it and as much we dislike it, we introverts have learned to navigate it.
Some silence, however, can be uncomfortable. Especially when it’s the silence of loved ones. We expect conversation and even debate, but not the silent treatment. This silence can be a form of punishment. I, on the other hand, would rather talk about it. Closure is important. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
The silent treatment can be unnerving, and when this silence comes from God, it can be excruciating. There can be times when no matter how much you try to do all the right things, God seems to be silent. We pray, and it seems our prayers hit a wall. In Psalms, we read the words of one who beautifully describes the anguish he felt when his prayers seemed to hit a wall!
“My God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? Oh my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and I am not silent.” – Psalms 22:1-2
David exemplifies honesty and consistency in seeking the face of God. He does not hold back, demonstrating his hurt and disappointment at being seemingly ignored by God. He perseveres even in the silence. We too should continue to seek after Him with faith and sincerity, withholding nothing from Him.
When God is silent, we should learn to be silent in His presence. Could it be that God has been trying to speak to us, and we can’t hear His voice for all the noise in our lives? Perhaps He is not silent after all, and it’s we who have deprived ourselves from receiving answers to our prayers when we’re not attuned to His voice.
When God is silent, trust His character. He has a great track record. Remember His faithfulness and when the doubts threaten to flood your hearts, remember He is good.
When God is silent, trust His word. Can we really accuse God of being silent when He’s given us His word, a word that is alive and active, and can penetrate the heart (Hebrews 4:12)? We can find the answers we seek in His written word.
God, when the silence comes help me to remember to be silent in Your presence. May I learn to trust Your character and depend on Your written word because nothing changes who You are, and You are faithful! In Jesus’ name, amen.
- Calling on God: An Invitation
- by Rachel Mahannah
“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” – Jeremiah 33:3
Can I be honest? One of my least favorite questions these days is, “How’s your week been?” I go through this big dilemma every single time. Do I avoid and deflect with a simple, “Oh great, how about you?” Or, am I honest and tell them that I feel like somehow I have sat myself in the middle of the track at the Daytona 500, and I feel like my life–my family, their activities, my job, and everything else–feels like the cars streaking past all around me and I am just trying my best to keep up?
In the hustle and bustle of life, it is so easy to become overwhelmed and lose sight of the power and presence of God. The Bible reminds us in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Wow. This powerful verse serves as an invitation to seek God through prayer and experience His faithfulness.
God has great and hidden things for me. And get this, they are things that I have not known. What does that mean to me? It means that God’s intention for me is more than today.
Today is a part of the story, but He isn’t intending on closing the book here. There is more to learn, there is more of Him to know, there is bigger, deeper, and winder depths of His goodness to explore, and all he is asking for me to do is take my eyes off my present and call out for His presence. (Psalms 121:1-2).
Calling on God is an act of drawing near to Him. It is an acknowledgment that we cannot navigate life’s challenges alone and a surrendering of our self-sufficiency. Prayer should be our first response, but we often treat it as a last resort.
When we call on God, we enter into a sacred conversation with our Creator. Through prayer, we open our hearts and minds to God’s presence, inviting Him to guide, comfort, and transform us.
God is not distant or disinterested in our affairs; instead, He delights in actively participating in our journey. God’s response may not always align with our expectations, but His ways are always higher, and His plans are ultimately for our good.
Lord, shift my eyes today. Help me to see the great and hidden things of Your plan for my life. Your word promises that when I call out, You will always answer and so I ready my heart to hear from You today. Please help me see your divine direction in the majestic and the mundane of my today while celebrating the faithfulness of Your presence, walking every step of it with me. Amen.
- Praying for Guidance and Clarity
- by Dr. Jenny Carter
“…but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. 7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” – John 16:5-15
We’re often asked how we’re doing, maybe even several times a day. We often smile and say, “Good,” not even really thinking and just keep going. I know I can quickly respond, “good” without thinking. However, when I stop to ponder my real answer, I realize sometimes I don’t want to share how I’m really doing because I want to look like I have it all together.
Really, I don’t want to admit I don’t have it all figured out. So when I am asked, “How are you doing?” I sometimes pause and wonder…can I let them know I’m not actually okay?
For me a lot of this “not okay-ness” comes from a lack of clarity. I need guidance and clarity. A popular podcaster, Emily P. Freeman, talks about needing a break from the constant hum of entertainment.
The distraction of my phone does not help with my lack of clarity. I just want to understand. Understand my next step. Understand how to best mother my kids. Understand how to best teach my students. Understand why there continues to be unrest in the world and such hatred and divide in our country. God, why and how will you eventually redeem all of this?
In today’s passage, the apostle John shares Jesus’ words on this topic.
Jesus left this earth, but He did not abandon us. He sent the Holy Spirit to comfort us, to teach us, and here we see we have the Holy Spirit to guide us. Not just like a travel companion, but to guide us into all truth.
So, when I am lost and feel like there is just too much coming at me, I pray for clarity. I pray for guidance and over and over again, in what I can feel like the mundane of life, He guides me into all truth.
I still have unanswered questions, but as I keep presenting my questions and lack of clarity, He keeps meeting with me. I get clarity. I understand the next steps and keep waiting for the day when all will be redeemed and we all can fully see (See1 Corinthians 13.2). We will eventually be led into all truth.
God, thank you for the Holy Spirit and your promise to guide me into all truth. I have questions. I have areas where I need Your guidance and clarity. Please speak to me. Please give me ears to hear. Lead me in the way everlasting. Amen.
- Persistent Prayer
- by Pastor Ryan Jordan
“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: ‘In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ 4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?’” – Luke 18:1-8
You’re now 11 days into this journey of praying first. As we continue to seek God, I want to wrestle with a question. What do you do when you think your prayers are hitting the ceiling and bouncing back at you?
Well, let me offer a few thoughts: Have you ever been discouraged by prayer? Does it feel like God doesn’t hear your prayer, or does nothing happen after praying diligently?
In the Parable of the Persistent Widow, Jesus shares that we shouldn’t lose heart when we pray.
Luke doesn’t devolve the nature of what the widow is facing, but some form of injustice oppresses her. But she wouldn’t give up. She kept coming to the judge and made herself a nuisance. Finally, after showing great determination, the judge, in exhaustion, made a judgment in her favor.
So, why would Jesus share a parable like this? The answer is in verse one: “They ought always to pray and not lose heart.”
Prayer takes tenacity.
I have been a Christian for over 35 years. There are prayers that I have been praying all these years that have still not come to pass…YET! Friend, stay in the battle! Remain footed in the promises that God has for you through those prayers. Keep this verse close to your heart, “pray and not lose heart.”
Prayer is greater than your emotions.
I believe we serve a God who knows we sometimes lose a step and get tired of praying without ceasing. Skipping a day of praying for something doesn’t mean God has somehow forgotten your requests. He is a loving father who knows our hearts and has the best things in store for those who love Him. Trust His timing.
Don’t lose faith.
The last verse gives us the “special sauce” for miracles. Luke says in verse 8, “Will He (God) find faith on earth?” What a kick to the gut kind of question. If God walked into your room, would he still find faith in your heart to believe that what He said is true? Look at this incredible verse from the apostle John:
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (John 5:14-15).
Wherever you are while reading this, stop, close your eyes, get a new sense of tenacity and faith, and get back in the fight for your miracle.
God, there are prayers that I’m still waiting for You to answer. There are days when it’s hard to believe that You’re still listening to me, but I trust that even when it doesn’t feel like it, that You are close. I trust You and Your timing. Help me to not lose heart. Amen.
- Praying Scripture
- by Pastor Brandon Premo
Do you ever have a hard time not knowing what to pray?
It can be difficult in our daily lives to find the right words that match our hearts, our minds and the situations that we’re facing.
Personally, when I don’t know where to start with my prayers, I come back to scripture. Scripture is the Word of God, and the Bible says, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (Hebrews 4:12)
If that’s true of Scripture, then I think it must be one of the most valuable tools that we have to starting and building a powerful daily prayer life.
So today, let’s read through three different passages and then respond by letting them guide our prayers and conversation with God.
“But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” – Matthew 6:33
“Lord, Your Word tells me that if I seek first Your Kingdom and Your righteousness, You will take care of my needs. I am Yours today, God, and I give this day to You. Help me to focus on Your priorities first, sharing Your love and making Your name known. I know that by focusing on You rather than myself, I will receive joy and peace.”
“Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge” – Psalm 62:8
“Father, in Your Word You invite me to pour out my heart to You. You are my refuge, and I know that anything I think, feel, or do is ok to bring to You. Knowing that You are a safe place for me, I come to You and give You everything on my heart. From what is worrying me, to what is delighting me, what I hope for, to what I’m afraid of, I bring it all to You because I know I can trust You. Help me and guide me in every area, in Jesus’ name.”
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5
“Father, I am so comforted by the fact that You will never leave me. You are always with me, and I am safe with You. As I go through my life and take on each new situation, I’m comforted by knowing I’m not alone because You are by my side. Help me feel Your presence. When I feel uncertain or afraid, I pray You will comfort me through Your Holy Spirit and remind me that I am never alone because You have promised to always be with me.”
- Constant Communion
- by Jacob Erickson
“Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:15-19
Kids are funny. Maybe you have kids, work with kids, or just know one, but no one can deny that they have a unique way of seeing the world. At one point in my life, I taught children’s martial arts during the evenings. Often, I learned just how differently kids see the world. Possibly the most frustrating or eye-opening moments were when a kid did what I asked, not what I meant.
You know the moment. It’s the moment when you tell a kid that they need to take a seat…so they sit down exactly where they are in the middle of the grocery store. Or the moment when you ask someone to take out the trash and they do…but don’t replace the bag. We all have those moments when what we said does not line up with what we meant.
I think this happens with prayer too.
1 Thessalonians says to “pray continually,” but if we’re honest, that’s a tall order! That’s a lot of time spent and a lot of mental energy. But again, we have to see what the Bible meant by prayer, not just what it said if we want to avoid burning ourselves out on religion.
The rest of the book of Thessalonians reveals what God meant. The book talks a lot about loving one another, loving all people, and loving God. Meaning, prayer is bringing that love to the top of your mind, thinking about others, God, and even yourself, and asking God for His help.
At its core, the command to “pray continually” is meant as a way to exercise your love for the people in your life and for God.
So when we pray, our prayers shouldn’t just be about us! When another person comes to mind, our instinct should be to pray and ask God to bless them. We can also ask God for the wisdom to know how we, ourselves, can be a blessing to others.
When we hear what the Bible meant, not just what it said about prayer, we can become more loving people who experience God’s love and show the world how amazing He is.
Lord, help me to understand what you meant, not just what you said when you asked us to pray continuously. Will you show me opportunities where I can love others and You through prayer, as well as opportunities to pray and speak to you more often.
- How Do I Know God’s Will?
- by Pastor Andy Forman
“Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
One of the most common questions I hear from Christians is how do I know if this is God’s will for me?
When we come up against a major life decision, that’s one of the first things we tend to ask. Should I marry this person? If I take this job, am I still in God’s will? Is it God’s will for me to move to this city?
None of these questions are wrong; in fact, it’s necessary that we tune our ear to the voice of the Holy Spirit as we are making big decisions for our present and our future. One of the best ways we can learn to hear His voice concerning the major decisions in our life is to start by listening to Him in our every day, week in-week out existence.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, the Apostle Paul tells the church in Thessalonica to “Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Paul is encouraging them to live daily in a way that pleases God.
When we adjust our hearts and minds to this way of thinking, we’ll stop fretting and worrying about three or four major life decisions, and we’ll begin to live each day with the mindset that God is good, that He is for us, and that giving Him our thanks and our praise is the most important decision we can ever make.
As a cook for the monastic community in Paris in the late seventeenth century, a man known as Brother Lawrence simply and beautifully explained how we can “pray without ceasing”—not from the head but from the heart.
In his little book “The Practice of the Presence of God,” Brother Lawrence said that it was “a great delusion to separate times of prayer from other times. Rather, we are to pray by being aware of the presence of God at all times and places.” He learned to commune with God continuously, whether cooking or cleaning or running errands. His communication with God wasn’t limited to the church or “personal devotions” or even to prayer for specific guidance. In this way, he attuned his heart to the rhythm of God’s heart and his ear to the voice of the Lord.
Maybe you are facing a major decision, and you need God’s wisdom and guidance. I believe He will give it to you! I also know that learning and implementing this “practice of the Presence” as a way of life will help you hone in on what God is speaking in a given situation and you will get to live a more fulfilled life with Him each and every day.
God, I trust that You are with me always, even when I don’t feel it. Forgive me for the moments where I’ve been too distracted or rushed to hear You. I pause now to focus my attention on Your presence.
- Prayers for Kindness and Gentleness
- by Tara Jessup
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” – Galatians 5:22-26
In our popular culture we love idolizing people that have “made it.” You have the house or the car. You’re the musician that finally got a record deal or the athlete that won the championship. Even in our church world, we look for the people that have the biggest church or the most followers. We revel in being people that are the smartest, wittiest, and often the most stubborn people in the room.
The more I read and learn, I realize God’s idea of “making it” is very different.
Jesus is a great example of someone that constantly did what we have a very hard time doing. He returned anger with kindness. The Gospels are full of stories of people trying to catch Jesus in a lie and Jesus’ response is to turn to them and to respond calmly and succinctly. Oftentimes using very few words. Sometimes none.
Have you ever been able to respond calmly and succinctly to someone who made you angry? Have you been able to not yell at someone in traffic? Calmly responded to the person that questioned your character? Not yell at your children or spouse when they’re making you crazy?
Perhaps “making it” isn’t winning a trophy but having a calm and peaceful soul. In Galatians, Paul doesn’t say that the fruit of the spirit is being the best, smartest, strongest, wittiest person in the room. He says that the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control.
So, how do we have a calm and gentle response and tap into the fruit of the Spirit?
My Fall Access Group and I read through John Mark Comer’s “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” (a must read for any Christian), and he points out that Jesus continually took time to stop and go pray in the wilderness.
Busy day? Get up early and go to the wilderness to pray. Preach to 5000 people and feed all of them? Go pray? Feel overwhelmed by your life? Go find time to be alone with God.
The key to our best life isn’t getting alone and detaching ourselves from the world by sleeping, scrolling our phone, or treating ourselves to something new. It’s getting alone and refreshing our soul by spending time with God.
What if we all ended 2024 and said my life doesn’t look very different but my soul is at peace because I’ve truly found rest in God? I can be kind and loving to everyone around me because I’m not overwhelmed and angry? I think we would all think that then, we had in fact, finally made it.
Dear Heavenly Father, help me to remember that You fight my battles for me and that my calling is to be a loving and kind person. Go before me in my day and bless my moments with You so that I can be rested and relaxed as I step into hard or stressful moments throughout the day. Be near my thoughts and my spirit as I think, calming them and bringing joy to my soul. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
- Prayer for The Waiting
- by Kayla Erickson
“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” – Psalm 27:13-14
Current statistics say that the human attention span is shorter than a squirrel’s. Humbling, isn’t it?
Everything in our culture is designed to keep us engaged, quickly moving to the next thing, and obsessed over efficiency. If I ever doubt I’ve succumbed to this mindset, all I need is my Wi-Fi to stall out to remind me how little patience I have.
Our human nature, coupled with our social context, makes this call in David’s psalm all the more challenging–to wait for the Lord.
A few years ago, I reached a season of waiting. I arrived at the natural life transition of moving from college to a full-fledged adult. For me, this change was as graceful as a pug walking on ice. I applied for jobs and received no offers. I moved to a new state where I had no community. I needed direction and guidance, but I had none.
Your season of waiting might look like mine did: unglamorous, mundane, lonely…or, it might be deceptive to outsiders, looking far more attractive than it feels. No matter how it looks, the experience is usually the same–a messy in-between where you’re suspended in uncertainty. And I hate uncertainty.
David, the attributed author of Psalm 27, was no stranger to this experience. He was promised to be king of Israel as a teenager but would wait more than a decade before he took the throne. Many of those years he spent on the run from the man trying to kill him.
And yet, David writes these words: “Wait for the Lord.”
The Hebrew word for “wait” in this sentence is “qāvâ,” which carries the connotation of expectancy and hope. Meaning, we don’t wait in despair, we wait with the expectation that God will show up for us.
But, what does this waiting actually look like?
A lot of us offer well-intentioned Bible verses to people we see in this season, hoping to be encouraging: Trust in God! Rejoice always! Do not be anxious about anything!
These are offered in love, but they also reinforce a false narrative that we can’t be both grieving and hopeful at the same time. As I said before, waiting is often filled with uncertainty and uncertainty is a breeding ground for anxiety.
God doesn’t ask us to leave our hard emotions at the door of prayer.
It’s both/and, not either/or.
We can wait for God with hopeful expectation and also experience our fear, anger, or grief. We can carry the tension of saying, “God, I trust that the answer will come,” while also saying, “and I am really scared in the meantime.”
He is big enough to hold it all while we wait.
God, though I may struggle to always feel it, I wait with hopeful expectation that You will show up. I pause now to make space for all of the emotions I haven’t brought to You in this season because I also trust that You care for me. (Pause for silence.) Thank you for the hospitality that You offer my soul. Help me, Holy Spirit, to extend that to myself and others. In Jesus’ name, amen.
- Prayer Changes Us
- by Pastor Isaiah Board
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” – Luke 22:42
Often, when a person goes on a mission trip, they go with the mindset that they are going to help change someone else’s life. Does life change happen on a mission trip? Absolutely! However, what inevitably happens is that their life is changed.
We say this often with Access Missions. God has this amazing way of transforming our life, even as we endeavor to help change someone else’s.
Prayer is the same way. Oftentimes we pray and we hope it will change a person, a situation, or a thing. While this may happen, what most often happens is prayer changes us.
How does this happen? As we pray with humble hearts before the Lord, our desires are conformed into more of what God desires for our lives.
I can remember praying for something in the past and when I honestly assessed my own motives, they were rooted in wanting to bend the will of another person to fit my will. I have come to learn that a major goal of prayer is that we might bend and conform to God’s will.
I’m reminded of the words of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Knowing what was soon to come, knowing the cruel death he faced ahead, He prayed that God’s will would be done in his life. In Luke 22:42, Jesus says, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
He didn’t pray that God would change His situation or that someone would come take His place. He prayed that God’s will for this situation would be done.
My prayer for you today is that you pray, not that someone else or a situation bends to fit your will, but that you bend, bow, and conform to God’s will for your life. As you pray today, pray with confidence knowing that there is a change happening, it’s happening within you!
Lord, thank you that I can pray to You about anything. I thank you that You care about the desires and needs of my life. As I pray, help me to realize that Your will is greater than mine. Help me to find rest in that. I want to become more and more like You both today and going forward. I submit my desires and my life to You today, in Jesus’ name, amen.
- A Prayer for Pruning
- by Cami Baugh
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” – John 15:1-4
This passage in John talks about what it means to “remain in the vine.” John creates a metaphor of Jesus being the vine, and we, His children, being the branches.
As believers, we should remain closely intertwined with Him. The result of remaining in Him is that our lives will begin to bear fruit. Apart from Christ, we bear no fruit. In verse 2, John says, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
But was it pruning? Pruning means, “to reduce especially by eliminating extra matter, to cut off or cut back parts for better shape or more fruitful growth.” Cutting off is with the intention of throwing away and not being utilized.
Pruning is with the intention and purpose of fruitful, increased growth. Sometimes in our lives, the Lord will prune us. He may trim some things away that, at the time, may seem painful or unproductive. Maybe it is a relationship, friendship, or even the music you listen to. While it may be hard or painful at the moment, we have to keep in mind that pruning is for the purpose of increased growth.
When the Lord prunes you, He is helping to shape you into the person He has called you to be. His intention is never to hurt us, but rather to create room for us to grow.
While uncomfortable, pruning is necessary as a follower of Christ. In this passage, John is specifically referring to the grapevine. Those who tended to grapevines would prune the plant as they cared for it.
At the moment it seemed odd, as it was taking part of the plant away. In doing this, though, it actually increased the yield of grapes the plant was able to produce. Just like this example, when we allow the Lord to prune us, we allow room for growth and the fruit of our lives to greatly increase.
Take a moment to reflect. Are you allowing the Lord to prune you? If not, ask the Lord about some areas in your life that may need some pruning.
Lord, thank You for the way you lead and guide me. I pray that I continue to remain in You and walk closely alongside You. As I walk with You, show me the areas of my life that need to be pruning. Help my heart to be open to those things and as You work in me, may the fruit of my life increase and point to You. Amen.
- Prayer for Hope
- by Haley Smith
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” 25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” – Lamentations 3:21-26
There are moments in life that feel devoid of hope. This is not the statement that will win an award of encouragement, but it is one that holds weight and promise on the other side.
Let’s imagine we’re walking in the great plains of the desert and have been for several days. The sun is relentless, as it beats upon us and we are weak and worn-down. We’re left without a glimmer of shelter or water. It’s hard for us to even manage our basic needs. We think it impossible for our current state to ever get better. But on the horizon, we spot a cloud rising and swelling with each step forward.
Could this be possible? Could rain reach us even here? It’s that hope that ignites and spurs forth courage.
In the book of Job, this idea of hope connected to courage is found. We read, “having hope will give you courage. You will be protected and will rest in safety” (Job 11:18, NLT).
It brings security to our hearts and minds when we understand that a shift is about to happen. This is not a shift that can be brought about by human effort, but rather a shift, I believe, that originates in our faith and in our prayer life.
In 1 Kings 18:43-46, notice the anticipation of Elijah. He wouldn’t have kept sending his servant out, if he didn’t know a cloud was coming. His hope of the rain to come, spurred forth courage and boldness to continue to wait on the deliverance and goodness of God.
In my own life, I’ve found that it’s the act of standing firm in who I know God to be that brings about my ability to wait and believe He is working together all things for my good. It keeps me returning to the Lord in prayer and in anticipation for what is to come.
Further, it’s resting in the fact that even if the rain doesn’t come in the timing we expect or in the manner we expect it, God is still good. His love is great. His faithfulness is new each morning. And that is enough. In that we can wait and in that we can keep coming to the Lord to rest in who He is and all that He has been.
The rain in our desert is coming, but we must keep stepping forward in hope and in courage believing that God is who He says He is and He can deliver us and do the impossible in our lives. It won’t be because of what we have done, but rather because of who God is.
I want to challenge you to use Lamentations 3:21-26 as a template of a prayer to pray when you need hope. Use it to keep returning back to God and to keep remembering that the Lord is your portion and in Him you can wait. He is good and He is God. Having hope will give you courage.
God, even in the moments of my deepest disappointments and grief, I trust in who You are. You are compassionate and faithful. Even if you don’t show up the way I want or expect You to, I will rest in Your goodness. Amen.
- Prayer for Peace
- by Pastor Lis Burns
Confession time: Have you ever been holding your phone and simultaneously looking for your phone? This has happened to me more times than I’d like to admit.
Our phones have become extensions of us. We wouldn’t dream of leaving home without our phones, and it honestly makes me wonder how we ever lived in the age of answering machines (for anyone under 30 those were machines attached to home phones where people left messages if they needed you and actually had to wait for you to get home and listen to that message in order to call them back).
I’m as thankful as anyone for the invention of smartphones but I do have to wonder how peace can even be possible in a world where we literally carry with us instant access to some of the scariest and most disturbing news available?
In the midst of all uncertainty, calamity and stress, there is amazing news: We have a God who never changes and offers us peace no matter the circumstance! Hallelujah!
So what’s the secret to this amazing peace that the Bible talks about? One word: gratitude.
Philippians 6 contains a verse famously used to offer comfort to people who need it. It’s the verse before that one that we need to search when seeking that peace, though.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
Did you catch the order there? Before peace comes thanksgiving. You can’t have one without the other. This is not, by any means, a magic formula God gave us for instant peace. Instead, it’s a reminder that when I’m anxious, and I turn my focus to gratitude, peace is the natural byproduct of taking my eyes off my problems.
Try answering these questions out loud, with a friend, or in a journal:
What is it you’re facing today that you need to surrender to God in exchange for peace?
What are you thankful for today? Think of some times in the past that God has carried you through. Sit with that for a few minutes.
I challenge you to tackle these questions whenever you feel anxiety creeping into your awareness. Peace comes when we practice gratitude.
Lord, our world feels uncertain and dangerous and scary. Thank you that You never change. Thank you for offering us peace that can guard our hearts and minds. We are so grateful for the way You transcend even this world’s worst. You are our hope. You are our truth. You are our peace. Thank you! Amen.
- Simple Prayer
- by Pastor Jason Burns
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! Experts say that it takes 21 days to develop a habit. You’re on day 21. This isn’t the finish line – it’s the start of a new season in your life – a disciplined season marked by prayer.
Spiritual growth does not happen by accident. There is a marked difference between trying and training.
If you were to ask me to run a marathon today, there is virtually no chance that I could complete it. It would not matter how much I wanted to, or how hard I tried, I am not in marathon runner’s shape. However, if given several months for extensive training, I am sure that I could become a distance runner.
The same is true in prayer.
I want to leave you with my personal favorite prayer. This isn’t so much a prayer as it is a way to pray. It is so simple. You can pray this many times throughout your day. It is found in 2 Corinthians 13:14:
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
You simply start by enjoying the love of God the Father. How has His love changed you?
In Psalm 103:1-5, David said:
“Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
Our Father in heaven gives incredible benefits. They include:
• And more!
Secondly, you reflect on the grace of the Lord Jesus. What is grace? It’s God’s unmerited, unearned love. Grace is love in action.
Take a few minutes and reflect on the cross. Imagine a love so pure that one would selflessly lay their own life down to save yours. The bottom line is that Jesus forgave you. I love the line in the famous song, Amazing Grace. “I once was lost, but now I’m found…” It fills my heart to remember that I was one far from God, but Jesus forgave me.
The final section is to thank the Holy Spirit for living in us.
1. The Holy Spirit makes us more like Jesus (Romans 8:29)
2. The Holy Spirit gives us power to witness (Acts 1:8)
3. The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth (John 16:33)
4. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin (John 16:8)
5. The Holy Spirit reveals God’s word to us (John 14:26)
6. The Holy Spirit brings us closer to other believers (Acts 4:32)
The prayer is so simple. You remind yourself that:
God loves you.
Jesus forgave you.
The Holy Spirit is God in you.
I’m so proud of you. Don’t stop. Make every day another day to get closer to God in prayer! 21 days down… a lifetime to go!