Prayer: A Discipline and a Delight

In his lifetime in the 18th century, John Wesley traveled more than 250,000 miles on horseback, preached an average of two or three times a day, totaling more than 40,000 sermons. One of his favorite texts was John 3:7, where Jesus said, “You must be born again.” Wesley was often asked, “Why do you preach so much that ‘you must be born again?’” Wesley replied, “Because you must be born again.”
I have been preaching through the Book of Psalms, many of which were written by David. I would imagine that in his lifetime, someone said, “Why, David, do you talk so much about our need for prayer?” David may have replied, “Because we need to pray.” “But, why do we need to pray, David?” David’s answer: “Because we need God.”
Paul Miller writes, “If you are not praying, then you are quietly confident that time, money, and talent are all you need in life. You’ll always be a little too tired, a little too busy. But if, like Jesus, you realize you can’t do life on your own, then no matter how busy, no matter how tired you are, you will find the time to pray.” I am writing today to those who lack such confidence and realize that without God’s help every day, your life is a mess. The rest of you may want to skip the rest of the column since you, ahem, are doing just fine without the help of the One who created all things and in whom all things consist.
First, start your day with the Lord. This will require that you get blanket victory, that you say “no” to your flesh and get out of bed. If your daily routine includes stumbling to the shower and into the car, wolfing down breakfast and putting on your makeup (ladies) or shaving (men) as you rush down the road to work, then inserting time alone with God will produce a great shock to your system. You will have to get up earlier, which means you will have to go to bed earlier. You can do it.
Second, learn to cry out to God with your whole heart. William Cowper said, “As a man cries most loudly when he cries with his mouth opened, so a man prays most effectually when he prays with his whole heart.” That means that we need to be alone where we can talk to God without fear of being overheard. Find a place in the house where you can shut the door and pray. Wholehearted prayer is also honest prayer. We are God’s children and a child says whatever is on his mind. That’s one thing that endears us to Peter, and I think made Jesus love him so much. God desires truth in the inward parts. “I cry out with my whole heart” means that I don’t play games and try to sound religious in my prayers, but instead I pour out my heart to him so that God hears from my lips what he already knows is in my heart.
Third, pray biblically. Read the Bible and pray God’s words back to him. Let the Scripture train your mind and heart how to speak and listen to God. Read some of Paul’s great prayers for the churches he started and pray those same prayers with all your heart.
Finally, don’t give up. It is always too early to quit. Prayer may start as a discipline but will end as a delight for those who persevere in their desire to know the Father.

Advertisements