We continue our reading of Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life together this week by turning our time and attention to the topic of Prayer. If you’d like to know more about what we’re doing, you can read about it here: Will You Read Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life With Me? Last week, we discussed five different ways we need to be engaging with God’s Word. In that post, we discovered that meditation on Scripture is the secret ingredient to a vibrant walk with Christ.
We also learned that there is a danger lurking in the waters in which we’re swimming. The Spiritual Disciplines can become entanglements that quickly drown us. While water is a necessity, too much of it isn’t a good thing. At every turn we must keep the goal of godliness before us! In short, we must beware of activity for it’s own sake.
Prayer is on one hand the simplest of disciplines and on the other the most neglected. That wouldn’t be a sobering reality if prayer wasn’t also vitally important to our spiritual growth and health. “Prayer,” Whitney said, “is second only to the intake of God’s Word in importance.”
Again, again and again we see Jesus withdrawing to pray in the gospels. He gets away from the crowd, and busyness of life to spend time with His Father. A large measure of His effectiveness no doubt derived from this simple habit of communing with The Father.
The same is expected of us. “In every season,” Whitney said, “God expects every Christian to be devoted to prayer and to pray without ceasing.” If all we had was the example of Christ, it would be enough to drive us to prayer, but it’s not all we have. Scripture makes it clear that prayer is expected of us. Jesus’ words present a straightforward call to prayer. Verse after verse contains a phrase such as “And when you pray…” or “But when you pray..” In addition to the words of Christ, it is the explicit expression of God from the rest of Scripture that we are to pray.
“God expects us to use the walkie-talkie of prayer,” Whitney said, “because that is the means He has ordained not only for godliness, but also for the spiritual warfare between His kingdom and the kingdom of His enemy. To abandon prayer is to fight the battle with our own resources at best, and to lose interest in the battle at worst.”
Prayer is the method of our talking with God. We don’t have another means through which we can communicate with Him. If you would talk to God, you must pick up the metaphorical walkie-talkie and speak.
Stuff gets in the way of our prayer life however. Sometimes it’s busyness, others it’s a lack of discipline but mostly it’s a lack of trust. “Often we do not pray,” Whitney said, “because we doubt that anything will actually happen if we pray.” This lack of trust persists despite God’s promise to answer every single word we send His way through prayer.
“Ask and your shall receive; everyone that asks, receives.” Andrew Murray said, “This is the fixed eternal law of the kingdom: if you ask and receive not, it must be because there is something amiss or wanting in the prayer.” There is not a prayer of yours that has not found an answer from the mouth of God. You may be unaware of His reply, or it’s timing may be different from yours, but make no mistake an answer has been given.
“He does not lead us to pray in order to frustrate us,” Whitney said, “by slamming Heaven’s door in our face.” God’s call to prayer is for our good. He is like a daddy setting his child upon his knee and asking them to tell all about their day.
Prayer is a learned thing. Perseverance, consistency and The Spirit’s help are required to grow in prayer. You learn to pray by praying, but there is one resource that will aide you in your journey. Last week, we saw that meditation was the secret to a vibrant walk through God’s word. This week, we discover that it is also the link between Bible intake and prayer.
“There should be a smooth almost unnoticeable transition,” Whitney said, “between Scripture input and prayer output so that we move even closer to God in those moments.” Meditation is meant to be the bridge that helps us navigate that transition easily. It takes what we’ve read in God’s Word, drives it into our hearts and then turn to God about it. “We enlivened by meditation, prayer,” Whitney said, “becomes more like a real conversation with a real person—which is exactly what prayer is.”
The overarching principle of this chapter this: “Would you be like Christ? Then do as He did—discipline yourself to be a person of prayer.” What does our prayer life look like? Are we devoting ourselves to prayer? Are we letting our meditation on God’s Word drive us to our knees in prayer and worship? Prayer is fueled by meditation on Scripture. Make meditation and prayer part of your daily devotions. Read less if you have to in order to create more time for meditation and prayer.
I was disappointed following my first reading of this chapter. I found it lacking, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on what. Perhaps I was looking for something that would radically transform my prayer life. I came to the page in search of a thought, idea or method that would open the door to growth in this area. I’ve found my prayer life dull, repetitive and lacking in fruit for years. And I hate that. I want a deep, rich, fulfilling prayer life.
In search of some nugget or prayer hack I completely missed the point Whitney was making. I don’t need new tips and tricks, I need more of Christ. And I find more of Christ through meditation upon His Word. “What is the reason that our desires like an arrow shot by a weak bow do not reach the mark?” William Bates said, “But only this, we do not meditate before prayer...The great reason why our prayers are ineffectual, is because we do not meditate before them.”
The great failure of my pursuit of Christ is here laid bare. I have long neglected to meditate upon The Word. I’m learning page by page that neglecting this one area of the Spiritual Disciplines leaves a gaping hole in the middle of my journey towards Christlikeness.
We will continue with the next chapter (chapter five) of the book next Sunday. Chapter five may sound like we’re in the middle of this series, but we’ve only just begun. There remains plenty of time to get the book and join in.
I’d like to hear what stood out to you in this week's chapter. Please feel free to post your reflections, and thoughts in the comment section below. If you have shared your thoughts on your own blog, please link to it as well. Do not feel the need to be profound or to share something new. Simply share what caught your eye, or stirred your heart as you read.