How to Spend a Day in Prayer
Lorne C. Sanny
‘Avail yourself of the greatest privilege this side
of heaven. Jesus Christ died to make this
communion and communication with the Father
- Billy Graham
‘Prayer is a powerful thing, for God has bound
and tied Himself thereto.’
- Martin Luther
‘God’s acquaintance is not made hurriedly. He
does not bestow His gifts on the casual or
hasty comer and goer. To be much alone with
God is the secret of knowing Him and of
influence with Him.’
‘I never thought a day could make such a
difference,’ a friend said to me. ‘My relationship
to everyone seems improved.’
‘Why don’t I do it more often?’
Comments like these come from those
who set aside a personal day of prayer.
With so many activities — important
ones — clamoring for our time, real prayer is
considered more a luxury than a necessity.
How much more so spending a day in prayer!
The Bible gives us three time-guidelines
for personal prayer. There is the command to
‘pray without ceasing’ — the spirit of prayer —
keeping so in tune with God that we can lift our
hearts in request or praise at any time through
There is also the practice of a quiet time
or morning watch — seen in the life of David
(Psalm 5:3), of Daniel (6:10), and of the Lord
Jesus (Mark 1:35). This daily time specified for
meditation in the Word of God and prayer is
indispensable to the growing, healthy
Then there are examples in the
Scripture of extended time given to prayer
alone. Jesus spent whole nights praying.
Nehemiah prayed ‘certain days’ upon hearing
of the plight of Jerusalem. Three times Moses
spent 40 days and 40 nights alone with God.
LEARNING FROM GOD
I believe it was in these special times of
prayer that God made known His ways and His
plans to Moses (Psalm 103:7). He allowed
Moses to look through a chink in the fence and
gain special insights, while the rank-and-file
Israelites saw only the acts of God as they
unfolded day by day.
Once I remarked to Dawson Trotman,
founder of The Navigators, ‘You impress me as
one who feels he is a man of destiny, one
destined to be used of God.’
‘I don’t think that’s the case,’ he
replied, ‘but I know this. God has given me
some promises that I know He will fulfil.’
During earlier years Daws spent countless
protracted times alone with God, and out of
these times the Navigator work grew — not by
methods or principles, but by promises given
to him from the Word.
In my own life one of the most
refreshing and stabilizing factors, as well as the
means of new direction or confirmation of the
will of God, has been those extended times of
prayer — in the neighborhood park in Seattle,
on a hilt behind the Navigator home in
Southern California, or out in the Garden of the
Gods here in Colorado Springs.
These special prayer times can become
anchor points in your life, times when you
‘drive a stake’ as a landmark and go on from
there. Your daily quiet time is more effective as
you pray into day-by-day reality some of the
things the Lord speaks to your heart in
protracted times of prayer. The quiet time in
turn is the foundation for ‘praying without
ceasing,’ going through the day in communion
Perhaps you haven’t spent a protracted
time in prayer because you haven’t recognized
the need for it. Or maybe you aren’t sure what
you would do with a whole day on your hands
just to pray.
WHY A DAY OF PRAYER?
Why take this time from a busy life?
What is it for?
1. For extended fellowship with God
— Beyond your morning devotions. It means
simply being with and thinking about God. God
has called us into the fellowship of His Son,
Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:9). Like many
personal relationships, this fellowship is
nurtured by spending time together. God takes
special note of times when His people
reverence Him and think upon His Name
2. For a renewed perspective.
Like flying over the battlefield in a
reconnaissance plane, a day of prayer gives
opportunity to think of the world from God’s
point of view. Especially when going through
some difficulty we need this perspective to
sharpen our vision of the unseen, and to let the
immediate, tangible things slot into proper
place. Our spiritual defenses are strengthened
while ‘we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but
on what is unseen. For… what is unseen is
eternal’ (2 Corinthians 4:18).
3. For catching up on intercession.
There are non-Christian friends and relatives to
bring before the Lord, missionaries in various
places, our ministers, our neighbors and
Christian associates, our government leaders
— to name a few. Influencing people and
changing events through prayer is well known
among Christians but too little practiced. And
as times become more serious around us, we
need to reconsider the value of personal
prayer, both to accomplish and to deter.
4. For prayerful consideration of our own
lives before the Lord
— personal stock-taking and evaluation. You
will especially want to take a day of prayer
when facing important decisions, as well as on
a periodic basis. On such a day you can
evaluate where you are in relation to your
goals, and get direction from the Lord through
His Word. Promises are there for you and me,
just as they have been for Hudson Taylor or
George Mueller or Dawson Trotman. And it is in
our times alone with God that He gives inner
assurance of His promises to us.
5. For adequate preparation.
Nehemiah, after spending ‘certain days’
seeking the Lord in prayer, was called in before
the king. ‘Then the king said unto me, “For
what dost thou make request?” So I prayed to
the God of heaven. And I said unto the king,
“If it please the king. . .”’ — and he outlined
his plan (Nehemiah 2:4-5). Then Nehemiah
says, ‘I arose in the night, I and some few men
with me; neither told I any man what my God
had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem’ (2:12).
When did God put in his heart this plan? I
believe it was when he fasted and prayed and
waited on God. Then when the day came for
action, he was ready.
I heard a boy ask a pilot if it didn’t take
quick thinking to land his plane when
something went wrong. The pilot answered
that no, he knew at all times where he would
put down if something went wrong. He had
thought that out ahead of time.
So it should be in our Christian life. If
God has given us plans and purposes in those
times alone, we will be ready when opportunity
comes to move right into it. We won’t have to
say, ‘I’m not prepared.’ The reason many
Christians are dead to opportunities is not
because they are not mentally alert, but they
are simply unprepared in heart. Preparation is
made when we get alone with God.
PRAY ON THE BASIS OF GOD’S WORD
Daniel said, ‘In the first year of his reign
[the reign of Darius], I, Daniel understood from
the Scriptures, according to the word of the
Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the
desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy
years. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded
with Him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and
in sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord
my God and confessed’ (Daniel 9:2-4).
He understood by the Scriptures what
was to come. And as a result of his exposure to
the Word of God, he prayed. It has been said
that God purposes, therefore He promises. And
we can add, ‘Therefore I pray the promises, so
that God’s purposes might come to reality.’
God purposed to do something, and He
promised it, therefore Daniel prayed. This was
Daniel’s part in completing the circuit, like an
electrical circuit, so that the power could flow
Your day alone with the Lord isn’t a
matter of sitting out on a rock like the statue of
The Thinker and taking whatever thoughts
come to your mind. That’s not safe. It should
he a day exposed to God’s Word, and then His
Word leads you into prayer. You will end the
day worse than you started if all you do is
engage in introspection, thinking of yourself
and your own problems. It isn’t your estimate
of yourself that counts anyway. It’s God’s
estimate. And He will reveal His estimate to
you by the Holy Spirit th rough His Word, the
open Bible. And then the Word leads into
HOW TO GO ABOUT IT
How do you go about it? Having set
aside a day or portion of a day for prayer, pack
a lunch and start out. Find a place where you
can be alone, away from distractions. This may
be a wooded area near home, or your own
back garden. An outdoor spot is excellent if
you can find it; but don’t get sidetracked into
nature studies and fritter away your time. If
you find yourself watching the squirrels or the
ants, direct your observation by reading Psalm
104 and meditating on the power of God in
Take along a Bible, a notebook and
pencil, a hymnbook, and perhaps a devotional
book. I like to have with me the booklet Power
Through Prayer by E. M. Bounds and read a
chapter or two as a challenge to the strategic
value of prayer. Or I sometimes take Horatius
Bonar’s Words to Winners of Souls, or a
missionary biography like Behind the Ranges
by Mary C. Taylor, which records the prayer
victories of J. 0. Fraser in inland China.
Even if you have all day, you will want
to use it profitably. So lose no time in starting,
and start purposefully.
WAIT ON THE LORD
Divide the day into three parts: waiting
on the Lord, prayer for others, and prayer for
As you wait on the Lord, don’t hurry.
You will miss the point if you look for some
mystical or ecstatic experience. Just seek the
Lord, waiting on Him. Isaiah 40:31 promises
that those who wait upon the Lord will renew
their strength. Psalm 27:14 is one of dozens of
verses which mention waiting on Him. Psalm
62:5 says, ‘My soul, wait thou only upon God;
for my expectation is from Him.’
Wait on Him first to realize His
presence. Read through a passage like Psalm
139, grasping the truth of His presence with
you as you read each verse. Ponder the
impossibility of being anywhere in the universe
where He is not. Often we are like Jacob when
he said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place; and I
knew it not’ (Genesis 28:16).
Wait on him also for cleansing. The last
two verses of Psalm 139 lead you into this. Ask
God to search your heart as these verses
suggest. When we search our own hearts it can
lead to imaginations, morbid introspection, or
anything the enemy may want to throw before
us. But when the Holy Spirit searches He will
bring to your attention that which should be
confessed and cleansed. Psalms 32 and 51,
David’s songs of confession, will help you.
Stand upon the firm ground of I John 1:9 and
claim God’s faithfulness to forgive whatever
specific thing you confess.
If you realize you’ve sinned against a
brother, make a note of it so you won’t forget
to put it right. Otherwise, the rest of the day
will be hindered. God won’t be speaking to you
if there is something between you and
someone else that you haven’t planned to deal
with at the earliest possible moment.
As you wait on God, ask for the power
of concentration. Bring yourself back from
Next, wait on God to worship Him. Psalms 103,
111, and 145 are wonderful portions to follow
as you praise the Lord for the greatness of His
power. Most of the psalms arc prayers. Or turn
to Revelation, chapters 4 and 5, and use them
in your praise to Him. There is no better way to
pray scripturally than to pray Scripture.
If you brought a hymn-book you can
sing to the Lord. Some wonderful hymns have
been written that put into words what we could
scarcely express ourselves. Maybe you don’t
sing very well — then be sure you’re out of
earshot of someone else and ‘make a joyful
noise unto the Lord. He will appreciate it.
This will lead you naturally into
thanksgiving. Reflect upon the wonderful
things God has done for you and thank Him for
these — for your own salvation and spiritual
blessings, for your family, friends, and
opportunities. Go beyond that which you thank
the Lord for daily and take time to express
appreciation to Him for countless things He’s
PRAYER FOR OTHERS
Now is the time for the unhurried, more
detailed prayer for others that you don’t get
round to ordinarily. Remember people in
addition to those for whom you usually pray.
Trace your way around the world, praying for
people by countries.
Here are three suggestions as to what
First, ask specific things for them.
Perhaps you remember or have jotted down
various needs people have mentioned. Use
requests from missionary prayer letters. Pray
for spiritual strength, courage, physical
stamina, mental alertness, and so on. Imagine
yourself in the situations where these people
are and pray accordingly.
Second, look up some of the prayers in
Scripture. Pray what Paul prayed for other
people in the first chapters of Philippians and
Colossians, and in the first and third chapters
of Ephesians. This will help you advance in
your prayer from the stage of ‘Lord, bless SO
and so and help them to do such and such.’
Third, ask for others what you are
praying for yourself. Desire for them what the
Lord has shown you.
If you pray a certain verse or promise of
Scripture for a person you may want to put the
reference by the name on your prayer list, and
use this verse as you pray for that person the
next time. Then use it for thanksgiving as you
see the Lord answer.
PRAYER FOR YOURSELF
The third part of your day will be prayer
for yourself. If you are facing an important
decision you may want to put this before
prayer for others.
Again, let your prayer be ordered by
Scripture and ask the Lord for understanding
according to Psalm 119:18. Meditate upon
verses of Scripture you have memorized or
promises you have previously claimed from the
Word. Reading a whole book of the Bible
through, perhaps aloud, is a good idea.
Consider how it might apply to your life.
In prayer for yourself, 1 Chronicles 4:10
is one good example to follow. Jabez prayed,
‘Oh that You would bless me and enlarge my
territory! Let Your hand be with me, and keep
me from harm so that I will be free from pain.’
That’s prayer for your personal life, for your
growth, for God’s presence, and for God’s
protection. Jabez prayed in the will of God and
God granted his request.
Lord, what do You think of my life?’ is
the attitude of this part of your day of prayer.
Consider your main objectives in the light of
what you know to be God’s will for you. Jesus
said, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent
Me and to finish His work’ (John 4:34). Do YOU
want to do God’s will more than anything else?
Then consider your activities — what
you do — in the context of your objectives.
God may speak to you about rearranging your
timetable, cutting out certain activities that are
good but not best, or some things that are
entanglements or impediments to progress.
Strip them off. You may be convicted about
how you spend your evenings or Saturdays,
when you could use the time to advantage and
still get the recreation you need.
As you pray, record your thoughts
about your activities and use of time, and plan
for better scheduling. Perhaps the need for
better preparation for your Sunday school class
or a personal visit to an individual will come to
your mind. Or the Lord may impress you to do
something special for someone. Make a note of
During this part of your day, bring up
any problems or decisions you are facing and
seek the mind of God on them. It helps to list
the factors involved in these decisions or
problems. Pray over these factors and look into
the Scriptures for guidance. You may be led to
a promise or direction from the passages with
which you have already filled your mind during
After prayer, you may reach some
definite conclusions upon which you can base
firm convictions. It should be your aim in a day
of prayer to come away with some conclusions
and specific direction — some stakes driven
down. However, do not be discouraged if this is
not the case. It may not be God’s time for a
conclusive answer to your problem. And you
may discover that your real need was not to
know the next step but to have a new
revelation of God Himself.
In looking for promises to claim there’s
no need to thumb through looking for new or
startling ones. Just start with the promises you
already know. Chew over some old familiar
promises the Lord has given you before, ones
you remember as you think back. Pray about
applying these verses to your life.
I have found some of the greatest
blessings from a new realization of promises I
already knew. And the familiar promises may
lead you to others. The Bible is full of them.
You may want to mark or underline in
your Bible the promises the Lord gives during
these extended times alone, and put the date
and a word or two in the margin beside them.
Variety is important during your day of prayer.
Read a while, pray a while, then walk around.
A friend of mine paces the floor of his room for
his prayer time. Rather than get cramped in
one position, take a walk and stretch; get
As outside things pop into your mind,
simply incorporate those items into prayer. If
it’s some business item you must not forget,
jot it down. Have you noticed how many things
come to mind while you are sitting in church?
It will be natural for things to occur to you
during your prayer day that you should have
done, so put them down, pray about them and
plan how and when you can deal with them.
Don’t just push them aside or they will plague
you for the rest of the day.
At the end of the day summarize in your
notebook some things God has spoken to you
about. This will be profitable to refer to later.
The result of your day of prayer should be
answers to the two questions Paul asked the
Lord on the Damascus road (Acts 22:6-10).
Paul’s first question was, ‘Who are you, Lord?’
The Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus.’ You will be
seeking to know Him, to find out who He is.
The second question Paul asked was, ‘What
shall I do, Lord?’ The Lord answered him
specifically. This should be answered or
reaffirmed for you in that part of the day when
you unhurriedly seek His will for you.
Don’t think you must end the day with
some new discovery or extraordinary
experience. Wait on God and expose yourself
to His Word. Looking for a new experience or
insight you can share with someone when you
get back will get you off the track. True, you
may gain some new insight, but often this can
just take your attention from the real business.
The test of such a day is not how exhilarated
we are when the day is over but how it works
into life tomorrow. If we have really exposed
ourselves to the Word and come into contact
with God, it will affect our daily life.
Days of prayer don’t just happen.
Besides the attempts of our enemy Satan to
keep us from praying, the world around us has
plenty to offer to fill our time. So we have to
make time. Plan ahead — the first of every
month, or once a quarter.
God bless you as you do this — and do
it soon! You too will probably ask yourself,
‘Why not more often?’
* * *
‘I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He
heard my cry for mercy.
Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on
Him as long as I live.
I will sacrifice a thank offering to You and call
on the name of the Lord.’
—Psalm 116:1-2, 17
Divide the Time into Three Parts
1. Wait on the Lord
a. To realize His presence.
h. To be cleansed.
c. To worship Him.
2. Pray for Others
a. Ask specific things for them.
b. Use Paul’s prayers as patterns for your own.
c. Ask for others what you are praying for yourself.
3. Pray for Yourself
How to Stay Awake and Alert
1. Get adequate rest on the two nights before your time of prayer.
2. Change positions — sit for a while, then go for a walk perhaps.
3. Have some variety in what you do. Read the Scriptures for a while, spend some time praying,
then plan or organize for a while, and so on.
4. Pray aloud — in a whisper or soft voice. Sometimes ‘thinking aloud’ also helps.
How to Make a ‘Worry List’
1. Give some thought to your current conflicts, problems, concerns, or frustrations. Write down
anything that is ‘bothering’ you. Number each of these items. No matter how trivial a thing
is, if it is of concern to you, write it down. Ask God to show you anything else which is a
matter of concern.
2. Every worry that you can think of should be on that piece of paper. When you are satisfied
that all of your concerns have been listed, go on to No. 3.
3. Go thorough the list item by item. For each one you will decide either that you can do
nothing about it, because t is past or beyond your control, or that you can do something to
resolve the issue.
If there is nothing you can do about a given item, then spend some time in prayers about it.
If you feel that you can take some action, you should also pray about it, then make a ‘do list’
of things you plan to do specifically to help resolve it. After you have gone through many of
these concerns, you will have several items on a ‘do list’.
As a result of the rest of your time in prayer, you will also come up with other things which
should go on this ‘do list’.
4. You may want to get rid of your ‘worry list’ after your prayer time, if it has some rather
personal or pointed items which could be embarrassing or awkward if others were to read
Checklist for an Extended Time of Prayer
a. A Bible — perhaps the one you read regularly
b. A notebook or paper for taking notes
c. Pens or pencils
d. A watch (or clock!)
a. Prayer letters from missionaries
b. A devotional book such as:
(1) Power through Prayer by E. M. Bounds
(2) Words to Winners of Souls by Horatius Bonar
(3) The Know/edge of The Holy by A. W. Tozer
(4) The Path of Prayer by Samuel Chadwick
(5) Knowing God byi. I. Packer
(6) Purpose in Prayer by E. M. Bounds
c. Something to eat and/or drink
d. Your current prayer list
e. Memory cards — to put in some extra review and meditation time or to pray over your
f. Your Bible Reading Highlights Records for recent months — to look for patterns in
God’s dealing with you
g. Suitable clothing
h. Your 2:7 Series Course books 1 and 2
a. A calendar of the months ahead
b. A hymn book
c. Notes from your last extended time of prayer
d. A list of your goals and/or plans
e. Facts/papers about a decision you have to make
f. A copy of your weekly timetable
How to Take Notes During an Extended Time of Prayer
Here is one example which you might find helpful as you prepare to spend time alone with God: