I forget that prayer matters. I forget God answers prayer. Though my loving Heavenly Father has been answering my prayers for years, I am too often like those Israelites who in one moment were miraculously delivered through the Red Sea from slavery, but in the next are crying out that God has forgotten them. I forget what He has done, and I forget that He answers my requests.
So, to counteract this, a number of years ago, I began writing little truths to myself at the top of my prayer lists. And I think I’m onto something with this practice in light of what Paul wrote the Philippians: “Whatever is true…think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8). I change these little notes every so often, because they get familiar, and I don’t “see” them anymore.
So here are just a few truths/ideas I have put at the top of lists over the years. I’ll post more at another time. But for now, perhaps these will move you to your knees…
- “Prayer is fundamental, not supplemental.” This sentence came from hearing the Scottish pastor Eric Alexander speak at the Urbana ’84 Missions conference. It has called me to prayer again and again. Too many times we can fall into thinking of prayer as a nice thing if we manage to find the time, but not really that important. But on the contrary, it is essential…fundamental, the most important part of the day, not a minor “add-on”.
- Collect as many jars as possible. This little idea came out of my meditation on 2 Kings 4 years ago. The story goes that a widow came to Elisha in dire financial straits, with only a jar of oil left to her name, about to have her sons taken in slavery to pay her late husband’s creditors. The prophet told her to go to neighbors and collect empty jars. “Do not get a few,” he said. So she and her sons went knocking on doors, not knowing why they were begging jars. When all the vessels were assembled, Elisha told her to begin pouring oil from the one full jar in the house. As she did so, her sons kept bringing her more empties from what had been collected, and when the last jar was filled, the oil stopped flowing. Elisha told her to sell the oil and pay her debts. And I began to think that prayer was like collecting jars. You do not have, because you do not ask, James said. How many things do I not have…because I haven’t asked, in other words, because I haven’t collected jars. I think that when that oil stopped flowing, she must have thought, why didn’t I collect more jars? And I think that when we get to heaven, we might just think, “Why didn’t I ask my heavenly Father for more?”
- Roger – this is the main work you have been called to. It is. There are so many things a pastor does, and for that matter, there are so many things a mom or dad does, but the main work I am called to is prayer. There is no more important thing I do, either as a pastor, or as a father, or husband. I am called to pray.