Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Keep Praying

In the "drama in real life" Reader's Digest stories, the person-in-crisis invariably cries out to God to save him. Sometimes he admits, "I hadn't prayed in years, but..." And then salvation comes just in time! And there is a picture of the happy family at the end of the article.

What is wrong with this picture? How about this: "When all else fails, try prayer."

Reminds me of my prayer life. When I was 18, as part of a school project, I wrote down some life goals. One was to be a man of prayer. Sadly, for the next five years my prayer life consisted of about 90 seconds per day--30 guilt-motivated seconds of 'grace' before each meal.

At some point during this period of my life, I said something like this to a friend: "Oh man, I really believe in prayer. Wow, do I believe in prayer!" (Before you read on, do you agree?) Then my friend asked me how much I prayed. I probably exaggerated, and it was still a miserable amount. "So you obviously don't really believe in prayer then," he said.


But true.

Anyway, now I'm up to a few dedicated minutes per day, and some breath prayer. Still very pathetic, really, especially in light of the fact that God never seems to do anything without prayer. I mean, why don't I have at least one hour of dedicated prayer in my 10,080-minute week?

But Hallelujah!--and this is where this blog post turns from being depressing to hopeful--God has been exceedingly generous with the prayers I have uttered. Despite the still-pitiful degree to which I pray, He has begun to revolutionize my life through prayer.

How? In part, because:

Prayer is eternal LIFE. It is communion with God. It is the heart-beat of your relationship with God. It is doing what you were created to do. (I have not emphasized this point enough on this blog, having definitely been guilty of highlighting the selfish benefits of prayer. I hope this changes.) Jonathan Edwards once said, "The true spirit of prayer is no other than God's own Spirit dwelling in the hearts of the saints. And as this spirit comes from God, so doth it naturally tend to God in holy breathings and pantings. It naturally leads to God, to converse with him by prayer."

Prayer makes you care. God has changed my life through prayer by bringing me to actually care--there's that word again--about things I couldn't have cared less about before. The great thing about this is that it causes me to actually want to do things God wants me to do. You care about what you pray about, and what you care about determines what you do.

Prayer hits its target. Another way God has used my prayers is by actually changing things. I believe this with faith alone, though, because one can never know for sure down here (Earth) what God actually does with one's prayers as they pertain to the prayer targets. E.g., What actually happens when I pray for China? Maybe I will find out in Heaven that, because of one breath prayer uttered at 2:16pm EST on May 2, 2006, a persecuted Christian named Hin Su Ling in a prison in the Xinjiang province was suddenly so filled with strength-giving JOY that he began to sing Chinese hymns at the top of his lungs - resulting in his annoyed jailers hearing the gospel for the first time and eventually getting converted. Praise the Lord!

Conclusion: If your life consists of 30 seconds of guilt-ridden prayer before each meal, keep doing it, and add a little bit more (prayer, not guilt). :) If reading the popcorn on this blog helps you pray, keep it up, and utter a breath prayer when you hear about a nation in crisis on the news. If you pray five minutes per day, keep doing it, and add a little bit more. And then a little bit more.
Evening and morning, and at noon, I will pray and cry aloud; and He shall hear my voice - Psalm 55:17

Extra: Quotes on Prayer worth reading.
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