Thoughts on Praying
by Jim Patching
The Scriptures are full of exhortations to pray. The following are just some examples: Luke 18:1 "...that men ought always to pray, and not to faint" (faint: to be weak, in heart, or in origin) in other words we should always be motivated to pray or be in the motion of prayer continually. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 "Pray without ceasing" (uninterruptedly, permanently) and Romans 12:12 clearly state what manner of persons we should be; a people given to prayer. However, it would be objected that no-one could give 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 52 weeks a year to prayer to the exclusion of all else during this life on earth. Then how are we to pray without ceasing, always praying, remaining in a constant state of prayer? When studying the Scriptures we find the records of Apostolic praying show their brevity rather than their length. The longest being only seven verses. Although their praying was brief, it was explicit, no vagueness, no generalizations, but with a clarity to which a listener could comprehend and add his amen. It is reported that the Pentecostal preacher, who had a remarkable gift of healing, Smith Wigglesworth; never prayed longer than half an hour. On the other hand, half an hour never passed by without him praying. He walked and talked with his Maker at every opportunity as if he were constantly at his side. Then how do we remain constantly in prayer?
Many years ago a young man was getting married and one of the necessary purchases during the preparations was to obtain a house. However, at that point in time housing was hard to come by, which created concerns for those desirous and of necessity purchasing the same. He visited the real estate agents, scanned the daily papers, sought advice from friends and was constantly on the go looking for a suitable property. As the days and weeks went by he became obsessed with thoughts regarding the obtaining of a house. Someone made a comment to him at work one day with regard to his pre-occupation in this regard. His response was 'I cannot get it out of my mind, I live with it every day, I dream of it at night. My sub-conscious is filled with it even though I am occupied with daily activities at work and necessary functions during the week. It is with me constantly, reminding me from time to time in my conscious moments that the problem is still there.'
Although the young man's thought were about a house and the problem associated with obtaining one, nevertheless, it explains very clearly how one's motivation can be directed. His constant attitude, waking or sleeping, eating or working, traveling or directing others, was taken up with thought regarding the house situation. So, too, this attitude and motivation should direct our prayer lives so that consciously and unconsciously we recognize the One we pray to as always there. It is a constant fellowship, as if one has another person always at his side, never departing at any time or under any circumstance. (Matthew 28:20, '...lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen') Thus we can pray by just talking to Him at any second of the day or night. Not lengthy, windy prayers, not boring dialogue, not impressive speeches, but simply as a friend to friend. Then also listening for a reply. Too often we regale God with prepared speeches, lengthy diatribes and impressive oratory - better to remain silent and hear His word.
Two men prayed, one was justified, note the brevity and honesty of his prayer in Luke 18:9-14. It is stated that the other man prayed thus with himself. No wonder so many of our prayers are unanswered, for all the energy and time we spend trying to convince God to do certain things according to our own limited understandings. How often we pound the ether with our finite visions and misinterpreted Scriptures, like James and John not understanding what they asked. (Matthew 20:20-23) If God was to give us our desires, we could not cope with them nor their ramifications.
Jesus said (Matthew 6:5-6) '...pray to they Father in secret...' Not only did He tell us what to do but he practiced the principle. (Matthew 14:23) '...He went up into a mountain apart to pray...He was there alone...' But in religious circles we have organized prayer meetings, we are informed of the place, the time, and often the subject matter (someone else's vision and program) to pray about. All in direct contradiction to the word of God. That people prayed corporately in the Bible is not denied, but it was a rarity in comparison to personal prayer alone. Note also their lack of belief when the answer came! (Acts 12:12-16) Mostly, in prayer meetings where people gather together, they pray to one another. It is amazing how verbose (talkative) people get, how competition arises, how personal problems are aired and directives urged upon God. The gathering in many ways becomes nothing more than a religious parliamentary debate. This is Babylon - where we compare ourselves among ourselves - we are not wise, but foolish. (2 Cor. 10:12) Sadly prayer meetings are considered successful by the numbers that attend, the quantity of prayer uttered, the urgency and quality of arguments presented. We are satisfied by having made speeches and pleadings Godward that have pleased our humanistic reasonings, rather than coming before the Lord in Scriptural attitudes; in humility, with supplication and adoration.
The core or base for prayer is recorded in Matthew 6:9-13 and is preceded with the place for prayer, being alone in the secret place. Note also in this prayer the use of pronouns: 'our Father,' 'give us,' our daily bread,' forgive us,' and so on. This leaves little room for self-centered prayers and self-glory in prayer gatherings. It also places the burden of prayer upon each individual Christian to walk consistently in a prayer relationship with their personal Savior and their personal God.
'Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him and bless His name.' (Psalm 100:4) 'Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His Holy Name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.' (Psalm 103:1,2)
Quote from Martin Luther: "When thou prayest, let thy words be few, but they thoughts and affections many, and above all, let them be profound. The less thou speakest, the better thou prayest ... external and bodily prayer is that buzzing of the lips, that outside babble that is gone through without any attention, and which strikes the ears of men; but prayer in the spirit and in truth is the inward desire, the motions the sighs, which issue from the depths of the heart. The former is the prayer of hypocrites and of all who trust in themselves: the latter the prayer of the children of God, who walk in His fear.
Prayer is the issue of a love relationship."