“Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice” (Psalm 55:17)
In my estimation, there is not a greater discipline in all of Christianity than to live a life of prayer. Prayer is not one of the favorite subjects of the church. Prayer is one of the most neglected practices amongst believers. On top of that, there are many Christians who do pray, but they don’t pray effectively.
After I was born, again I read my Bible with enthusiasm. Even though I didn’t care too much for reading, I loved my Bible. However, there was something I knew was lacking in my young spiritual life. It was that I didn’t have much of a prayer life. I tried making a commitment to pray one hour like the disciples were asked to do, but that lasted about a day or two. Well, it happened after I was saved a couple of years that I determined to get serious about a prayer life. I am not big on New Year resolutions, but the New Year was upon me so I decided to do a New Year resolution. The resolution was to start off every work day with at least five minutes of prayer. You are probably thinking wow, what an incredible goal. Now I know five minutes is not much time, but it was certainly more than I was doing. Besides that, the commitment was for at least five minutes; I could always go longer. Five minutes seemed very practical because I could miss my alarm, get up late, and still squeeze in my prayer time before heading off to work. I can tell you that I kept that commitment and only failed to miss my prayer time a few times that year. Most of the mornings when I would pray I would go down in my basement rec room. As I kept at it, my prayer time was starting to increase. I was starting to go fifteen and twenty minutes, even longer. I was learning fellowship with God. I was finding a delight in getting to know my God.
My prayer life has grown a great deal since those early days. If there is any great lesson I can tell you about having a disciplined prayer life it is this, discipline will turn into delight. Yes, your prayer life can get to, if it hasn’t already, the place where you look forward to getting into your prayer closet and seek the Lord. It may not always be like that, but the more you know the Lord, the more you will take delight in spending time with Him.
If there is anything I would say prayer is, it is getting to know your God. So many believers think prayer is a list of requests that you bring to the Lord. I would never say that you shouldn’t do that, but quite often people bombard God with all their troubles, needs and desires and they don’t realize they have not taken time out to have intimate communion with the Lord. I have told my church that if they start off their prayer with praising God and seeking His face, then when they lift up their needs, the Lord is more pleased to answer them. It is like a child who wants to hit his dad up for five bucks, and he approaches his dad with a loving attitude before he asks for the money. I fell for that one quite few times. Jesus even gave us a pattern for that in what we call the Lord’s Prayer. It starts with, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name” (Matthew 6:9). Jesus’ first two words teaches us that we are going before our Father. Praise God, He is not some distant crabby God who is always perturbed with everyone, but instead He desires to be a Father to us. Then Jesus’ next several words exalt the Father to the place that He deserves, He is to be hallowed. One of the meanings of hallowed is to venerate. Venerate means to regard with reverential respect and to honor. Basically you should start off your prayer time giving glory to God. We have prayer on Tuesday nights at our church and once in a while I say out loud to those who are there, “Let’s lift our hands and our voices unto God in praise and worship. Let’s not go barging into His presence, but let’s go before him with respect.” It is after we have done that, that we can ask for His will to be done and for our daily needs to be met.
It is such a shame that the Lord’s Prayer is not understood. So many have made it a prayer that people chant as a part of their church meeting. So many just mouth it without even giving any thought to what they are saying. Have you ever realized the damning effect the Lord’s Prayer can have on people? The prayer goes on to say, “and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). Do you realize what is being prayed here? People are actually asking God to forgive them the same way they forgive. Anyone who prays that prayer with un-forgiveness in their heart is asking God to not forgive them. For in the same way they forgive, they are asking God to forgive. If they won’t forgive then they are asking God not to forgive. If they don’t. He won’t. Doesn’t that make you shudder? It does me.
Prayer is serious business. Prayer is one of the most important things a believer can do. Probably most Christians view prayer as something they must do instead of seeing prayer as a privilege. Through prayer, you have the privilege of a one on one relationship with the One who created the heavens and the earth. And even more than that, if your relationship is right with Him, He will hear your prayers and answer them. Of course, they have to be according to God’s will, and if they are, God will.
Jesus was the greatest example when it came to prayer. His ministry to the lost sheep of Israel and His prayer time with the Father were in perfect balance. Sometimes He would rise a great while before sun up. Another time he spent a whole night in prayer. Other times He would sneak off into the mountains to get away from the people so He could be alone with His Father. He knew He could not be effective around the people unless He got away from people to get into the presence of His Father. I think it is very important for believers to have a set time to pray, but Jesus had more than that, He lived a life of prayer. This is a practice I am learning more and more. This is a practice the church needs to learn.
Most of all, the church must understand that she must pray. She needs to pray and believe in the power of prayer. The “house of prayer” has a thousand things going on inside her walls, but very little of what is the most needed, PRAYER!