Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Can We Take A Minute Here To Speak Frankly About Prayer?

Can we be frank here? What is your attitude toward prayer? When I say prayer what image comes to your mind? Is it kneeling beside a bed with hands folded and head bowed? Perhaps you see ten thousand people in a stadium with music blaring and hands lifted? Perhaps it is at church as the pastor and a few others pray? Do you pray? How often? Where? For how long? Would it surprise you to know that every evening Jesus stayed up later than everyone else to spend time with his Father and he got up early than everyone to do the same thing? Unfortunately those who profuse to be Jesus followers are not very good at it. Victory Life Church in California put out these statistics:

- an average Christian prays 3-7 minutes a day, including meal time
- 52% of those who do pray do so several times a day
- 37% of Christians say they pray once a day
- 21% have extended prayer time with other family members
- only 33% of adults regularly participate in a prayer group

You know what the sad thing is?

- an average pastor prayers for 39 minutes a day; 21% spend 15 minutes or less in prayer daily

Where's the flame? Where's the passion? Most of our time is being put into ministry and not into relationship. Prayer is where we spend time with the one we love above everyone and everything else. It's where we connect, express our heart, receive correction and instruction. It is also where the most important part of the battle takes place. It is in prayer that things get done in this world, where the enemy is put to flight, where hearts are changed, situations improved, power released, and victory won.

Apostle Paul told Timothy that this was vital in the mission we have been given:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

We are warriors on our knees and on our knees the enemy is defenseless against us. Prayer is the most powerful weapon we have. It is about relationship and about the release of God's power and will. James told us plainly:

And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:15-16)

Many Christians today do not believe in healing or in any manifestation of the Spirit. They have died to the Spirit and no real life is found in them. It is not a judgement on my part put a repeating of what the Word of God tells us. Without the Spirit we do not have Jesus. But most Christians wouldn't know that because only 4% of Christians have read the Bible cover to cover, and only 36% of us read our Bible in a typical week. We aren't followers of anyone; we are pretenders. Without prayer there is no power. Without prayer there are no miracles, no great change; there is nothing. Just a facade.

I am not saying this to guilt anyone into anything because prayer has to be a passion. It has to be something that you long to be at. Yet, a passion must be born from somewhere and that somewhere is from a disciplined Christian life. We can't do whatever we want in our life. Well, we can but then we can't call ourselves Christians. Actually, we can call ourselves whatever we want but we are only pretenders. I can call myself a doctor but that doesn't mean I am. A Christian life is a disciplined life but not a discipline that develops from a religious thinking but instead a discipline that develops from a passion for the one we love.

When a runner has a passion for his sport he has the discipline of eating and sleeping well. He makes sure that he puts in the required time of running and he is always desiring to improve. This is true of anything that comes from passion, singing, writing, dancing, teaching; it all requires sacrifice and discipline and the greater the passion the greater the sacrifice and discipline.

Prayer is a fundamental part of the discipline that springs from our passion for Jesus. Such discipline includes:

- prayer
- Bible study
- worship
- fellowship
- witnessing
- accountability

These are all vital to our spiritual growth in Jesus Christ. We aren't talking about earning salvation here. This is relationship building, growing closer to the one we love. It doesn't happen unless we put effort into it. However, it is our attitude toward prayer that is my concern at the moment. It is true that we need to have our "closet time" like Jesus did with the Father, when we step away from everything just to be with him, to present other people and their needs to him, to fight against the darkness of this world. But our understanding of prayer has to go beyond this as well. We should have an attitude of always being connected to Jesus so we can do exactly what Paul instructed:

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:18)

Pray without ceasing. Always be in an attitude of prayer. Pray about everything you see in a day. Intercede all the time for the people around you. Maybe there is not a lot you can do but you can do the most important and powerful thing there is, pray. On all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests, wrote Paul. Prayer is a fundamental part of who we are.

Lord, I ask that you would capture our hearts, minds and imaginations again. Set a fire ablaze in us, that we would again become a people of passion, or prayer and of praise. Let us not go another moment without the conviction of the need of prayer. Lord, renew the Church, your Bride, to be prayer warriors again, called to partnership with you in your desire to see everyone in this world saved. Remind us that it is you living through us not us living for ourselves. Help us Lord to be a disciplined people, dedicated to your service every moment of our day. By the power of the Spirit in us we can overcome all obstacles that would try to prevent us from giving our all to you. Amen!

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