Spiritual Growth – Prayer
This past January Pastor Scott laid out the theme for this year at Central Manor Church… Pray First. How are you doing with that? Has your prayer life improved this year, or has it stayed steady? Does it feel more like it’s on life support?! The initiative to Pray First is two-fold. We should be praying for our church. For the ministries in and supported by our church. For the people, who after all, are the church! For clarity, understanding, and wisdom in discerning and implementing the future physical and practical needs of our facilities. I hope you are all praying for all of that.
The second reason though is personal. Your own personal spiritual development. It is a spiritual discipline that every Christian can and should be engaged in. Much of what I will be referring to in these articles on spiritual growth will be coming from a great book that I recommend to each of you. It’s called “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life” by Donald S. Whitney.
Do actions speak louder than prayers?
While most Christians seem to say that prayer is important, statistical surveys seem to indicate that large percentages of professing Christians spend very little time in sustained prayer. Yes, many are the one sentence prayers here and there through the day. But spending more than a few minutes a day, alone in prayer, seems to be rare. If we’re honest, I think most of us can attest to the truth of that in our own lives. As life seems to get busier and busier with more and more distractions, it gets tougher and tougher to slow down, focus, and pray.
None of this is intended to make anyone feel guilty about a lack of dedication. On the contrary, I hope to help us all see more clearly the importance and need for each of us to continue pressing on, pursuing, and being diligent to grow. Don’t let the past weigh you down. Look to the future and press on.
It seems impersonal
Many say that prayer seems impersonal. However, we must remember that our God is relational. The Trinity itself illustrates this, “God in three persons…”. “Person” can be defined as a substance that can do personal and relational things. Things such as thinking, speaking, feeling, acting, etc. By that definition the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are persons. Prayer reinforces the relational nature and character of God. We pray with the aid of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus himself instructs and expects us to pray. (Matt. 6; Luke 11; Luke 18) Additionally, that expectation is repeated throughout the New Testament. Two examples are found in Col. 4:2 and 1 Thess. 5:17. Martin Luther said, “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.”
Donald S. Whitney writes,
“But we must see the expectation to pray not only as a divine summons, but also as a royal invitation. As the writer of Hebrews told us, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (4:16). We can be prayer pessimists and see the expectation to pray merely as obligation, or we can be optimists who view the command to pray as an opportunity to receive the mercy and grace of God.” p.82
A burden or a privilege?
Whitney goes on to explain the different expectations. God’s expectation for us to pray is one of love. Like a wife who out of love wants to be contacted when her husband arrives at his destination safely, the desire for communication is one born out of love with a desire to bless. God also expects prayer as a general expects communication from his soldiers. We fight in a spiritual battle and we were never intended to fight alone. The expectation to pray, as Whitney says, “is not so much a duty as a privilege, and not so much a privilege as it is an expression of life.” He continues, “We expect children to communicate because they are alive. So God expects His children to communicate because they have been given eternal life and “have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15)” p. 83
Furthermore, Jesus himself prayed. If Jesus did it and needed to do it (Luke 5:16), then we need to also.
There is so much more to say on the topic. I encourage you to seek out Whitney’s book and give chapter 4 a thorough reading.