I was driving down the interstate early one morning on the way to to take my daughters to swim team practice. The sun had just risen, and the roads weren’t crowded yet. My girls sat beside me, not fully awake. We made this commute daily, and we had no reason to believe today’s trip would be anything but routine.
Until I noticed something wrong with the truck in front of me.
Its bed was filled with 5-gallon paint cans and tarps. A single ladder leaned against the hood of the cab. What caught my eye wasn’t the truck’s dirty exterior or the billowing blue tarps, it was the ladder. As the truck accelerated, it began to move.
Like a slow motion movie scene, I saw it rise from where it leaned against the cab, stand perpendicular to the truck bed, and then began to fall toward the back of the truck. The ladder hit the tailgate with a clatter and bounced out onto the interstate in front of me.
I watched the action unfold, but I didn’t react until the ladder landed with a crash in my lane.
“Father, help us!” I cried, swerving blindly into the right lane and hoping no car was beside me. Mercifully, the lane was clear.
“Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord. Thank you,” I breathed as I drove on, hands shaking and heart pounding. The danger was past, and God had answered my prayer.
Arrow prayers—they’re impromptu, unscripted, and spontaneous expressions of need to our ever-present Father. Nehemiah prayed a prayer like this as he prepared to make a request of King Artaxerxes in Nehemiah 2.
I’ve prayed many arrow prayers over the course of my lifetime—on the road, at work, even in the grocery store. Arrow prayers are a legitimate and appropriate way to “pray without ceasing.”
But arrow prayers shouldn’t be our only prayers.
Jesus instructed his disciples to pray this way:
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Mt. 6:6).
“Go into your room , close the door. . .”
Jesus knew arrow prayers aren’t enough. That we need deliberate, regular, focused times of prayer. That we need a place removed from the distractions that clamor for our attention. That to pray well, we must step aside from the everyday hustle and bustle of life and sit alone at his feet.
Susanna Wesley was the mother of Charles and John, the great revivalist preachers, and 17 other children. I suspect she didn’t dare sequester herself from her children in another room. Instead, she made a “prayer closet” by throwing her apron over her head while she sat in her rocking chair. The children knew when mama’s apron was over her head, they’d better not disturb her, because mama was praying.
I met Lupita on a mission trip to Mexico. Lupita lives with her daughter and five grandchildren in a two-room house made of cinder block and tar paper. When we visited her home, she led us out back to show us her prayer closet. It was a tiny room made of mismatched boards and a curtain for the door. Her grandchildren’s Sunday school papers decorated the walls. “This is where I get away from the children, and I pray,” she said.
Susanna and Lupita are wise women. They understood the value of prayer and made it a priority in their lives. We should be, too. Theologian Oswald Chambers, in his devotional book My Utmost for His Highest, affirms, “We must have a selected place for prayer.”
Having a designated place to pray helps us consistently and intentionally meet with God. Your “prayer closet” doesn’t have to be a room with a door, although doors help minimize distractions. It can be as simple as a favorite chair in a quiet corner of the living room early in the morning, a corner of the sofa with your favorite prayer resources nearby, or a lawn chair in the shade of an oak tree. If you consistently go to this place for the purpose of praying, your body, mind, and spirit will equate that spot with prayer, and you’ll find it much easier to concentrate.
When every room of our home was filled with children, I entered my prayer closet early every morning by turning on the light, propping myself up in bed, and reaching for my three prayer weapons: my Bible, my journal, and a copy of whatever devotional I happened to be reading. It wasn’t fancy, but it helped me honor my commitment to spend time every day with God.
What about you? Are you struggling to have a consistent prayer time? Are the only prayers you pray arrow prayers—haphazard and inconsistent? I encourage you today to find a spot for your prayer closet. Then set aside a time every day in which to meet with the Lord. You’ll be amazed to find that God will meet you there.
In the words of Oswald Chambers, “Prayer doesn’t fit us for the greater works, prayer is the greater work.”
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