Today I am very happy and grateful to my friend Lisa, for being willing to write in this space. She is the kind of friend who is always encouraging me to live a godly life, a life of prayer.
About ten years ago I read a sermon by 18th century theologian Jonathan Edwards, whom many people consider one of the greatest minds America has ever had, called “Hypocrites Deficient in the Duty of Prayer”. Since my prayer life as a young mother of three was not consistent, I read attentively, questioning whether I was a hypocrite. Since then I have sought to become more faithful to my Lord in prayer. I have considered the words of those mature Christians whom I respect to help me focus on becoming more engaged in prayer. Over the past year I have begun to see that prayerlessness is really a lack of belief in my Lord Jesus and His Word. Do I really believe He hears me? Do I really believe the prayer of the righteous man has great power as it is working (James 5:16)? If I do, then I will pray. As Wayne Grudem says in Systematic Theology,“If we pray little, it is probably because we do not really believe that prayer accomplished that much at all.”
So, I often say, “Lord, I believe… help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)
Some quotes that have helped me:
“Your Father sees… what is done in secret… He will reward you” Matthew 6
“One essential thing to grow in grace is diligence in the use of private means of grace: private prayer private reading of the Scriptures, and private meditation and self-examination. Here are the roots of true Christianity. Wrong here, a man is wrong all the way through!
There is another thing which is absolutely essential:that is, regular and habitual communion with the Lord Jesus… which can only be carried on by faith, prayer and meditation. We must seek to have personal intimacy with the Lord Jesus, and to deal with Him as a man deals with a loving friend. We must realize what it is to turn to Him first in every need, to talk to Him about every difficulty, to consult Him about every step, to spread before Him all our sorrows, to get Him to share in all our joys, to do all as in His sight, and to go through every day learning on and looking to Him. “To me to live is Christ” Phil. 1:21″ J.C. Ryle, Holiness (pgs. 110, 113)
“Prayer is the most important action any of us can take for the cause of Christ in this world”. Franklin Graham
“Prayer is not about getting God to do my bidding, but the shaping and bending of my will until it aligns with His” Barbara Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Woman
“Prayer – secret, fervent, believing prayer – lies at the root of all personal godliness” William Carey
“Are you a hypocrite? (Matt 6:5) One way to tell is to compare the amount of time you spend in private prayer to the amount you spend in public prayer. As D.A. Carson rightly observes: ‘The person who prays more in public than in private reveals he is less interested in God’s approval than human praise. Not piety, but a reputation for piety is his concern.” Philip Ryken, When You Pray
“If there are no set and disciplined times of Bible reading and meditation and memorization, the spontaneity and communion with God by His Word (as stated in Psalm 1) will dry up.You must have disciplined, regular meeting with God for prayer. Early-morning prayer is decisively important (Mark 1:35). Win that victory the night before. The discipline to rise early is not as difficult as going to bed early the night before” John Piper,When I Don’t Desire God, How to Fight for Joy
“She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household… Proverbs 31:15 , in conjunction with John 6:27 : Do not labor for the that perishes, but for the foodthat endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man willgive to you….and John 4:34: My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work”
“Prayer is a weapon. Paul speaks of the “weapons we wield” in II Cor. 10:4-5 “They are not merely human, but divinely potent to demolish strongholds.” The source of my doubts about the potency of prayer is not from the Holy Spirit. It is from the unholy spirit, the Destroyer Himself, urging me to quit using the weapon he fears so intensely”.
Elisabeth Elliot, Keep A Quiet Heart
Finally, one of the most powerful biographies I’ve read has moved me to consider who Jesus is and how He meets us in prayer. This excert is taken both from his book and John Piper’s Sermon: You Will Be Eaten by Cannibals! Lessons from the Life of John G. Paton
Courage in the Cause of Missions2000 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors
The promise had been given precisely in the context of the Great Commission: “Go and make disciples of all nations . . . and Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” Matthew 28:19-20. More than any other promise, this one brought Jesus close and real to John Paton in all his dangers. After the measles epidemic that killed thousands on the islands, and for which the missionaries were blamed, he wrote: “During the crisis, I felt generally calm, and firm of soul, standing erect and with my whole weight on the promise, ‘Lo! I am with you always.’ Precious promise! How often I adore Jesus for it, and rejoice in it! Blessed be his name” (p. 154).
The power this promise had to make Christ real to Paton in hours of crisis was unlike any other Scripture or prayer:
Without that abiding consciousness of the presence and power of my dear Lord and Savior, nothing else in all the world could have preserved me from losing my reason and perishing miserably. In his words, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world,” became to me so real that it would not have startled me to behold Him, as Stephen did, gazing down upon the scene. I felt His supporting power. . . . It is the sober truth, and it comes back to me sweetly after 20 years, that I had my nearest and dearest glimpses of the face and smiles of my blessed Lord in those dread moments when musket, club, or spear was being leveled at my life. Oh the bliss of living and enduring, as seeing “Him who is invisible”! (p. 117)
One of the most powerful paragraphs in his Autobiography describes his experience of hiding in a tree, at the mercy of an unreliable chief, as hundreds of angry natives hunted him for his life. What he experienced there was the deepest source of Paton’s joy and courage. In fact, I would dare to say that to share this experience and call others to enjoy it was the reason that he wrote the story of his life. with the words, “What I write here is for the glory of God” (p. 2). That is true. But God gets glory when his Son is exalted. And his Son his exalted when we cherish him above all things. That is what this story is about.
Being entirely at the mercy of such doubtful and vacillating friends, I, though perplexed, felt it best to obey. I climbed into the tree and was left there alone in the bush. The hours I spent there live all before me as if it were but of yesterday. I heard the frequent discharging of muskets, and the yells of the Savages. Yet I sat there among the branches, as safe as in the arms of Jesus. Never, in all my sorrows, did my Lord draw nearer to me, and speak more soothingly in my soul, than when the moonlight flickered among those chestnut leaves, and the night air played on my throbbing brow, as I told all my heart to Jesus. Alone, yet not alone! If it be to glorify my God, I will not grudge to spend many nights alone in such a tree, to feel again my Savior’s spiritual presence, to enjoy His consoling fellowship. If thus thrown back upon your own soul, alone, all alone, in the midnight, in the bush, in the very embrace of death itself, have you a Friend that will not fail you then? (p. 200)