To hear the average Christian talk about prayer is like listening to a fat person tell you how to lose weight. Everybody seems to know the best weight loss plan, but not many are disciplining themselves to follow it. I'm preaching to the choir and pointing a thumb at myself when I say that when we talk about prayer, it is the same thing. To be successful at anything, a person needs not only a plan, but the discipline to follow through. To plan for weight loss success, we start in the grocery store. We start new habits, such as exercise and eating more vegetables, and break old habits, such as being a couch potato while grazing on chips. Anyone who has ever succeeded in losing weight and sticking to an exercise plan can testify of the renewed level of confidence and energy that resulted.
Being faithful in prayer is a discipline. It's not something that will just happen. Prayer-less-ness in Christians is not one of those problems we can ignore and hope it goes away. No. It will continue and has continued to the point where many of our lives are powerless and we aren't seeing the results of prayers answered, partly because we worried when we should have prayed. Today is the first day of the rest of our lives. Let's put a plan for success in place to become the people God intended us to be.
Just as keeping a healthy diet is difficult for many people, so is disciplining ourselves for prayer. We might not be craving more of Jesus yet, but, if we eliminate some of the unhealthy distractions, we will begin to hear His voice. Even good deeds can be a hindrance to our relationship with God. If we don't have time for Him, all our best efforts are like dirty rags and will not bear much fruit for His kingdom. It will be difficult. It will take a sacrifice, like giving up junk food, but the rewards are priceless. Jesus has never stopped speaking, but maybe we haven't been listening. He shouldn't have to always be waiting on us to be quiet and listen for His voice. We should have been in communion with Him all along, abiding in Him and He in us. When we begin to put Him first, then we will begin to hunger and thirst after righteousness. Then, our lives can truly glorify God the Father by the fruit we bear, and our prayers can be answered, because we will begin to pray according to His will, not our own.
Christians often quote "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."; but few of us want to wait. We want to go to our personal prayer time or the church prayer meeting and make our requests known to God, then go back to business as usual. Prayer is communication. A two way street. If we truly believe that God hears and answers our prayers, let's wait in the silence to see what thoughts He will put into our minds. If we want to have the mind of Christ, let's wait for Him to speak to us. As we wait before Him, we'll see hope where we thought there was no hope. Faith will begin to rise within us to really believe in the God we say we believe in. Our strength will begin to renew when we thought we couldn't walk one more step, because we have finally placed our burdens at His feet.
For anyone who has become tired and discouraged from prayer, remember that we don't always understand the ways of the Spirit. We must hold onto faith when it seems like nothing is happening. King Solomon said that
Whoever watches the wind will not plant;
whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.
As you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
the Maker of all things.
Sow your seed in the morning,
and at evening let your hands not be idle,
for you do not know which will succeed,
whether this or that,
or whether both will do equally well.
As the old saying goes, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." I propose that the road to a successful prayer habit is paved with purposeful intentions. Let's purpose to develop our relationship with God through a regular prayer time.
I Miss My Time With You by Larnelle Harris (song lyrics)
There He was just waiting,
In our old familiar place
An empty spot beside Him,
Where once I used to wait
To be filled with strength and wisdom
For the battles of the day
I would have passed Him by again
If I didn't hear Him say
I miss my time with you
Those moments together
I need to be with you each day
And it hurts Me when you say
You're too busy,
Busy trying to serve Me
But how can you serve Me
When your spirit's empty
There's a longing in My heart
Wanting more than just a part of you
It's true, I miss My time with you
What will I have to offer
How can I truly care
My efforts have no meaning
When Your presence isn't there
But You'll provide the power
If I take time to pray
I'll stay right here beside You
And You'll never have to say.
For inspiration on developing a closer relationship with God, I recommend the book There's Gotta Be More by Donna Gaines of Bellevue Baptist Church.
I also recommend Darlene Zschech's teachings on worship:
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