November 7, 2012

How's Your Prayer Life?

While driving the turnpike in upstate New York, my husband and I couldn’t help noticing a tall, well-dressed, but bewildered-looking man standing on the road alongside a shiny new Cadillac. It was apparent that he was in trouble, so we pulled over to see if we could be of help.

“What’s wrong?” we asked. “Can we help you?”
“I’m out of gas,” he replied. “Of all the times for this to happen! I’m late now to an important engagement.”

Fortunately, we were carrying a gallon can of gasoline, and my husband emptied it into his tank.

“You can get gas six miles ahead at the next service area,” we told him. We had seen a signboard telling us this.

The man thanked us politely, jumped into his car, and sped away.  About 12 miles down the road, however, we were astonished to see the same man with the same car in the very same predicament! Not wanting to take the time to stop for fuel, he had passed by the service area.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? I just can’t imagine what that man was thinking. Everyone knows that no matter how busy we are or how many important engagements we have or how big a rush we’re in, if we want our cars to run we must take time to get gasoline.

Any Similarities?
2012 1531 page28I’ve thought about this experience many times and wondered whether we as Christians are sometimes just as foolish as that man. We know that our source of power is prayer. We know how very important prayer is to spiritual growth. Yet we often neglect to pray. We don’t take time to stop to connect with the powerful resources of heaven through prayer.

Is it because we think prayer is unimportant that we neglect it? No—I believe that most of us realize how vital that time with God is to our relationship with Him. We know that “prayer is the breath of the soul,”1 that “through sincere prayer we are brought into connection with the mind of the Infinite,”2 and that “prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven’s storehouse, where are treasured the boundless resources of Omnipotence.”3

Although I realize the importance of prayer, I don’t spend the time in prayer that I should. The subject captivates me, and I read everything on prayer that I can get my hands on—but somehow I don’t take enough time to pray. I find it easier to read about it than do it.

Why We Neglect Prayer
I’m convinced that Christians are prone to neglecting prayer because our adversary, the devil, does everything he can to hinder our prayer life. He knows that if he can succeed in weakening our prayer life, he will successfully kill our spiritual life. He keeps us so busy doing other things—even good things—that we have no time or energy left to devote to prayer. He also has an ally in our own hearts—our carnal natures, which have a natural reluctance to pray. We are often too proud to admit that we need help outside ourselves, and prayer is sometimes our last resort.

What Can We Do?
So how can we develop a more meaningful prayer life? I’ve found some answers in a book titled Prayer, by Ole Hallesby.4 In it Hallesby illustrates the ideal prayer life in the story of Jesus’ mother at the feast of Cana. More people than expected had shown up at the wedding reception, and the organizers had run out of beverage. The first thing that Mary did was to go to Jesus. This, of course, is the first thing that we should do when we come face to face with problems—go to Jesus. It should be as natural for our thoughts to turn toward Jesus as it is for a flower to turn toward the sun.

Next, Mary told Jesus the problem. “They have no more wine,” she said.5

Sometimes we may feel that God isn’t interested in our problems, that He is so busy with other important issues that we shouldn’t trouble Him with our cares and worries. But this isn’t how God views things. We’re told:

“Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary Him. He who numbers the hairs of your head is not indifferent to the wants of His children. . . . His heart of love is touched by our sorrows and even by our utterances of them. Take to Him everything that perplexes the mind. Nothing is too great for Him to bear, for He holds up worlds, He rules over all the affairs of the universe. Nothing that in any way concerns our peace is too small for Him to notice. There is no chapter in our experience too dark for Him to read; there is no perplexity too difficult for Him to unravel. No calamity can befall the least of His children, no anxiety harass the soul, no joy cheer, no sincere prayer escape the lips, of which our heavenly Father is unobservant, or in which He takes no immediate interest.”6

After coming to Jesus and telling Him the problem, Mary said nothing more to Him. She didn’t tell Jesus what to do; rather, she left the matter with Him. This is where most of us have difficulties, and it’s possibly the reason our prayer lives are not what they should be. We tell God what He should do. Sometimes we have the answer all worked out for God before we even pray.

According to Hallesby, prayer is simply opening our heart’s door to God, who stands there knocking.

A Closer Fellowship
God is waiting for us to give Him access to our hearts. He wants us to provide Him with the opportunity to fulfill our needs. He is just waiting for us to respond. We don’t have to tell God what to do—He already knows. He just wants us to converse with Him and have a close fellowship experience. He desires to heal those deep-down wounds that no one else knows about. He longs for us to realize our helplessness and our selfishness and to cast ourselves at His feet.

Make Time to Pray
Don’t rush so much that you fail to take time to get spiritual power through prayer. Set a specific time for prayer each day, and don’t let other things crowd it out. Allow time to sense God’s presence and for Him to speak to you, as well. Remember to “be still, and know that [He is] God.”7

The more time we spend with God, the more we’ll long to be in His presence. We will grow to know Him better, and He will become more real to us than any earthly friend. Through prayer and Bible study we will find joy, peace of mind, and victory in our Christian walk with Him.

1 Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1915), p. 254.
2 Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1956), p. 97.
3 Ibid., pp. 94, 95.
4 Ole Hallesby, Prayer (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1994).
5 See John 2:3.
6 E. G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 100.
7 Ps. 46:10.

Lillian R. Guild writes from Loma Linda, California. This article was published November 8, 2012.