Sunday, May 20, 2012

Drop What You're Doing And.....

...Pray.

I am ashamed to admit that throughout my now twenty-four years as a Christian, for me the toughest spiritual discipline in which to maintain consistency and tangible growth has been prayer. This is no small matter. This is no small concern. In years past, slothfulness in prayer has caused me to examine myself to see if I was truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Charles Spurgeon wrote:
“You are no Christian if you do not pray. A prayerless soul is a Christless soul. You have no inheritance among the people of God if you have never struggled with that Covenant Angel and come off the conqueror. Prayer is the indispensable mark of the true child of God.

“The condition of the church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meetings. So is the prayer meeting a grace-ometer, and from it we may judge the amount of divine working among a people. If God be near a church, it must pray. And if he be not there, one of the first tokens of his absence will be slothfulness in prayer.”
And according to J.C. Ryle:
“We want to know whether you are actually acquainted with the throne of grace, and whether you can speak to God as well as speak about God. Do you wish to find out whether you are a true Christian? Then rest assured that my question is of the very first importance – Do you pray?

“This I do say, that not praying is a clear proof that a man is not yet a true Christian. He cannot really feel his sins. He cannot love God. He cannot feel himself a debtor to Christ. He cannot long after holiness. He cannot desire heaven. He has yet to be born again. He has yet to be made a new creature. He may boast confidently of election, grace, faith, hope, and knowledge, and deceive ignorant people. But you may rest assured it is all vain talk if he does not pray.

“What is the reason that some believers are so much brighter and holier than others? I believe the difference, in nineteen cases out of twenty, arises from different habits about private prayer. I believe that those who are not eminently holy pray little, and those who are eminently holy pray much.”
Strong words. And all true. Does it stir, even grip your heart to read such truth? Are these truths, uttered by two of my favorite pastors and preachers of old, words of encouragement, words of discipline, or both to you? They are both edifying and corrective to me.

Much has been written about prayer, and I do not presume to have anything new to add to the conversation. Men far more prayerful, spiritual, mature, and Christ-like than me have written volumes over the centuries about what it means to be a praying Christian, and the dangers of being a prayerless Christian. So, I would like to simply and (hopefully) humbly share my two cents regarding one small yet important aspect of prayer--an aspect, if mastered, which could very well invigorate, strengthen, and mature your prayer life. What I propose is not new. There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). And what I propose is something I am presently working to apply to my life. So, my hope is that we learn and grow together in this aspect of prayer.

Between Facebook, Twitter, my personal email account, and multiple ministry email accounts I receive hundreds of emails every day. Oh, and there's the electronic device that seems to spend a lot of time attached to the side of my head--my phone. Add calls and texts, and you get the picture. I spend a great deal of time corresponding with others. This is in no way a complaint. I thank God He has given me the privilege, blessing, and responsibility to speak into the lives of others--family, friends, and strangers alike.

But I have been guilty (and maybe you feel and share my pain) of sometimes failing to pray when asked. I will receive a request in any one of the before-mentioned forms and I will commit to pray. Then, maybe a day or two later, I will receive a follow-up message thanking me for my prayers.

Guilt. Remorse. Discouragement. For I didn't pray as I said I would.

Recently, as I've renewed my efforts to bring greater consistency to my prayer life, I discovered a very simple and helpful way to bring about the desired results.

Drop what I'm doing and pray.

Instead of telling someone I will pray, when I receive a prayer request, I am trying to drop what I'm doing and pray--right then and there. When I acknowledge that I've received a prayer request, instead of saying I will pray (when there's a chance I might not if I wait until later), I drop what I'm doing and pray. This way, my first response to the person who made the request is to tell the person I have already prayed for them.

Keep in mind, when communicating with God it can be for a few moments, a few minutes, or a few hours. All authentic communication with God, through prayer, is profitable. God hears His children--those who are born-again followers of Jesus Christ. And He only hears the prayers of genuine followers of Christ. He does not listen to the prayers of those who are in rebellion against Him (Isaiah 1:12-15).

So, when you drop whatever you are doing to pray about a request just received, don't worry about the length of time you pray. The Lord already knows what you are going to pray and how He is going to answer, before you begin to pray. The result has been more time in prayer throughout the day.

So, the next time someone asks you to pray, whether in person or from afar, drop what you're doing and pray.