Through the first week of ’31 Days of Prayer’, I’ve managed to avoid maybe the most basic reason why Christians ought to pray: God tells us to.
It might seem the most natural, obvious thing in the world – habitually asking our all-powerful heavenly Father to act in our lives and in the world should be a no-brainer. But just because something is good for us doesn’t mean we naturally want to do it. Do children (and not a few adults) need to be told to eat their vegetables? Do sinful human beings need to be told to pray?
We’ll come back to some of these verses in later reflections throughout the month, but take a look at these biblical commands to pray:
- “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalm 50:15)
- “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)
- “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.” (Eph 6:17-18)
- “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” (Col 4:2)
- “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess 5:16-18)
- “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling.” (1 Tim 2:8)
We live in an age of fleeting pleasures. To expand on the famous book title, we are amusing and distracting ourselves to death. Heck, while writing this brief reflection, I somehow ended up looking at IMDB’s page on Steve Guttenberg. Now that’s what I call distracted! How hard it is to make prayer a priority when we live in that world. John Piper nails many of us with these words: “One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.”
Most of us reading this blog also live in a world of affluence. That brings its own temptation: the illusion that we’re self-sufficient, that we don’t need God. Why would I pray for my daily bread when there’s a week’s worth of food in the pantry?
On top of that, there’s our indwelling sin. We naturally forget God and push him to the margins of life. We think we can do it alone, or we doubt his goodness. We doubt his power to answer our prayers, or we doubt his willingness.
How gracious of our heavenly Father – the one who knows us perfectly, far better than we know ourselves – to address us simply and directly: ‘Pray! Don’t give up on prayer! Keep praying! Pray all the time!’
“Next to the wonder of seeing my Savior will be, I think, the wonder that I made so little use of the power of prayer.” (Dwight Moody)
Heavenly Father, forgive me for those many times when I have neglected prayer. By your Spirit, please help me to heed your gracious commands to be constant in prayer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.