The Discipline of Prayer
Over the next two installments we will explore the discipline of prayer. This week we will look at personal prayer and next week we will explore corporate prayer.
Carl Lundquist states that “whatever religious exercise we may practice, without the two basic ones … prayer and bible reading, the others are empty and pointless.” What Lundquist is saying is that one of the main reasons for our lack of godliness is prayerlessness.
During the 80’s more than 17,000 members of a major evangelical denomination attended a seminar on spiritual awakening and were surveyed on their prayer habits. Because they attended a seminar of this type you assume that these believers had a greater than average interest in prayer. The survey revealed that these people prayed an average of less than five minutes a day. Just so you don’t think I’m pointing fingers, there were 2000 pastors and wives at that seminar and the survey results showed that they prayed less than 7 minutes a day.
Simply stated prayer is talking to God. WE have been given the privilege of speaking to the creator of the universe. God’s word is clear:
1. Jesus expects us to pray – Don’t think of prayer as an impersonal requirement from a distant relative. The Lord Jesus Christ, the One with all authority and all love expects us to pray. The following excerpts from His words show that He Himself expects us to pray:
Matthew 6:5, “And when you pray.…”
Matthew 6:6, “But when you pray.…”
Matthew 6:7, “And when you pray.…”
Matthew 6:9, “This, then, is how you should pray: …”
Luke 11:9, “So I say to you: Ask …; seek …; knock.”
Luke 18:1, “Then Jesus told his disciples … they should always pray.”
Suppose Jesus appeared to you personally, much as He did to the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos in Revelation 1, and said that He expected you to pray. Wouldn’t you become more faithful in prayer, knowing specifically that Jesus expected that of you? Well, the words of Jesus quoted above are as much His will for you as if He spoke your name and said them to you face to face.
2. We are to be devoted to prayer – Everyone is devoted to something. Most of us are devoted to many things. When you make something a priority you will sacrifice for it. I will sacrifice sleep so I can make my trip to the gym in the morning. I am devoted to fitness, so I sacrifice some comforts. AS believers we need to be devoted to prayer. “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” Colossians 4:2 (ESV); “Devote yourselves to prayer.” (NIV)
3. We are to pray continually – Being devoted to prayer reminds us that prayer is an activity. “Pray continually” reminds us that prayer is also a relationship. In one sense, prayer is an expression of the believer’s unbroken relationship with the Father. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 simply states “Pray without ceasing.” (ESV) “Pray constantly” (NET Bible). I love the Message “Pray all the Time.” This text doesn’t teach that we have to be on our knees all the time; it does teach us that prayer is to be always in the forefront of what we do. Like a tickle in our throat; it’s always there. Always ready to be cleared. Praying without ceasing means that you never really stop conversing with the Lord; you simply have frequent interruptions.
The great reformer of the 16th century, Martin Luther said it well:
“As it is the business of tailors to make clothes and of cobblers to mend shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray.”
One final encouragement to pray … Hebrews 4:16 (ESV) “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
See You Sunday,