My wife and I took our daughter to college for the first time in August 2013. She attends school in Wisconsin, 1,700 miles away from home. It’s the first time we’ve been separated by such a long distance, even residing in different time zones. She is very busy at school. Between classes, studying and work, her life is hectic. Thanks to technology, we do get a chance to Skype occasionally, and when she can she’ll phone us to chat.
Whenever the phone rings and the caller ID says it’s her, we experience a moment of pure elation that we have another opportunity to talk to our little girl. No matter her age, she’ll always be our little girl. If you’re a parent, you know exactly what I’m talking about!
After such a recent call, I started pondering this matter of prayer. I thought about the excitement and joy we feel and how we tend to drop whatever we’re doing to spend precious little time with her. Music and TV is turned off. We walk away from the computers. It’s time to focus on her. It doesn’t matter how busy we are, when she calls, we want to give her our full attention, catch up on each other’s lives, pray with her, and help her in any way we can.
Then it dawned on me. God is our Father, our parent so to speak. The Bible is clear that the ultimate purpose of our salvation is to glorify God and to bring us into intimate, rich fellowship with Him.
“That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”—1 John 1:3
If we, as imperfect human parents, can experience such joy when our children reach out to us, how much more so does God, our perfect parent, experience joy when we reach out to Him in with His technology: prayer. Hebrews 4:16 even implies that He’ll also drop everything He’s doing to pay attention to us. Imagine that, the God of all creation excited and focused when we call!
“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a Welsh Protestant minister, preacher and medical doctor who was influential in the Reformed wing of the British evangelical movement in the 20th century, once wrote:
Prayer is beyond any question the highest activity of the human soul. Man is at his greatest and highest when upon his knees he comes face to face with God (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 2 vols. [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979]).
The essence of prayer is simply talking to God as you would to a beloved friend—without pretense or disrespect. Yet it is in that very attitude toward prayer so many believers have trouble.
Because communion with God is so vital and prayer so effective in the fulfillment of God’s plan, the enemy constantly attempts to introduce errors into our understanding of and commitment to prayer.
For many, prayer has been replaced with pragmatic action. Function overrides fellowship with God; busyness crowds out communication. For others, prayer lacks a sense of awe and respect. Their efforts are superficial, disrespectful, and irreverent. Then there are those who believe prayer is designed to make demands and claims on God. They attempt to force Him to do what they believe He should do for them. Finally, for some prayer is nothing more than a routine ritual.
You may hold prayer with the utmost respect, yet you find your own practice lacks purpose and vitality, so you don’t spend time with God like you know you should. While there are many reasons Christians struggle to pray, there is one overriding factor.
It is the highest activity of the human soul, and therefore it is at the same time the ultimate test of a man’s true spiritual condition. There is nothing that tells the truth about us as Christian people so much as our prayer life.
…Ultimately, therefore, a man discovers the real condition of his spiritual life when he examines himself in private, when he is alone with God.
…And have we not all known what it is to find that, somehow, we have less to say to God when we are alone than when we are in the presence of others? It should not be so; but it often is. So that it is when we have left the realm of activities and outward dealings with other people, and are alone with God, that we really know where we stand in a spiritual sense.
For Christians prayer is like breathing. You don’t have to think to breathe because the atmosphere exerts pressure on your lungs and forces you to breathe. That’s why it is more difficult to hold your breath than it is to breathe. Similarly, when you’re born into the family of God, you enter into a spiritual atmosphere wherein God’s presence and grace exert pressure, or influence, on your life. Prayer is the normal response to that pressure.
Unfortunately many believers hold their spiritual breaths for long periods, thinking brief moments with God are sufficient to allow them to survive. But such restricting of their spiritual intake is caused by sinful desires. The fact is, to be fully functional as a Christian; every believer must continually be in the presence of God, constantly breathing in His truths
Because ours is such a free and prosperous society, it is easier for Christians to feel secure by presuming on instead of depending on God’s grace. Too many believers become satisfied with physical blessings and have little desire for spiritual blessings. Having become so dependent on their physical resources, they feel little need for spiritual resources. When programs, methods, and money produce impressive results, there is an inclination to confuse human success with divine blessing. Christians can actually behave like practical humanists, living as if God were not necessary. When that happens, passionate longing for God and yearning for His help will be missing—along with His empowerment. Because of this great and common danger, Paul urged believers in Eph 6:18
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
And in Col. 4:2
Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;
Continual, persistent, incessant prayer is an essential part of Christian living and flows out of dependence on God.