Dr. Jim Denison
A friend sent me this essay. It quickly hit home with me–see if it does with you.
Satan called a worldwide convention. In his opening address to his demons, he said, “We can’t keep the Christians from going to church. We can’t keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth. We can’t even keep them from biblical values. But we can do something else. We can keep them from forming an intimate, continual experience with Christ.
“If they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken. So let them go to church, let them have their Christian lifestyles, but steal their time so they can’t gain that experience with Jesus Christ. This is what I want you to do. Distract them from gaining hold of their Savior and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day.”
“How shall we do this?” asked his demons. “Keep them busy with the nonessentials of life and invest unnumbered schemes to occupy their minds,” he answered. “Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, then borrow, borrow, borrow. Convince them to work six or seven days a week, 10-12 hours a day, so they can afford their lifestyles. Keep them from spending time with their children. As their families fragment, soon their homes will offer no escape from the pressures of work.
“Over stimulate their minds so they cannot hear that still small voice. Entice them to play the radio or CD player wherever they drive, to keep the TV, the DVD player, and their CDs going constantly in their homes. Fill their coffee tables with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with news 24 hours a day. Invade their driving moments with billboards. Flood their mailboxes and e-mail with junk, sweepstakes, and every kind of newsletter and promotion.
“Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from their holidays exhausted, disquieted and unprepared for the coming week. And when they gather for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so they leave with souls unfulfilled.
“Let them be involved in evangelism. But crowd their lives with so many good causes that they have no time to seek power from Christ. Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family unity for the good of the cause.”
It was quite a convention. And the demons went eagerly to their assignments.
Has the devil been successful in his scheme? You be the judge. While nearly 9 in 10 Americans say they pray to God, only one in four is “completely satisfied” with his or her prayer life. Only 60% of Protestants who pray are “absolutely certain” that prayer makes a difference in their lives.
There are many reasons we don’t pray as often or as passionately as we could and should. But near the top of the list is the question, “why?” If we don’t understand why we should do something, it’s harder to do it. “Because I said so” isn’t an answer any child wants to hear from a parent.
A dear friend raised this issue with me. If God knows what we are going to ask, why ask? If he already knows what we are going to do, why pray? If my prayer causes God to do some good thing he was not going to do until I prayed, what does this say about the character of God? Why does he sometimes heal when we pray and sometimes not? Why pray?
To obey God
The first answer to the question is the one children don’t like to hear: because our Father says so. Because Scripture tells us to pray.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was explicit: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). Ask, seek, knock–each is an imperative, not a suggestion. Each is God’s demand of us.
We are to pray with urgency. Charles Spurgeon, the greatest of all Baptist preachers, warned us: “He who prays without fervency does not pray at all. We cannot commune with God, who is a consuming fire, if there is no fire in our prayers.” Maltbie Babcock agreed: “Our prayers must mean something to us if they are to mean anything to God.”
Hear Spurgeon again: “The sacred promises, though in themselves most sure and precious, are of no avail for the comfort and sustenance of the soul unless you grasp them by faith, plead them in prayer, expect them by hope, and receive them with gratitude.” He added, “Do not reckon you have prayed unless you have pleaded, for pleading is the very marrow of prayer.”
We are to pray urgently and continually. Jesus’ words are in the present tense: pray and keep on praying. Our Lord prayed before light, after dark, all night long, continually. His word commands the same of us: “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
George Mueller, the great minister and man of faith, prayed patiently for five personal friends who did not know the Lord. After five years, one came to Christ. In ten more years, two more were saved. After 25 years, the fourth friend came to Christ. He kept praying for the last friend for 52 years, then died. The fifth friend came to know Jesus a few months afterward. Keep praying.
How do we pray with continual urgency?
Begin. Make an appointment to meet with God. I read about a man who put on his calendar each day, 7-7:30, prayer. But he kept missing it. Then he changed it to say 7-7:30, God. That’s a harder meeting to neglect.
In Jesus’ name: “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13-14). Do you believe that you deserve to be heard, or do you pray on the basis of Jesus’ death for you?