‘Each next risk is the biggest one’: James MacDonald talks with Mark Driscoll
Wed May 22, 2013
by Mark Driscoll
Tue May 21, 2013
by Amanda Edmondson
From prison to ReTrain: Russell’s story
Mon May 20, 2013
9 types of leaders in Scripture
Mon May 20, 2013
by Justin Holcomb
5 bits of wisdom for the professional Christian woman
Sun May 19, 2013
by Shandel Slaten
Prayer Is Rigorous
Heroes Of Prayer
I grew up around praying parents and, in my late teens, learned to love the heroes of prayer. John Wesley would rise to be with God at 4:00am each day; Mary Queen of Scots apparently said she “feared the prayers of John Knox more than all the armies of England”; James Hudson Taylor said, “The sun has never risen over China without finding me at prayer.” The prayer lives of Knox and Hudson Taylor are inspiring, but depressingly challenging! I would glide between two extremes: inspired and depressed. I guess I never realised it was normal to find it tough. And it just is. Scripture refers to it as “labour” or as “wrestling.” That is a hint. Prayer in the Scriptures is often rigorous. The story of Elijah praying seven times for rain or of Aaron and Hur holding Moses’ arms during battle against Amalek shows men who devote themselves to prayer despite great difficulty (Acts 2:42).
The Flesh Is Weak
There is a rumour amongst charismatic Christians that praying is only really worthwhile if the Holy Spirit leads you to pray (and by this they mean that you already feel like praying). Jesus was much more straightforward: he told the disciples that the spirit may be willing, but the flesh is weak (Matt. 26:41). Here, some of the biographies don’t help. They can give a false and glorified picture. All people will find some challenges in prayer, including prophets like Elijah: “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours” (James 5:17). Lapses in intensity, concentration, and focus are common. This doesn’t mean that it should be pure and endless agony. It just sometimes starts that way. Press through in cold blood and you’ll get warmer.
Good Intentions Change Nothing
The Puritans talked about ‘praying, until you pray.’ That is a helpful expression. It can, and will, become a delight. If you don’t believe me, read Psalm 16. Prioritise prayer, make a plan, put it in your diary, and keep the appointment. Meaning to do something changes nothing: “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing...” (Prov. 13:4) and don’t just leave it to “the Spirit to lead you.” My experience is that he doesn’t, or not in the way I want him to anyway.
Tips for Effective Prayer
- Set the right goals. Make them challenging enough to motivate you, but still doable.
- Get to prayer meetings. You’ll learn a lot.
- Learn what distracts you and outplay them.
- Keep close to a pencil and paper. Make notes if any thought keeps stealing your focus.
- Be around people who know how to pray and ask to join them. That can be the most instructive thing of all.
- If you have the gift of tongues, use it a lot. You are praying the mind of the Spirit (Rom. 8:26-27) and edifying yourself (1 Cor. 14:4).
- Be accountable to someone. Tell them to ask you how your prayer life is regularly. Encourage them to abuse you when you don’t pray!
Resist discouragement—It’s from the devil. Your Father loves you. And resist pride. Remember you come to God because you need him, not to impress him or anyone else. He is already perfectly impressed with his Son and, therefore with you, whether you pray or not. To be continued.