Prayer is sweet communion between the child of God and their heavenly Father. Prayer is not merely a time we set aside in our day to bless our food or ask God’s favour or help. Prayer should be, as Oswald Chambers wrote, the breath of the believer. Jesus himself revealed how important prayer is by often withdrawing himself to desolate places to pray (Luke 5:16) and he even spent an entire night in prayer (Luke 6:12). The night before the cross, Jesus prayed (Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46) and on the cross, he prayed (Luke 23:34). The present ministry of Jesus is prayer (Hebrews 7:25).
Church history is full of examples of men and women who did great things for God and yet one of the key marks of a great Christian is prayer. Martin Luther said, “With all I have to do I can only spend two hours a day in prayer.” John Wesley said, “God does nothing in the earth but through prayer” and he demonstrated it with his prayer life. John Flectcher, Wesley’s friend and the first true Methodist theologian, would often pray for hours in his office to the point that the walls would be wet from his own sweat. Missionaries such as David Brainerd, David Livingston, and Jim Elliott were all men of profound prayer. Livingston prayed so much in his cabin that his knees carved out a portion of the wooden floor. E.M. Bounds would often pray for hours. G. Campbell Morgan would take what he called long prayer walks. Charles Spurgeon was said to be such a man of prayer that people remarked that Spurgeon always seemed to have a prayer on his lips. D.L. Moody, a man of prayer in his own, was asked if had heard Spurgeon preach and he replied, “Even better, I heard him pray.” Leonard Ravenhill would spend up to eight hours a day in prayer. A.W. Tozer prayed for hours in his study and out of that study came many incredible books. William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, would daily pray that God’s people would have a revelation of hell so that they might bring in heaven to earth. Evan Roberts, the great preacher from the Welsh revival at the turn of the 20th century, would spend hours in the Welsh coal mines praying, “Oh God, bend me and break me.”
Prayer is the key to being close to the heart of God. But how do we begin to pray without ceasing as Paul urged in 1 Thessalonians 5:17? I don’t believe that Paul has in mind here a certain amount of time. Even the life of both Jesus and Paul demonstrates that they did not pray always. I believe what he has in view here is a heart and attitude of prayer. Prayer should not be an event we attend (such as The Call or a prayer meeting) but it should mark our lives. I believe that as we live our lives in the present, we should ever be mindful of two things: the Word of God (Psalm 119:11) and prayer (Luke 18:1). And by the grace of God we have the Holy Spirit living within us who opens our hearts to the Word (Psalm 119:33) and he also prays through us (Romans 8:26-27). Is it any wonder then that Paul would write, “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:17-18 ESV)?
So what do we learn about prayer from both church history and the pages of Scripture? Many books have been written on this subject by men much more gifted than myself but let me simply make a few observations in passing.
- Prayer is not based on the amount of time we spend nor on the words that we necessarily say (Matthew 6:7-8).
- Prayer must be done in faith (Mark 11:22-25).
- Prayer is to be persistent (Luke 18:1-8).
- Prayer should exalt and honour God (Luke 11:1-13; 1 John 5:14-15).
- Church leaders should devote themselves primarily to prayer and the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4).
- We should maintain godly relationships so that we will not hinder our prayers (1 Peter 3:7; James 5:16).
- We are to maintain an attitude of continual prayer (Romans 12:12; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
- We are to pray in the name of Jesus (John 14:12-14).
- We are to come boldly to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:14-16).
- Our prayers are sweet incense rising before God (Revelation 5:8).
My prayer to God is that he will bring a revival of prayer to the Church (Matthew 21:13). The Church was birthed while in a prayer meeting (Acts 1:14; 2:1-4) and continued through prayer (Acts 2:42). May the Holy Spirit come and ignite a passion for prayer once again in the hearts of Jesus’ disciples.
[Link to original post and comments on Roy Ingle’s blog, Arminian Today]