R.C. Sproul says that,
“One of the surest marks of the Christian is his prayer life. One might pray and not be a Christian, but one could not possibly be a Christian and not pray. Romans 8:15 tells us that the spiritual adoption that has made us sons of God causes us to cry out in verbal expressions: “Abba! Father.” Prayer is to the Christian what breath is to life, yet no duty of the Christian is so neglected.” (Following Christ, emphasis mine)
Has prayer been neglected in your life? It’s important to realize that prayer encompasses more than kneeling at the side of your bed before you go to sleep. The facets of prayer are deep and we would do well to remember that when Jesus taught on the subject of prayer, he was encouraging both private communion with God, but also corporate communion with God. This means that prayer is both done in private and amongst other believers, and both can be intimate times of communion with God!
One of the most troubling things that I find within the confines of “churchianity” is that many congregations spend more time on the announcements than on prayer. Often I’ve heard pastors and leaders say that they encourage prayer to be done throughout the week, which is why they don’t spend as much time during the worship gathering praying. Praying during the week is wonderful and it isn’t that encouraging private prayer is wrong; it isn’t. The issue arises when our emphasis on prayer misses the importance of what Jesus taught within Matt. 6 and Luke 11 (commonly referred to as the “Lord’s Prayer.” As Stein notes, “the “you” is plural [in the “Lord’s Prayer”], indicating that both Matthew and Luke understood this to be a corporate prayer” (Stein, Luke [NAC], p. 324). In other words, because we see plural pronouns throughout Jesus’ teaching on prayer, it’s safe to say that Jesus understood prayer as a way of life for a community of believers. This makes sense of Acts 2:42, which states that the early disciples were “devoted to… prayers.”
All this is to say that I want the Lord to increase the quality of my prayer life, both privately and corporately, and I pray that others would long for the same.
This has recently been on my mind a lot. I can still recall the mid-week services, rich with praise and corporate prayer, that I attended with my dad when I was 6 or 7. I don’t remember much from them, but I’ll never forget the sweet presence of God in those meetings. As i think of it, I can’t help but share the same desire and feel the great need for a deeper quality prayer life. One could be an expert in all matters of scripture and yet remain disconnected from Christ. However, it impossible to have a prayer life of any substance without a true connection to Christ. I think of Abraham in respect to this, who had no systemic theology to study nor scripture to memorize. He spoke with God, obeyed and walked with Him. I can think of no better summary of the Christian life.
For my part, I can say that I haven’t heard nearly enough on the importance of prayer; on what is accomplished in true praying in the Spirit that connects with the heart of God. For one, we gain more than we can imagine. I think of the hymn that reminds us “Oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh, what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” True prayer draws us into the presence of the Lord and in His presence we are changed. Also, effectual prayer is the true work of God. EM Bounds gives wonderful thoughts to prayer in this regard. There’s the quip that “anything is possible with prayer, but nothing is possible without it.” I’ve come to the conclusion that there are mighty and profound spiritual truths; weighty and powerful principles, stuck to the back of many car bumpers, whose significance is lost on us, because we’ve read them a thousand times. God forgive us (me!) for neglecting so mighty a weapon by praylessness and faithless praying.
I greatly miss days of seeking God in prayer along side numbers of like-minded believers.
I agree!@ joeobrien: