We all need to pray more – I sure do:
Just in case you are thinking: ‘Here goes Bill again, bashing other believers’ – not so. If anything, I am bashing myself here, while trying to encourage others. I have not prayed anywhere near as much as I should have, and it has not been the priority in my life that it should be. So I am preaching to myself as much as to anyone else.
And sadly, it is true that far too many believers are not praying Christians. The evidence is all around us, including anecdotal evidence. Attend any early morning prayer meetings – if you can still find one. Most are sparsely attended, with a handful of elderly folks involved.
Many churches – at least in America – used to have midweek prayer services. There are few of those around nowadays it seems. And just this past week I was involved in a prayer and repentance day which was live-streamed. It was put on by an English Christian group. I was told afterward that several thousand folks tuned in. England has a population of 56 million.
But perhaps one line of evidence that is most telling of all is this: the majority of Americans still claim to be Christian. That is close to being the case in Australia as well. But if there are so many Christians, why are our nations such cesspools? Why is there so little evidence of God anywhere? Why does evil, sin and sensuality prevail everywhere?
Could it be that most Christians simply are not praying? Or not praying enough? That must be part of the explanation. One can only guess here, but I would not be surprised at all if the average Australian Christian spent perhaps 4-5 hours a day on various forms of entertainment, while spending perhaps a minute or two a day in prayer.
If that figure is even remotely accurate, then no wonder we are in such a bad way. A prayerless people will have zero impact on the surrounding culture. A prayerless church will not be making much of a difference in a dark and needy world. So we all need to lift our game here.
Sure, there is a difference between a calling to prayer and the normal Christian life. Some believers have a special ministry in prayer, spiritual warfare, and intercession. But all Christians can pray – and pray more. I am mainly called to blog, to lobby, to write, to deal with public policy battles, to engage in culture wars, to teach, etc. But I can pray more as well.
So praise God for the dedicated prayer warriors and intercessors. We sure do need them, especially at times like this – especially with all the cities on fire in America right now. Those with such a special prayer focus are the real champions of our day – much more than someone like myself.
But for what it is worth, let me tell you a bit about my own prayer habits – as meagre as they are. I must first say that we are all different. There are no cookie-cutter Christians out there, and there is no one-size-fits-all form of prayer. What I do may be interesting or helpful to others. If not, stick with, or devise, your own prayer life.
The key is of course to pray daily, be it in the morning, the evening, or throughout the day. I have two brief times of prayer. In the morning I will read the Word, and then try to go for a walk to pray for my day. I prefer walking about as I pray, and not sitting still. It also allows me to get a bit of exercise.
It is especially inspiring when the sun is shining, the skies are blue, and the trees are green. It is a bit less inspiring on cold, wet and dark days! In this morning prayer time I reflect on what I have just read, I pray for some folks, and I commit my daily work to the Lord – which means what articles I might write, what comments I might make, or how I might reply to folks on my website or on social media. A bit of thanks and praise will also be a part of this.
In my prayers at night in bed, there may be some confession of sin for what happened during the day, and then I pray for a bunch of folks. My list keeps growing, and I will eventually have to write these names down, but I have around 40 people I pray for every single night.
There are some 20 of them in Australia, another dozen in the US, and another 8 or so worldwide. These include all sorts of folks, including friends, loved ones, and even the President of the US. He is probably one of the most hated and abused men around right now, so I do pray for him, as Scripture commands (1 Timothy 2:2).
Some of these folks I am praying for their salvation, and some their spiritual growth and resilience. Some of these folks I have been praying for for many years now. We need to persist. And there will be times when we can cross someone’s name off our prayer-for-salvation list when they have moved into the Kingdom.
All this is simply what I have been doing with my prayer times. As stated, we all can have differing ways in which we pray, how we pray, and who we pray for. But the main thing is that we pray. And as I said, I am preaching to myself here. I need to hear such exhortations – badly! If my ruminations are a bit useful for some others, that is great as well. But it is mostly myself that I need to say this to.
Let me conclude with a few powerful quotes on prayer. There would be plenty of Christians to choose from here, and plenty of great books. Let me focus on just one from E. M. Bounds. He was an American clergyman (1835–1913), who wrote a number of excellent books on prayer. One of them was his classic short volume, Power Through Prayer. Here are a few gems from it:
“Men are God’s methods. The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men.”
“What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use, men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men – men of prayer.”
“It is not great talents or great learning or great preachers that God needs, but men great in holiness, great in faith, great in love, great in fidelity, great for God – men always preaching by holy sermons in the pulpit, by holy lives out of it. These men mould a generation for God.”
“Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is greater still.”
“The men who have most fully illustrated Christ in their character, and have most powerfully affected the world for Him, have been men who have spent so much time with God as to make it a notable feature in their lives.”
“The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day. If God is not first in our thoughts and efforts in the morning, He will be in the last place the remainder of the day.”
“Spiritual work is taxing work, and men are loath to do it. Praying, true praying, costs an outlay of serious attention and of time, which flesh and blood do not relish. Few persons are made of such strong fiber that they will make a costly outlay when surface work will pass as well in the market. . . . Hurried devotions make weak faith, feeble convictions, questionable piety. To be little with God is to be little for God. To cut short the praying makes the whole religious character short, scrimp, niggardly, and slovenly. It takes good time for the full flow of God into the spirit. Short devotions cut the pipe of God’s full flow. It takes time in the secret places to get the full revelation of God. Little time and hurry mar the picture.”
And two closing quotes from Scripture:
“Devote yourselves to prayer.” (1 Corinthians 7:5)
“Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)