Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney
Of all the Spiritual Disciplines, prayer is second only to the intake of God’s Word in importance.
While “continue steadfastly in prayer” emphasizes prayer as an activity, “pray without ceasing” reminds us that prayer is also a relationship. Prayer is in one sense an expression of a Christian’s unbroken relationship with the Father.
This means that if talking with and thinking of God can’t be in the forefront of your mind, it should always be just to the side and ready to take the place of what you are concentrating on. You might think of praying without ceasing as communicating with God on one line while also taking calls on another.
We are directly commanded to pray. This means too little time, too many responsibilities, too many kids, too much work, too little desire, too little experience, and so on are not excuses that exempt us from the expectation to pray.
Martin Luther expressed God’s expectation of prayer this way: “As it is the business of tailors to make clothes and of cobblers to mend shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray.”
The problem is primarily a lack of discipline: Prayer is never planned; time is never allotted just for praying. While lip service is given to the priority of prayer, in reality it always seems to get crowded out by things more urgent.
When our awareness of the greatness of God and the gospel is dim, our prayer lives will be small. The less we think of the nature and character of God, and the less we are reminded of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross, the less we want to pray.
A child of God gradually learns to pray like this in the same way that a growing child learns to talk. To pray as expected, to pray as a maturing Christian, and to pray effectively, we must say with the disciples in Luke 11: 1, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Meditation is the missing link between Bible intake and prayer. Too often disjointed, the two should be united. Typically, we read the Bible, close it, and then try to shift gears into prayer. But many times it seems as if the gears between the two won’t mesh.
“Pray as you think. Consciously embrace with your heart every gleam of light and truth that comes to your mind. Thank God for and pray about everything that strikes you powerfully.”
“What is the reason that our desires like an arrow shot by a weak bow do not reach the mark? Because we do not meditate before prayer. . . . The great reason why our prayers are ineffectual, is because we do not meditate before them.”
“Ask and you shall receive; everyone that asks, receives.” This is the fixed eternal law of the kingdom: if you ask and receive not, it must be because there is something amiss or wanting in the prayer.
We must learn to examine our prayers. Are we asking for things outside the will of God or that would not glorify Him? Are we praying with selfish motives? Are we failing to deal with the kind of blatant sin that causes God to put all our prayers on hold?
Are good things answers to prayer or just a collection of providential coincidences? Only God knows for sure. But I agree with the man who said, “If it is coincidence, I sure have a lot more coincidences when I pray than when I don’t.”
Remember that the words ask, seek, and knock in Matthew 7: 7-8 in the original Greek language of the text are in the present, continuous tense. That means we often must pray persistently before the answers come.
What is the reason that some believers are so much brighter and holier than others? I believe the difference, in nineteen cases out of twenty, arises from different habits about private prayer.
Would you be like Christ? Then do as He did — discipline yourself to be a person of prayer.