Monday, February 21, 2005



Every Christian does it. Jews, too. And Muslims. Most other religions, too. The goal for all of them is pretty much the same. Communicate with their creator. The methods and the underlying understanding about that communication varies considerably. For Christians, this communication is understood to be two-way. It is for the establishment of a personal relationship with God, his son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

I am going to go out on a very big limb and offer below an hierarchy of prayer life maturity. Not much of what will follow is very controversial in Christian theology, but suggesting that one way might be evidence of greater maturity than another is more likely to draw criticism.


The new Christian, or one who has not grown in Christ, or one who is currently not close to God is going to be at level one. This level is characterized by inconsistency as to time, place, and/or passion. Some level one folks might pray every night before bed or first thing in the morning, but the prayer is without passion or even a sense that it is directed to God. It takes only a moment and might even use the same words every time.

Other who are still at level one might have different requests or reasons for thanks on various days, but only pray a day or two each week, if that. This person may have a bit more sense of connection with God as they pray, since they may be quite anxious to convey thanks or needs. It is rare that the level one Christian will have time for adoration, admission of sin, or offerings of forgiveness for others. It is also unlikely that there is any accompanying method of discipline such as journals, lists of requests, records of answers, Bible reading or devotional reading.

Level 2

As a Christian matures, they should have an increased desire for fellowship with God. This is similar to the way a person with a new friend will want to know more about the friend as the relationship matures. With God, the only way to learn more is through meeting with the body (church) of Christ, reading the Word, listening to wise counsel (books, tapes, radio), and prayer. One who is doing these things will almost surely desire to move to the second level of prayer, but they might not receive instruction in how to do it.

There are several approaches that will help a person make their prayer time more valuable. Jesus provides an answer in the “perfect prayer” also known as the Lords prayer or disciples’ prayer. A person at the first level might merely recite this each day. A more mature Christian will use it as a structure for relating to God. Each line of the prayer will act as a launching pad for things that need to be discussed with God. Adoration in the opening lines. Thanks and a prayer for God’s will on earth following. Then on to repentance and forgiveness. Followed by more acknowledgment of who God is.

There are various other methods for remembering to discuss these various things with God each day. Any book on prayer will generally offer several. However, none of these will be needed as the relationship deepens. It will be a matter of course to include all of these things in our conversation.

Then there is the question of how often we have a conversation. My mom expects to hear from me once a week. When we don’t speak that often, one of us will generally start to need to hear the other person’s voice, even if there’s not much new to talk about. With God, there should be something new everyday, more like there would be with our spouse, children who are still at home, or our best friend.

A person at the second level is probably also reading the Word (Bible) every day. For most, I think they like to read first from the Bible, and maybe a daily devotional. Then comes the prayer time. God will commonly speak through the Bible reading or the devotional, then we are responding to Him through our prayer time.

Level 3 - The Prayer Warrior

You probably know someone like this. They are constantly asking you about your life, and are very interested in your successes and needs. If you pay close attention, they probably have some kind of journal where they write down the prayer requests and praise reports of their friends and others that they come in contact with. For prayer warriors, missing the morning (most often) meeting with God would be like missing a nights sleep, only worse. They have so much to pray about each day that an hour flies by. They have to divide up there praises and requests into various days because there just isn’t enough time each day to cover everything.

In that same journal they carry there is likely to be responses to earlier prayers with dates showing when and how the prayers were answered. Their Bible is worn from being read and reread.

Level 4 - Active Listening

Yes! There is another level. Many mature Christians get stuck at the third level. Either they are never shown that there can be even more, or they just get spiritually into a rut. The next level is active listening prayer. It assumes that you will hear from God in a clear and concrete way. The hearing might be in any of the ways discussed earlier, but there will be clarity. There are two steps within this level. First is the listening part.

Those who have reached this level talk of using 5 minutes or even 15 minutes of their daily hour in Bible study and prayer for listening. Personally, I don’t want to limit this time, in either direction. Sometimes it is clear right away that the answer will come at another time. Other times, I might listen for a 10, 15, or even more minutes.

You may experience things differently, but I suggest that listening prayer time begin with specific questions or needs that you need a response to. I only do one question during each prayer session. Then be very still and listen. Personally, I like to concentrate on the wonder of the Almighty during this time. I seek His glory, knowing only this is available, not His face.

The other step is one that very few Christians ever take. I’ve asked so many if they have, and it is rare that can honestly say they have. Complete surrender. Knowing in your knower, and letting God know that whatever the answer is, you are prepared to accept it. For me, I know I have reached that place when I accept that I will even do missionary work in Haiti if God asks me to. Symbolically, that is my complete surrender. I’ve been to Haiti, and I despise it more than any place I’ve ever been. I’m not saying you have to have a similar Thing that represents complete surrender. But when you do surrender, you open the door for God to speak His unique plan into your life.

Level 5 - Constant Prayer

The fifth and final level (as far as I know from experience and reading), is constant prayer. The Bible calls on us to be in prayer constantly. This can only occur when we are so immersed in the Word of God that we are keeping out the other influences to a very large degree. When we are immersed, it is hard to make any decision without the clear voice of the Holy Spirit giving you direction. This becomes a conversation as you move in one or another direction based on His intervention.

One last thought. This level of prayer life results in a substantially heightened recognition of God’s voice. This helps you to discern whether it is the Lord who is directing you or your own mind, or even the Devil. However, even the most mature Christian need to turn to the Bible and trusted council for clarity when the direction he is receiving seems bigger than reality. God can easily ask us to do things that are supernatural or outside of our core competencies, but when He does, it seems wise to double check our own understanding.

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