God does not slumber or sleep. And once a month for one week we keep Him company in the early hours of the morning rather than sleep, from 5 to 6am and beyond for those who will, those who find that time too short. We lose some sleep, sometimes feel some pain, but, so what? Christianity does not make us wimps, it makes us warriors. Some valiant souls take the pain to gain money as they set off to work at 5 in the morning, surely we can take it to spend time with God. That’s a thought, if we can work odd hours, can we not pray odd hours?
Truth be told, though prayer is sweet to some, to others, it is akin to pulling teeth, well, almost. Because Pastors know that people sometimes have difficulty praying, we expend great energy in teaching people the hows, whys and wherefores of prayer. We list formulae, 3 point plans, 5 level principles, physical props, dissect the Lord’s prayer, construct unending prayer paths, take them up to high places, joke about it, make it light hearted and fun, intense and deep, whatever, anything to get them to pray some! Yet one day as I waited on the Lord , totally unbidden He spoke two things to my heart which were essential to prayer : availability and consistency.
It set me thinking. First availability, doesn’t it seem rather obvious? To pray I must be available to pray, I must devote time to prayer. Many people oddly say they are so busy that they do not have time to pray. Most peculiar, indeed, though common; rather, it seems to me a most unintelligent thing to not pray. Why neglect connections in high places, awesome relationship, and instead run around like a headless chicken vainly trying to make sense of life? Thus available means I actually get to do the praying, and, it further means that I give it ample time.
Ample, plenty, much, adequate, abundant, etc. Now I must confess to being somewhat bemused when I hear leaders tell people that it is sufficient to pray for five minutes a day. I suppose yes, one could say that to new believers; however, if five, ten years on, I still spend only five minutes in conversation with God then surely I am missing the mark. Pray, what can be achieved of substance in five minutes? Prayer requires TIME. We cannot say hasty hellos to God and expect to become intimate with Him, recite a quick psalm and become prayer giants.
Where are the warriors? Where are the watchmen? We have an unfortunate tendency to mollycoddle people and sink them further into mediocrity, in the name of love. I am grateful my professors did not try to be popular by telling me five minutes of classes or study a day would make me a world class interpreter, I would have flunked impressively. Many believers are flunking the tests of life and faith because they will not take the time to sit at the feet of the Author of life and be taught, trained, changed and filled by Him. Of course praying while walking down the road to work is lovely, but it does not replace time in the secret place.
To develop a friendship, I need those times when we sit together one on one, talk, hang out, bond, those extended times of fellowship. So it is with God. When people say they have difficulty praying and I ask them about their prayer life I most often find that they have other fish to fry than pray. I found one great man who agrees, E M bounds once wrote that “Much time spent with God is the secret of all successful praying. Prayer which is felt as a mighty force is the immediate product of much time spent with God.” So if I will to pray, I must make time to pray.
I must make time to pray, consistently. Indeed consistency is the other essential. It means making prayer a regular, daily affair; not one hour every other week, but a daily feast, a lifestyle choice. Great praying is not borne of sporadic encounters but of continuous interaction. When I was learning to drive, I took lessons regularly and became quite good, so good that I only narrowly missed passing the test the first time around because I had taken the wrong turn. However, afterwards I began to travel a lot professionally and lessons became more sporadic. Once I came back after a long break and could barely drive, I continued taking lessons any time I was in town and felt up to it. I finally got the licence at the fifth and last trial. In all I ended up taking dozens more hours than if I had taken lessons regularly, and at three times the original cost.
My inconsistency was to blame for my failure to achieve the required dexterity. Prayer is like that. Consistency is also my way of saying to God, “I mean business’, this is not just a convenience thing, it’s a lifestyle choice; you matter to me, the richness of this relationship is essential to me and I will give it my all”. The heart attitude and commitment demonstrated in my availability and consistency attract the attention, the favour and the power of God. Thus the Holy Spirit will take me by the hand and teach me to pray. He will walk me through the arid places, through the veil of the flesh and break me through into a place of joyful intimacy and spiritual power.
Indeed the grace of God is abundant and available, not to serve as an excuse to shirk our responsibilities (some justify prayerlessness by saying we are no longer under the law but under grace); rather to empower us to do God’s will. And God’s will is that we pray, that is the universal testimony of Scripture, humans calling on the name of the Lord, as taught and embodied by Paul and also by our Lord. It is our individual praying that fuels our corporate praying making dynamic power, much needed influence, available to the church. So brethren, I implore you, in the name of Jesus, let us pray.
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