"People ask me, 'Why pray if God is sovereign?' I respond, 'Why pray if He isn't?" -- Michael Horton
As I have reflected on my prayer and devotional life and this statement, I am reminded that it isn't that we "should" pray -- as in a duty -- but we "must" pray -- as in a relationship. You and I can no more attempt to live this thing called the Christian life without prayer than we can live each second and day without breath.
I have jotted down several faith lessons the Lord has reminded recently from the Scripture concerning prayer. I pray that these are helpful to you as they have been to me.
1. When we least desire prayer is when we most need prayer.
Isn't this why Habakkuk cried, "O Lord, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O Lord, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy" (Hab. 3:2).
There is little doubt that our flesh and the enemy, Satan, hate prayer and will do everything to thwart it. As in the winter as ice forms quickly, when we sense our prayer life "cooling off," we must rush to our knees.
I encourage you to arise early tomorrow and seek the triune God's face. There is great reward in communion and intercession. God is faithful and His mercies are new every day (Lam. 3:23)!
2. Prayer is often a fight.
Luke's commentary on Jesus' prayer of the "persistent widow" says: "And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart" (Luke 18:1).
Remember: Never think that true, biblical, and God-honoring prayer is easy for anyone. All who fight in prayer, must first learn to fight to pray. If your heart is cold, you must pray until you can pray and then pray until you have prayed.
The less we feel inspired and emboldened to pray, the more we need to pray. The less we think our prayers are effective in God's sovereign will and plan, the more we need to pray!
If anything, the Lord has taught me repeatedly that an apparently ineffective hour of prayer is extremely better than no prayer at all. We must learn to persevere in prayer and not give up hope and faint (1 Thess. 5:17).
3. The "weakest" prayers yield the most grace.
I know this to be true by the Word and personal experience. The "return," if you will, on our prayers and our time of prayer is far greater than the investment made. One day, heaven will reveal all that has transpired in God's providence.
Notice I didn't say the "shortest" prayers yield the most grace. Certainly, the Bible is full of short prayers that God answered (Gen. 24:12-14; 1 Kings 18:36-37; 1 Chron. 4:10; 2 Chron. 14:11; Matt. 14:30; 15:22, 25; Mark 10:51; Luke 17:13; 18:13; 23:43, etc.).
It can be argued, perhaps, that general prayer is better than no prayer at all. However, specific requests lead to specific answers that greatly increase our faith in God's character and faithfulness.
In prayer, the most common trash collector that empties your garbage bin becomes a mighty warrior warring battles of eternal significance and glory. Rank and social standing do not matter.
God has used a variety of people throughout the millennia. Most of these faithful ones had little in common except an uncompromising commitment to the biblical Gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-8) and a life of prayer.
Are you committed to prayer even if God tarries in answering or seems distant?
4. Prayer is a necessity as we plow through the monotonous, mundane stuff of life.
Our culture is one of death by entertainment. We jump from one channel to the next and must constantly know what is going on in others' lives via social media.
Prayer is not "exciting" (whatever that means) by the world's standards. Yet, our lives will have a sense of the supernatural presence of God only to the degree that we remain before the Bible and live a life of prayer on a daily basis (Psalms 63 and 119).
Even today, I began prayer this morning with a heart as cold as a stone in Greenland in winter. Yet, after what seemed like an eternity, God began to warm my heart and set it aflame.
Friend, God is eternally gracious to honor the feeble, worn-out prayers of His saints. This truth encourages us to pray all the more. Do not faint!
5. When you wake up each morning, make prayer your first item of the day.
Read any part of Christian history and it is not uncommon to hear of the saints of old to spend hours in prayer. While that it not always possible, we need such examples. We should all seek to leave a legacy of prayer for our family, church, and other believers!
The Gospels show us that our Savior spent time alone in prayer with His Father (cf. Matt. 14:13; Mark 1:35, etc.). For Paul, prayer was the foundation of his life (Philemon 1:4; 1 Thess. 1:2; etc.). He knew that his effectiveness in the ministry was directly related to the time he spent before God in prayer.
If you haven't yet prayed today, take the first opportunity available to fellowship and cry out to God. Make sure that that you don't overlook "the" priority of prayer for lesser things in life.
What about in the evening? Perhaps, in the moments before you go to sleep, watch that your thoughts don't stray. Pray and seek to train your heart to meditate upon God and His character.
What if you find any extra time today? Linger in the Word of God and prayer. No one has ever regretted spending too much time in these devotions. God is the Rewarder of those who seek Him. Devote yourself to prayer. He is faithful!
In all my years as believer, I constantly amazed at how weak I am apart from prayer. But don't all our weaknesses and all of life's inconveniences drive and lead us to Christ?
May we give ourselves to prayer, investigate prayer, and explore prayer. May we, perhaps, re-learn the importance and power of prayer.
Indeed, no matter how great or noble, anything in this life that can be achieved without prayer is not worth chasing after.