I struggle to pray. Prayer for me is not natural, it feels labored, it gets in the way of the ‘flow’ of my day. But I should pray.
Now I feel guilty.
I know that Christians should pray. Jesus taught me to pray (Matt 6:5-15) and his apostles called me to pray (Col 4:2) and to pray continually (1 Thess 5:17). Oh help.
J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) who was a prolific preacher and writer and also the Bishop of Liverpool suggested that private prayer is the most neglected of all Christian duties and asked the question ‘Do you Pray?’
His question is one that only you can answer as what you privately pray is between you and our Father in Heaven.
He asks the question for numerous reasons which I summarize here:
- Prayer is absolutely needful to a person salvation.
It is only by God’s grace that a person is saved, but how that gift is received if they have not accepted it, is a mystery. The first act of faith is to ask God for his forgiveness.
- Prayer is one of the surest marks of a true Christian.
The mark of a holy person is that they call on the Father (1 Peter 1:17) and call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 1:2). Those who live in the spirit and by the spirit cry ‘Abba Father’ (Rom 8:15). If you have been converted – you pray.
- Prayer is an act in faith that is a great encouragement.
The gospel gives us the reason to pray. The way by which any person, however sinful and unworthy, can draw near to God is via the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. That means that as we pray there is:
A. an advocate in Jesus who willing presents the prayers of those who address the Father (1 John 2:1).
B. the Holy Spirit ready to speak on our behalf (Rom 8:26-27).
C. the promise that our prayers will be answered (Matt 7:7-8; 21:22; Jn 14:13-14).
- Diligence in prayer is the secret to holiness.
There are some of the Lord’s people who appear to tread water and seem to never move beyond the point of their conversion. Born again but remain a babe! And then of course there are those who seem to always advance in faith – they add grace to grace, faith to faith and strength to strength. Why the difference? Could it be that (under God) those who pray little grow little and those who pray much grow much? Are not the champions of faith in scripture and in history known for being a person of prayer – consider Moses, David, Daniel, Paul, Luther, Whitfield, Simeon, M’Cheyne and the list goes on. In fact consider Jesus himself.
- Neglect of prayer is one great causes of backsliding.
The letter to the churches in Revelation warns the Ephesians ‘You have forsaken your first love’ (Rev 2:4). In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus warns his disciples ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation’ (Matt 26:41; Mark 14:38). It is a sad thing particularly to have tasted what is so good only to lose the taste. A person falls in private, long before they fall in public. Backsliding on your knees will happen before you backslide publically.
- Prayer is one of the best means of happiness and contentment.
Where sin prevails (such as in the world we live in) there will be sorrow. What is the best means in a hopeless world to be cheerful and hopeful? Give it to the one who knows the suffering and understandings the pain. ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus’ (Phil 4:6). Cast your cares and concerns on God.
10 tips and one tool for prayer.
Tip 1: Pray reverently and humbly to the Lord – you are talking to the one who knows all.
Tip 2: Pray spiritually – relying on the Spirit to intercede.
Tip 3: Pray regularly and as part of the business of life – anywhere, anytime, any reason, often.
Tip 4: Pray perseveringly – keep at it. There will be (many) times when that will be hard.
Tip 5: Pray earnestly – God knows, so be honest (it will help you more than it will help him).
Tip 6: Pray with faith – knowing that when you don’t get the answer you want, that God is still doing what is best for you (Rom 8:28).
Tip 7: Pray boldly and fully – if God can do anything, then why not ask as if he can answer anything.
Tip 8: Pray particularly – if it concerns you (specifically), then it concerns God (particularly).
Tip 9: Pray thankfully – that would be nice!
In the sermon on Sunday I offered a Monthly Prayer Planner as a tool. If you are one (like me) who needs a tool to help organize and prompt you to pray, then this prayer Planner may help.
There are 31 days (one for each day on the month). On each day there are four categories of thing to insert as a prayer point (you will see I have suggested some points). Once in place, then at some time/s during each day according to the day of the month, pray for the persons/things you have listed. The calendar becomes an ongoing low maintenance tool to keep you praying.
Friends, let’s be people who pray.