Prayer into Practice
Rev. Charles Cooper
I know I
should pray! Scripture commands it.
I know I need to pray! Scripture proves it.
I know how to pray! Scripture demonstrates it.
I know when to pray! Scripture states it.
I know what prayer can do! Scripture illustrates it.
I just do
not do it.
So the question
left to answer is this: Why? Why do so few Christians practice
the discipline of prayer? There are both theological and practical
reasons why so few believers practice regular dependent communications
with their Heavenly Father.
prayer requires faith — faith in the God of heaven to whom
Christians direct their prayers. Scripture commands that we are
to "ask in faith" (James 1:6). One could argue that if
every prayer received an immediate response regardless of whether
it is positive or negative, believers would probably pray more.
However, God does not always answer prayer the way we want. God
has options. Yes, immediately; no, period; later, if you deal
with this issue; and what about this possibility; are potential
responses from God. Prayer is effective only if we trust the character
of God to respond to our requests consistently. Past doubts about
whether God answered our prayers may discourage us in praying and
may ultimately lead to a cessation of praying altogether.
prayer requires precision. Scripture commands, "Be not rash
with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before
God… Therefore let your words be few" (Ecc 5:2). One
would do well to spend more time meditating than actually praying.
Far too many careless and rushed words are spoken before the Lord,
which by their very nature warrant God's inattention or lack of
response. Effective prayer remembers and respects Him to whom prayer
prayer requires understanding. Scripture instructs, "Your Father
knows what you need before you ask Him" (Mat 6:8). Prayer is
not informational with respect to God, but transformational with
respect to man. Prayer moves us away from self-dependency. While
God knows what we need, there is no guarantee that He will automatically
meet our needs; otherwise, we would not need to pray in the first
place. Prayer moves God from mere knowledge of our need to meeting
our need in light of our dependency on him. Our willingness to pray
must prove to God that He is the solution
to our needs and not just a solution.
are there theological reasons for the lack of dependent communications
between believers and God, but also there are practical reasons.
First, there is the American lifestyle. The American lifestyle really
militates against prayer. We have committed our time to the pursuit
of happiness. Between work, commuting, friends, domestic duties,
sleep, and relaxing from the rush of life who has time to pray?
The goal of the American lifestyle is independence. If we can just
get set financially, we will not need anything or anybody. We, Americans,
spend an overwhelming amount of time working toward independence.
Prayer is the exact opposite. Prayer is a conscious effort to be
dependent on God — nothing about our society encourages it!
The American lifestyle is time limited, independent seeking, and
anti-supernatural. Other than the occasional call of the President
for God to bless America, God has been relegated to the private
venues of American culture. Rarely are there opportunities where
God alone is presented as the only possible solution to a problem.
In medicine, technology is god. In politics, a majority is god.
In marriage, love is god. In communications, the Internet is god.
In behavior, genetics and environment are gods. Even in death, the
God of the Bible is not God. In death, chance is god. In sex, choice
is god. In economics, the market is god. The American lifestyle
makes very little room for the God of the Bible.
reason the practice of prayer is absent in the lives of many believers
is our lack of knowledge concerning spiritual warfare. Satan’s
plan regarding followers of Christ is to frustrate, confuse, and
misdirect us so that Christ becomes an after thought. Satan knows
that we grow weary in well doing.
In the face
of these obstacles, the discipline of prayer will be difficult to
develop. How then does one develop a prayer life? Before we talk
about the details of developing a prayer life, we should attempt
to detail what a prayer life looks like. Since the apostle Paul
is the premiere writer in the New Testament, we have enough of his
writings to get a good picture of a man of prayer. Paul writes,
"Pray without ceasing" (1 Thes 5:17). A man of prayer
is a man who is continually practicing dependent communications
with the Father. A man of prayer sees in every event of his day
the option of responding either in the Spirit or in the flesh. Since
walking in the Spirit demands the absence of sin, one will need
God's uninterrupted sustaining power. Continuing prayer is the route
to God's sustaining power.
one develop a mental attitude of prayer? To foster the mental attitude
of prayer (i.e. to solicit God's help at every waking moment) one
must be thoroughly convinced of his need for God. The apostle Paul
clearly evidences his need for God's power, wisdom, endurance, and
courage on a daily basis. Paul was committed to a purpose that he
himself was very inadequate to fulfill. Paul writes in Romans 15:14-33:
am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are
full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct
one another. But on some points I have written to you very boldly
by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to
be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly
service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles
may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In Christ
Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For
I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has
accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience —
by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the
power of the Spirit of God — so that from Jerusalem and
all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry
of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach
the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I
build on someone else's foundation, but as it is written, "Those
who have never been told of him will see, and those who have
never heard will understand." This is the reason why I
have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, since
I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since
I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you
in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey
there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.
At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to
the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make
some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem.
They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them.
For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings,
they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.
When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them
what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you.
I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of
the blessing of Christ. I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord
Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together
with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered
from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem
may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God's will I may
come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. May the
God of peace be with you all. Amen.
We see in
Paul's words a mission, a passion — to preach the gospel to
the Gentiles. This drove Paul to pray for God's power, wisdom and
it is axiomatic that believers will not develop consistent dependent
communications with God apart from a compelling cause. While purists
will argue that this should not be the case, nevertheless it is
the case. If a life of prayer is a goal, pray that God will give
you a burden, a passion, a mission, a vision or a hope that is beyond
human capabilities to accomplish. Absent of an impossible mission,
prayer will continue to be a little used opportunity that most Christians
reserve for emergencies.