I think Christians need to read a book on prayer (or listen to a sermon on prayer) regularly. At least I feel this need – otherwise, it’s easy for me to turn to self-sufficiency, otherwise known as foolishness. And lately, I’ve been encouraged in my prayer life by two short books on prayer, both recommended to me by fellow pastors (Thanks, Matt Hoaglund and Forsell Gappa!) Today I offer 14 quotes for your encouragement from the first of these recommendations, this one from Matt – Enjoy Your Prayer Life, by Michael Reeves, also the author of an absolutely delightful and easy to understand (believe it or not) book on the Trinity. So here goes – feel free to count this as your regular encouragement – and pray!
Prayerlessness always goes hand in hand with a lack of Christian integrity. This is even more so for Christian leaders – to put it bluntly, if they are not enjoying communion with God, then they are selling a product they don’t really believe in.
So what is prayer? It’s never been put better than by John Calvin, who in his excellent little chapter on prayer in the Institutes calls prayer ‘the chief exercise of faith’. In other words, prayer is the primary way true faith expresses itself. This also means that prayerlessness is practical atheism, demonstrating a lack of belief in God.
Your prayer life reveals how much you really want communion with God and how much you really depend on him. I stress it absolutely does not tell you about your security as an unrejectable child of God, but it does tell you, very accurately, how much of a baby you are spiritually, how much of a hypocrite you are, and how much you actually love the Lord.
Naturally we’re rubbish at prayer because we’re sinners. Yet the solution – what will give us the true life of real communion with God – is the gospel of Christ that awakens faith.
…in Luke’s account…the friend doesn’t immediately answer and give the bread, for we are to understand that our heavenly Father and Friend wants us to persevere in our prayers. Of course, God could give to us and bless us without our asking – and how he regularly does that in his grace! But the God of fellowship wants fellowship with us. He wants us to argue his promises and his character with him, for then who he is becomes an ever more conscious reality for us.
You therefore see repeatedly in the Old Testament that when Israel no longer called out to him, he wouldn’t help them. For he wants us to know that blessing comes only from him. Blessing is not natural, and ultimately it can be found nowhere else.
John Calvin said that we pray, as it were, through Jesus’ mouth. The Father has always longed to hear the prayers of his dear Son – and we pray in his name. The Son gives us his name to pray in so that we pray as him.
When you default to thinking of prayer as an abstract activity, a ‘thing to do’, the tendency is to focus on the prayer as an activity – which makes it boring. Instead, focus on the one to whom you’re praying. Reminding yourself who you are coming before is a great help against distraction, and changes the prayer.
If God was a single, independent person, independence would be the godly thing. That would be how to be like him. But as the Son always depends on the Father, that is the nature of Christian godliness. Being a Christian is first and foremost all about receiving, asking and depending. It’s when you don’t feel needy (and so when you don’t pray much) that you lose your grip on reality and think or act in an unchristian manner. In fact, as you grow as a Christian, you should feel not more self-sufficient but ever more needy. If you don’t, I’m not sure you’re growing spiritually.
Prayer, then, is enjoying the care of a powerful Father, instead of being left to a frightening loneliness where everything is all down to you. Prayer is the antithesis of self-dependence.
Instead of chasing the idol of our own productivity, let’s be dependent children – and let the busyness that could keep us from prayer drive us to prayer. Only then – like the Son – can we actually be fruitful.
True intimacy is an acquired thing, something that develops – but it only develops with honesty. So if your prayer life is a bit ropey, I suggest starting again by stammering like a child to a Father. Cry for help. Don’t try to be impressive.
The prayer meeting is such a battle of flesh against Spirit: will you bludgeon your brothers and sisters with your impressive prayers and actually ignore God, or will you truly go to your Father and seek blessing for them? It can be a formality, a chance to compete with each other – or it can wonderfully foster unity.
Do you feel you don’t have the time? That’s revealing of self-dependence, probably. Do you not see the Father as one you actually want to spend time with? That’s revealing, and you’ll need a new sight of the glory of Christ to re-awaken faith. Might it be that, deep down, you struggle to believe this truly is the Lord’s world? Prayerlessness often indicates that mindset.
Lastly – why don’t you share a comment below of your favorite of these quotes? I took a portion of one of these above and wrote it out on a notecard so I can see it on my desk. Tell me your favorite, and when I publish the next set of quotes from the other book…I’ll tell you mine!