By Leslie Diestelkamp
Has prayer become just a burden to you? Is it just a custom–a ritual to be performed and a matter of very little concern, either with regard to its frequency, its regularity or its urgency? Or have you learned the secret of the preciousness of prayer–that it is indeed a great opportunity and not just an obligation. James wrote, “Ye receive not because ye ask not”, and it is probably not possible for man to understand now how truly great God’s blessings would undoubtedly be if his people would fervently and effectually ask according to his will. Indeed God would surely open the windows of heaven and pour us out blessings almost beyond our comprehension if all the mighty host of faithful, consecrated people who have the absolute right to call him “Father” would utilize to the fullest extent the great opportunity of prayer.
The real urgency of prayer can only be fully realized when we recognize the perfect wisdom of God and his supreme power, and when we comprehend our insignificance and our weakness. There are perhaps three attitudes that often prevail to hinder proper prayer and to rob us of the advantages of God’s full storehouse of blessings:
First there are those who rebel against prayer. It is actually offensive to them. To engage in prayer with fervency and regularity is to them a sign of weakness. Or in many cases it may be a sense of shame and embarrassment that causes them to revolt against the idea of expressing petitions to an unseen God.
Second, some decline prayer because of their feeling of sufficiency. They think that they “Can get this job done all by themselves.” The help of a supreme being is not needed according to their ideals. Confidence in their present health, wealth or credit rating surpasses their comprehension of dependence upon God.
Third, many of us probably neglect prayer just because we are completely unconcerned about it. We are neither for it nor against it. We would certainly not consciously oppose it, nor would we intentionally deny its value, but we just get busy with tasks, which seem more pressing, and, without deliberately renouncing prayer, we nevertheless join the ranks of those who simply do not pray. Perhaps for most of us this is the most dangerous attitude, and it is certainly most easily adopted. While we even stoutly advocate the right of the Christian to pray, while we fully understand in our mind the need for prayer and while we even fully intend to “continue in prayer”, (or, if we recognize that we have neglected it, we may definitely plan to resume it) yet we may be sucked into that vacuum caused by worldly concerns and ambitious desires, and therein we may soon find no place or time for prayer.
The seriousness of this situation may be observed many times in public prayers. By rote and by ritual prayers are said and the urgent demands of the very present time are forgotten while the same old phraseology of another decade is piously phrased. (By this I do not mean that it is wrong to pray for the same things day after day and even year after year, but it is wrong to just “say the same prayers” because we have learned them years ago and because we are too lazy or too unconcerned to be alert to the needs of this moment). Recently I was present when prayer regarding a certain urgent situation was requested and yet the one who led the closing prayer just went through that same old ritual: “Bless us as we separate to go to our separate places of abode, and if we have been faithful, give us a home in heaven when life on earth is done,” and he forgot entirely the urgent request that had been made not more than two or three minutes earlier! One time I had just closed a lesson in which I showed that the blood of Christ was not spilled at all, but that it was deliberately poured out for our redemption. Immediately a bright young man prayed, approximately, “Bless this cup which represents the blood of Jesus that was spilled for us”. Such carelessness indicates our lack of deep concern for the preciousness of prayer.
Perhaps it would be astonishing if we could take a secret ballot and find out how many Christians really pray at all except as they concur in the public prayers. Six days go by, filled with cares and concerns for the things of this world, but nothing has actually been said to God. Morning comes and we awaken to the urgency of work. Evening arrives and our mind is filled with concerns for play, for fun and for social contacts. Night closes its dark shadows about us and rest is needed so badly. Slumber closes our eyes and prayer was forgotten or at least postponed.
We spend a lot of money to conduct a gospel meeting or a vacation Bible school, and we put in a lot of time and energy to make such a success, but many times we fail to reach out and ask for the help that only the Lord can give. We wonder when we seem to have failed, when interest seems low, when few are converted, but we often need to realize that our failures are the result of negligence in prayer. Have you prayed lately for the man who breaks the bread of life to you and to others? Have you sincerely asked the Lord to so bless that “The word of the Lord may have free course?” Have you exercised your privilege of praying for those who “Watch for your soul? ” Have you asked God to give you wisdom so that you can know the truth more perfectly? Perhaps one of the most significant blessings we have is the opportunity to pray in secret–to pour out our requests to one who can hear us from the most remote corner of the world, and who will certainly hear us in time of joy or in time of sorrow, in time of tranquility and in time of turmoil. Let us be thankful that we can pray together in the assemblies of God’s people, but even more grateful should we be that we don’t have to wait for others to assemble with us, nor do we have to wait for a public place to become available for us. Alone with God, we can indeed have the closest contact with him.
To be “on praying terms with God” is truly the most precious privilege, and it is reserved for the true Christian. Let us all make it our own privilege, and then let us utilize it to the very fullest extent. (I intend to follow this with an article, “Prayer That Is Proper and Profitable.”
Truth Magazine, VI: 1 pp. 12-13