I’ve studied prayer for more than a year now.
In this pursuit, I read some great books on prayer (see the list at the end). I studied the prayers and prayer lives of heroes in the Bible. I surveyed modern-day people on their prayer lives. And through it all, I looked at my own prayer life.
I remembered really great times in prayer, when time stopped and it didn’t matter what to do next because what else mattered when God was near? I remembered slow and sticky times in prayer, minutes that lagged on like humid hours. And I remembered the prayers in-between. I could take prayer or leave it.
I learned a lot about prayer in the last year, but perhaps this is the kicker: God loves my prayer life more than I do.
That’s because God loves me more than I do. And since prayer is the root of my relationship with Him, God loves my prayer life more than I do.
Without prayer, there’s not much of a relationship. Prayer is the way I entered the Kingdom (Romans 10.9). Prayer is the way I maintain a daily relationship (1 Thes. 5.17). Prayer will be my future for all eternity (Rev 19.4). But this is the problem.
Prayer is so central to walking with God, that when prayer is off, God and I are off. So much of the relationship depends on prayer. But I don’t live this way. I don’t pray this way. I pray when I feel like it. I pray when there’s a re-run on TV. I pray when everything else has been done, and I don’t want to suffer the torture of our time—boredom.
Why? Because I don’t love prayer. Not like God does.
It turns out I’m not alone. When I surveyed 200 people about their prayer lives, I discovered that only 15% were very satisfied with prayer. The rest found prayer to be lacking, missing something, fallen short. Prayer was a chore.
But let me say, the hard work has already been done!
For the Christian, the battle has already been won. The gates of hell were already thrown open, souls already bought by the resurrected blood of Jesus. The hard part was ransoming us from the grave. So dark was sin that it required the light of man, the Christ, to buy us back. Sin towered between us and God, hard as steel. Only a spotless lamb could get through. And He did.
He went into the hinterland, beyond the realm of hope and joy. He went into the enemy’s camp, where no light shines. And he carried us out on his bloodied, matted back. The angels rejoiced. The Father hollered.
Friends, prayer is not supposed to be the hard work. My goodness, the hard work’s already been done. No, prayer is the reward of the hard work.
Prayer is the buried treasure we get to unearthen. It’s the trophy we never dreamed of winning. Prayer is how we enjoy God forever.
We just have to find a way to love it.
Books I read on prayer in the last year:
In Constant Prayer, Robert Benson
Fervent and Effective Prayer, Mary Alice Isleib
The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence
Too Busy Not To Pray, Bill Hybels
Intercessory Prayer, Dutch Sheets
Rees Howells, Intercessor, Norman Grubb
Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster
The Year Of Living Like Jesus, Ed Dobson
With Open Hands, Henri Nouwen
Praying God’s Word, Beth Moore