No Christian Is Greater Than His Prayer Life!
The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans 16:16)
Prayer is probably one of the greatest contributions we can make to advance the Kingdom of Christ. Yet, we as Christians seldom capitalize on this resource. Surveys show the average Christian prays 15 to 30 minutes a week. If the statement, "No Christian is greater than his prayer life," is true, then it would explain, in part, why so much of the world is still not evangelized.
Why do we spend so little time in prayer? Why is prayer one of the first things we neglect as we drift away from God? Many preachers have preached sermons condemning us for spending 3 to 8 hours a day in front of a television set while we pray less than 30 minutes a week. Although there is a need for such sermons, we have no intention of pointing out something for which you are probably already painfully aware. It is our desire to encourage you and share with you what we have learned from our struggles in this area.
We, as Christians, often condemn ourselves because we do not pray as much as we think we should. Often, the simple task of praying only 15 minutes a day seems almost impossible! Of course, we can understand why it is easier to sit in front of the TV than devote time to prayer. TV is relaxing and prayer is work. A great deal of energy is drained from us when we pray (cf. Luke 22:39-44).
However, the main reason we do not pray as much as we should is not because it is too much work. Many sincere and dedicated Christians spend as many as 15 hours a week working on Christian projects, yet find it difficult to spend a significant amount of time in prayer. With all this time spent on Christian projects, their lack of prayer cannot be considered laziness.
Satan understands the power of prayer, and he is fighting fiercely to reduce its impact (cf. Daniel 6). An obvious military strategy is to concentrate attacks on the targets, which are the greatest threats. For example, in war, primary targets are radar installations, ammunition depots and weapons factories. Limited military resources are not used on non-strategic targets such as the officersí dining hall (although many soldiers would probably welcome the relief from military food). Satan knows the biggest spiritual battles are won or lost because of our prayers. Therefore, why would Satan not try to blind our eyes to the need and urgency of prayer?
The story of the disciples at the time of the resurrection is a good example of how capable Satan is of blinding our eyes to important truths. Jesus told His disciples on several occasions that He was going to be killed and would rise again on the third day. Yet, on the third day, where were His disciples? Why were they not waiting at His tomb? They were not even looking for His resurrection.
The Pharisees, on the other hand, remembered Jesus talking about His resurrection. This is why they requested a guard be placed at the tomb (Matthew 27:62-64). It appears Satan, the author of deception and distraction, had blinded, or at least distracted the disciples to this very important truth. If the disciples, the very men who walked with Jesus, could miss something as important as the resurrection, isnít it reasonable to believe Satan could blind us to the power of prayer?
Prayer has not received the recognition that it deserves. Many people feel that since God already knows about our need, there isn't any need to tell God about them. This is a very costly mistake. God desires to be involved in every area of our life. He wants us to specifically commit each of our concerns to Him (1 Peter 5:7).
When we as Christians approach God, He wants us to trust Him fully and understand that the solutions to our problems lie beyond our abilities (Proverbs 3:5-6). It is this recognition that releases the power of God. Prayer is an expression of the commitment and trust we have in God. When we come before God in prayer and give Him full control of a situation, we are acknowledging His sovereignty in that area. As a result, God begins to work on the problem with His mighty power.
The more specific we are in our prayers, the more direct and effective will be the answers. For example, the prayer, "God, please bless the missionaries," will not be nearly as effective as naming specific missionaries and their particular needs.
Although we are in a Space Age of high-tech transportation and communication, we still go further on our knees. We will never have a true appreciation of how powerful and effective our prayers are until we enter Godís presence and He unfolds the completed story. At that time we will see how people were brought to Christ and lives changed as a direct result of our prayers.
God is continually working in ways that we are unaware. An example of Godís hidden involvement in our lives is seen in 2 Kings 6:13-17. In this passage Elisha and his servant ran across a huge Syrian army and the servant becomes afraid. Elisha prays and asks God to open the servantís eyes, and the servant sees that the mountain is full of Godís angelic army.
Looking at the great needs of this under-evangelized world, it is easy to be overwhelmed with feelings of futility or the thought, "What is the point? I canít make much of a difference." This discouragement can often keep us from even trying.
To counter act these feelings, there are two things we must keep in mind. First, God does not expect us to change the whole world. He only wants us to do our part, to grow where he has planted us. Second, we must realize that, although we cannot change the whole world, there is much we can realistically accomplish.
Being consistent in our prayer life can help us accomplish more than we may have ever thought possible. A consistent savings plan at a bank can help save money without the feeling of having a "big bite" taken out of your paycheck. Likewise, a consistent prayer system can help us pray for a large group of people without feeling burdened.
Many short prayers throughout the day are easier than praying an hour at a time. An example of this is the old tale of the Tortoise and the Hare. The rabbit, which was obviously the faster of the two, was overconfident, and did not pay attention to the race. Although the turtle was slow, he was consistent, and as a result, his seemingly "insignificant" effort paid off in a big way.
Here are two types of prayers you may desire to use: Systematic prayers and Onetime prayers. A systematic prayer list is a list of people, Christians and non-Christians, who you have met throughout the years. Systematically work through this list from top to bottom over a period of time. Praying for 5 to 30 names at a sitting is non-burdensome and yet gives one the opportunity to intercede for a large group of people.
Onetime prayers are requests that are usually prayed for only once. These prayers can be for people you run into throughout the course of your day, or someone who has caught your attention. The aspect that makes onetime prayers so practical is they consume very little time. They are ideal for situations where you are already doing something but not using much mental energy, such as waiting in traffic or standing in a line.
When you pray for these people, pray not only for their salvation or faithfulness, but ask God to make them strong, dynamic Christians who will become prayer partners in their own right. Obviously, praying many times for one person is much more effective than just a single prayer, but never underestimate the power of those onetime prayers. It is important to realize that for some people you may be the only Christian who has ever prayed for them.
As you expand your prayer time, be careful not to become overburdened. You should approach it as an adventure, not an obligation. You might want to start a quick prayer list. This short list should contain 10 of the most important issues going on in your life at the time. (You have to keep this list short or you can get overwhelmed and stop using the list altogether.) Every hour (maybe on the hour) pull out the list and pray for your concerns. This is an excellent way to ensure you pray on a consistent basis.
In the early 19th Century, rescuing a drowning person from a pier presented certain logistical problems for lifeguards. They did not have the luxury of our modern rescue techniques and equipment. Instead, they used a "lifeline" system. When a lifeguard dove into the water after someone, he would tie a rope around himself and hand the other end to someone to hold. One stormy day, a lifeguard spotted a swimmer being swept under by the mighty ocean waves. In his haste, he forgot to tell someone, "Hold the rope." Thus, as he went into the water, so did his lifeline. This lifeguard needlessly lost his life in the stormy ocean rage because of carelessness.
This story illustrates the importance of being consistent and faithful in upholding Christian workers through prayer. However, there is another lesson to be learned too. We should never rush off to do Godís work before we have adequate prayer support. As we serve the Lord, let us not forget to ask people to "hold our ropes."