Prayer! Ah yes, we know it is important. We tell our children: “Wait!” when they get around the dinner table. “We pray first!” And rightly so, for “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down fromthe Father of heavenly lights …” (James 1:17).
But there is more to prayer than meets the eye and when our food is on the table. It is a bond with God, our heavenly Father, and with the Father’s Son, our Saviour. That implies vital communication.
We are all usually ready to admit that we need to improve on that daily communication.
One author1 reminds us that we often face the fact that our windows toward heaven can get “fogged up”.
Remember Daniel praying three times a day with his window open towards Jerusalem.
In considering the importance of prayer we need to look at some vital issues, such as
(1) Discovering the distractions
(2) Discerning the needed priorities
(3) Displaying wisdom in perseverance
(4) Disinfecting unhealthy trends
1. Discovering the distractions …
Never forget that we have a great enemy who will always try to distract us from God, for our strength is from God! We are in a constant war with this enemy of our souls. In Ephesians 6:10-18 the apostle reminds us of the spiritual powers of evil, and the spiritual armour we need to put on …”praying on all occasions with all kinds of prayers ….”.
There are also other kinds of distractions: our own “sinful flesh”, our personal selfish interests, our weak responses to spiritual needs, our tired bodies after a busy day, our own ‘little’ world, etc.
Prayer is always in danger of being restricted, or pushed around.
For that reason it pays to purposely seek for the best prayer times.
The Lord Jesus Himself did so (Mark 1:35f) even after a busy day prior to that.
That does not mean that there is no room for spontaneous, on the spot, prayer. For instance, while sharing the gospel with an unbelieving neighbour, you can certainly pray quietly, “Lord, enable me to say the right words!”
Another distraction to a more committed prayer life is “the world”. We need dealings and interactions with others, but that interaction can also include the use of our mobile, and that has its pros and cons.
As to the world, we can think of our positive, prayerful impact on others, but we must avoid a negative, detrimental impact from the world (see 1 John 2:15-17).
2. Discerning the needed
Priorities are necessary for they press the point home. Think of priorities as to the content of prayer.
The Lord’s prayer is the model prayer which Jesus taught us. The focus is first on the glory of the Person Whom we address: “Our Father in heaven … Thy Name, Thy Kingdom, Thy will ….”.
Apart from God’s kingdom and glory, we also need to remember others who seek the glory of that kingdom. We must realise the fact of a growing persecuted church worldwide: over 300 million fellow-Christians, who are not only restricted in their movements, but also very often severely treated and killed for the sake of Christ.
We need to think of God’s people in the wider sense, e.g. not just “my daily bread, etc.” but “our daily bread ….”. This awareness is brought home to us all the more today!
3. Displaying wisdom in perseverance …
It is quite easy for prayer to be squeezed out of our prime time, and to be placed on the “backburner”.
For that reason it is wise to prioritise the essential items on our daily prayer programme.
Write a prayer list!
For some it may not be feasible to make an early prayer start in the morning: of course, we should always pray when we rise, but the more extended prayer could well be held at night. Not everyone’s daily routine is the same. It is also easier to “grumble” (as Israel did in the wilderness), than to be “humble” and pray.
The Lord Jesus in his wisdom chose to rise early and went to a lonely place to pray.
Some prayer needs may stare us in the face, e.g. a sick child at home, another COVID lockdown,while other needs, such as an alertness to urgent prayer matters may escape us. Remember Eph 6:18-20.
4. Disinfecting unhealthy trends …
It is easy to become disappointed or disillusioned when prayers are “apparently” not effective. We tend to give up too easily. Sometimes that is because we are too busy with other things, or too discouraged thinking “prayer doesn’t help”. Prayer takes a prepared heart and mind: we come to the Lord and King of the universe. We bring weighty requests to Him.
For that reason it is important to know what we can learn from others, most of all from our Lord and Saviour: “O Master, let me walk with Thee ….” . Prayer is a walking and talking with the Lord, e.g. Enoch, Noah, Abraham, etc.
We can also learn from the prayers of others, firstly, from those in Scripture: Acts 4:23-31; 1Cor 1:4-9; 2 Cor 1:3-11; Eph 1:15-23; Eph 3:14-21 (n.b.); etc.
Take note also of the many psalms which are prayers, e.g. Psalm 8, 18, 19, 24, 25, 51, etc.
Finally, there are many hymns which are actually written prayers of God’s people throughout the centuries.
Look at some of these: 477(O, Master, let me walk…), 389 (Lord, speak to me, that I may speak …); 445; 168; 314; 415; 418; 227 ; 482 (O Sovereign God). These numbers are from the “Sing to the Lord” songbook.
William Carey, well-known missionary to India, was facing an enormous task which could easily have made him reluctant, but he set out “Expecting great things from God, and attempting great things for God”.
Isn’t this the way to go about prayer??
1 H.Veldkamp, “Beslagenvensters”.
Mr John Goris is an emeritus minister and member of the Reformed Church in Bucklands Beach.
Photo by Samuel Martins on Unsplash