Prayer is vital to the believer’s journey. Besides reading scriptures, the believer connects with God through prayer. It is usually from Bible reading that we can hear God’s voice, and from prayer, God can hear from us. In our pursuit of prayer, we must be careful lest we turn the moment and gift of prayer into a time of manipulation and self-seeking. What, then, is a proper way to build our practice of prayer?
A Call to Prayer
The words of the hymn ‘Leaning on the everlasting arms’ are refreshing for the believing soul. The hymn goes:
“What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.”
Believers, over all things, are to be consumed, drenched, immersed, and enthralled by the reality of the God who will never leave them nor forsake them (Deuteronomy 31:6), whatever the life situation.
Prayer is a call, by God, to fellowship with him as we grow in our relationship with him. It is not something for the chosen few or the so-called men or women of God; instead, it is a privilege given to all saints. Jesus spoke of the call to prayer, expressing that it was a matter of ‘when’, implying that it is a norm for the saint/believer to engage, and not a matter of ‘if’, an optional engagement (Matthew 6:5-8). When we come to God in prayer, it is a moment of fellowship and blessed peace. We cannot overlook this privilege.
Consistency in Prayer
In Christ’s call to prayer, he alludes to the fact that prayer is not a one-off activity or something we do in sketches. It is a sustained engagement. In a parable in Luke 18:1, Jesus charges the disciples to always pray and not lose heart. Here, Christ is also encouraging us to continually remain in the place of prayer (attitude and lifestyle), communicating with our Father in heaven as often as possible. Whether walking or sitting, lying down, or engaging in daily chores, in the closet, kitchen, bathroom, or wherever, our call is to maintain an attitude of prayer. We should always whisper to our Father about our heart’s joys, struggles, fears, and desires.
Consistency also means that we should keep trusting God in that time of prayer, though things appear not to be happening or changing. In the parable of the friend at night (Luke 11:5-13), Jesus points to his persistence despite being initially denied his request. Afterwards, he adds the joint statements, “Ask… seek… knock”. Why do we need to persist in prayer? At the foundational level, God sometimes withholds from bringing things our way immediately after we ask for them so that we can also grow in our trust in him and patience.
Concession in Prayer
If prayer is consistent and we are not immediately getting what we pray for, what will our attitude and approach be? During such instances, we must teach our hearts to surrender to the sovereignty of God, the one who knows all things (Psalm 139:1-14). We must resign our will to the rule of God’s sovereignty and believe that all things will work together for our good (Romans 8:31-39) even when we do not see it that way. Concession means holding our desires loosely while trusting God’s heart for us.
When people point to nicely coined acronyms, like P.U.S.H (Pray Until Something Happens) for example, we need to be careful about the reality of the sovereignty of God in all things (Psalm 115:3). On the one hand, we must be consistent in prayer. On the other hand, some things will not happen even though we spend hours, days, months, and even years praying because that’s just how God has willed it (Isaiah 46:10-11, 13, Psalm 135:6, Proverbs 19:21).
E. Stanley Jones, A Song of Ascents, wrote, “Prayer is surrender—surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boat hook from a boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God.”
As you pray, seek to ultimately resign your heart to God and, like Jesus (Luke 22:42), have this attitude at the back of your head, “Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.” Even that concession is a mark of powerful, God-illuminated prayer.
So, the hymn writer continues to sing:
What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
Hence, without ceasing, let us pray (1 Thessalonians 5:17)!