Tuesday, February 28, 2006

And When You Pray

Prayer is essential to the Christian life and ministry. Everyone says this. But how few really pray. I wonder about the frequency and depth of our prayer lives because of the condition of the church and the lives of individual Christians. Is it possible for us to be praying as we should and things remain as they are? Where is the advance of the gospel? Where are people being converted in significant numbers? Why are so many Christian marriages falling apart? Why are so many teens raised in the church no where to be found as soon as they have the freedom not to attend? Why can't Christians get along with each other? Why are so many Christian pastors and leadership teams so easily sidetracked with worldly agendas that keep them from focusing on what is most important?

My suspicion is that there is little serious prayer. Prayer meetings, where the church comes together to seek God's face, are almost non-existent today. And even where they do exist, they are not well attended. I know, I know, people are busy!!! But all those busy people always seem to fine time to do lots of other things. That is why I have a difficult time taking their "I'm so busy excuse" seriously. The fact of the matter is we are all busy. And I would be prepared to argue that pastors who are doing their jobs properly are just as busy as anyone else and more so... busy without statutory holidays, a 40 hour work week, a pension after 25 or 30 years... incredibly busy without a lot of the basic labor reforms considered common place in the society at large. So busy is a lame excuse. It is a relative term. Who isn't busy?

No, more to the point is a lack of spiritual appetite, which is often indicative of spiritual disease and even death. I say this because Jesus tells us to pray. He expects us to pray in the secret place where we are alone with God. In fact, if we are not praying we are hypocrites, plain and simple. In all areas of life, the depth of our spirituality is not what we are when we are in front of a crowd, but when we are alone with God, one-on-one.

As encouragement to pray let me review a small portion of the biblical data. According to Jesus there are some kinds of problems that can only be resolved with concentrated prayer (Mk.9:14-29). Furthermore, he told the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8) to encourage people to pray and not give up. Jesus, himself prayed when he was here on earth and he especially prayed when he was on the verge of a major decision or event in his ministry (Luke 6:12; 9:28; 11:1; Matthew 26:36-46). In the book of Acts the apostles believed that they were called to two ministries; the ministry of pray and of the word of God (6:4). In the Pauline letters we have numerous examples of Paul praying and requesting prayer on his own behalf. If this was true of an apostle like Paul, how much more do we stand in need of intercession.

Tomorrow I will talk about prayer in connection with spiritual warfare and what Paul means when he says, "Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers" (Ephesians 6:18). Suffice it to say that this is one area of the Christian life that we need to re-discover and quickly if we are going to impact our generation.


jean the weatherman said...

Hi Kirk

I am new to blogging. It so happens you get to be first. How true about serious prayer. If Christian gave 10% of their time in secret prayer each day that would be over an hour!The 'busy' syndrome is kind of like the old school excuse of ' my dog ate my homework'. Lack of prayer is the sickness of 'unbelief'. I am just as guilty of my woeful lack of prayer. I pick up a book called "The Secret Key To Heaven" by Thomas Brook.

(But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matt 6:6 ESV)

Brooks beseeches the believer to seriously to lay to heart five things:

1.Secret Prayer A Duty
If any prayer be a duty, then secret prayer must necessarily be a duty.

2.The Witness Of Conscience
By what authority does conscience so upbraid you, and so accuse you, and so condemn you, and so terrify you, as it often does for the neglect of this duty?

3.God's Promise Of A Reward
Was it ever the way or method of God to promise again and again a reward, an open reward, for that work or service which he himself never commanded? NO

4.The Lord's Expectation
Christ takes it for granted that every child of God will be frequent in praying to his heavenly Father.

5.THe Opposition Of Satan
Why does Satan so much oppose it? Why does he so industriously and so unwearied labour to discourage Christians in it, and to take off Christians from it?

May the Lord be gracious and bring us all back to serious prayer

Kirk M. Wellum said...

Thanks for the comment Jean and the very helpful quote from Thomas Brooks. Wouldn't it be great if we all took his exhortation to heart and really committed ourselves to the discipline of secret prayer!

jean the weatherman said...

Yes! What transformation the North Americian culture would undergo if even a small percentage of Christian took the time for serious prayer. Good cheer.

Milton Stanley said...

Excellent, hard-hitting post on the need for more prayer. I quoted liberally from your post today. Peace.

contratimes said...

Dear Mr. Wellum,

Milton Stanley of Transforming Sermons has, quite wisely, I think, linked you and me together in his post today. It is interesting that you and I (and others) have posted somewhat similar works.

While I come at these things from a rather Anglo-Catholic position, it seems we are all pointing toward the same thing: more depth, more meaning, more genuine devotion and prayer. (Alas, I am perhaps the shallowest and guiltiest of all!)

It would be interesting to hear what you think of some of my thoughts presented in the series I am working on at my site, particularly since I am mainly addressing American Christianity. Your Canadian perspective might be helpful. Of course, if you don't feel inclined to comment, I understand.

The churches seem rife with theoretical Christians who are practical agnostics. How did this happen? Is this related to St. Paul's warning about the Last Days, that there will be a form of godliness but the denial of its power? Who knows?

Thank you for your thoughtful essay.

Peace to you.


Kirk M. Wellum said...

Thanks for your plug Milton. This is a vital topic and one that I am glad to see some are interested in. Sometimes you can feel like Elijah when God has 7000 reserved for himself. All is not lost!

Kirk M. Wellum said...

Hi Bill... thanks for your comment. I will definitely check out your site and let you know my thoughts (for what they are worth anyway!). From just a cursory look it appears that there is some real food for thought. Thanks.

Its always great to connect with Christians from different perspectives. May God bless you as you seek to be faithful to him and call people back to what should be our first love.