"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22 (NKJV)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Week 12: Devote Yourselves to Prayer

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." ~ Col. 4:2

Last week, the assignment was prayer. For much of my Christian life, prayer has been a big struggle. I've gone through long periods where I hardly prayed at all. I've felt guilty about not praying enough. I went through a period where I kept a long list of things to pray for and mechanically prayed my way through the list.

In the last few years, my prayer life has started to come alive, and my desire for prayer has increased. I attribute this to three things that God has done in me. First, God has given me more faith to believe that He responds to our prayers and that our prayers make a difference. A couple years ago God highlighted a story in the Old Testament, and it has had a profound impact on my prayer life. It is at Exodus 17:8-13:

The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, "Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands. So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses's hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up---one on one side, one on the other---so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

What an amazing story! Moses gets together with Joshua to plan this battle. He basically says, "OK, you go fight, and I'll be up on the hill praying." Joshua values Moses's prayers so much that he readily agrees. God's power is poured out as Moses prays. Then, Moses's arms start to get tired. He can't keep his hands raised any longer, and the Amalekites start to prevail. That's when Aaron and Hur step in to support Moses. Together they keep the prayers and God's power flowing. I love that story. The painting above is "Victory O Lord," by John Everett Millais.

The second thing God has given me is more faith to believe His promises given in His Word. Some of my most treasured promises have been: That God will give us all things. Romans 8:32. That he will use all things for our good. Romans 8:28. That we have an inheritance waiting for us in heaven that can never perish, spoil or fade. 1 Peter 1:4. The little grain of faith that God has given me in these all-encompassing amazing promises, has made it much easier to bring my problems and concerns before the Lord.

The third thing that I believe has increased the quantity and quality of my prayer life is that I've learned to listen for and recognize God's still small voice. God wants to speak to us. He has always talked to His people. Bill Hybels says in his wonderful little book Too Busy Not to Pray: "Listening to God speak to us through the Holy Spirit is not only normal; it is essential."

I don't mean to suggest that I am a heroic prayer warrior or that I'm spending hours every day on my knees. I know those people. I treasure those people. I'm not one of them, at least not yet. But, God has brought my prayer life a long way. This week, however, was a major struggle. The first few days of the week I prayed less than usual, not more. When I did pray, it felt dry and pointless.

On Wednesday morning, I was walking Herbie the Wonderdog around the neighborhood and thinking about how I had failed miserably at the week's assignment. I thought, "Should I just fake it and write a post like I had a good week? Nobody will know." My conscience got the better of me, and I resolved to put up a post admitting my failure and giving myself a do over for the next week. I said to myself, "I just don't feel like praying right now. I'm burned out on this spiritual stuff. I need some time off from this blog anyway. I'll just admit that I blew it this week, and I'll try again next week." Then, speaking of Moses, I had something like a burning bush moment---at least as close to a burning bush moment as I've ever had.

Herbie and I had turned down an unfamiliar street. The sign below was in a yard.

I'm usually pretty skeptical when people say they've had a sign from the Lord. But, here, just as I was giving up on prayer for the week, was a literal sign in big bold letters---P-R-A-Y! Coincidence? Maybe. C.S. Lewis said: "For a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A Secret Master of Ceremonies has been at work." Coincidence or not (and I think not), I started praying. My pastor often talks about how some of his best prayer time is when he's running. I have this crazy dog. He needs exercise. I'm getting up and walking him for an hour every morning. We take another thirty minute walk every evening. So, why can't I use that time to pray? What difference would it make in my life if I spent sixty minutes or ninety minutes every day not just walking the dog, but walking the dog and praying?


  1. If my parents weren't coming into town, I'd say, "Fire up the Grill, Nate!" And then I'd realize that Nate isn't your name, it just sounds like Mate, which is what comes to mind when I say, "Fire up the grill." Oh, the whimsy that comes to mind when Eli lets me sleep in until 7:30.

  2. 7:30 is pretty good. I'll fire up the grill for you some other time. Maybe I could even throw some shrimp on the barbie.