A 7-year-old little girl had just won $2.00 for her memory work in Sunday school, which included scriptures, prayers, the Apostle’s Creed, etc. After the morning service, the pastor’s wife congratulated her.
The little girl proudly announced, "And I put it all in the morning’s offering!"
"My, how wonderful!" the pastor’s wife exclaimed. "I’m sure God will be pleased."
"Yes," the child replied. "Now maybe God will let me do some of the things I want to do!"
I wonder if that is how we feel all too often when it comes to the important things in our faith and practice. Take prayer, for instance. It is amazing that when pastors preach on prayer most of the congregation think they know all there is to know and yet statistics show that Christians spend a woefully small amount of time each day praying. Maybe that is true for you and maybe it isn’t, but I want to begin a series today on prayer that I believe has the potential to change our lives.
Let me begin with the Scripture I read a moment ago. In the cold, black night of Christ’s betrayal, His disciples could not tarry with Him even one hour in prayer. In the garden of Gethsemane, while Jesus earnestly prayed in such agony of spirit that His sweat became like great drops of blood, His disciples, ignorantly oblivious to the eternity-shaping events about to transpire, slept. Jesus, heavy and sorrowful in spirit, awakened His sleeping disciples and asked, “What, could you not watch with me one hour?”
Larry Lea, pastor of Church on a Rock in Rockwall, TX where he leads a congregation of over 15,000 made a statement about this moment in Jesus’ life that I just can’t ignore. He said, “Mirrored in that tragic scene is the plight of the church today. Jesus, our interceding High Priest, is praying; His disciples are sleeping; and Satan is winning contest after contest by default. It would be impossible to calculate the failures, the ruined reputations, the defeats, the broken homes and the other multiple tragedies that could have been avoided if believers prayed. It would be impossible to measure the destruction that could have been turned and the judgement that might have been averted if only God’s people had taken time to pray.” I am guilty and so are you.
But I didn’t come here today to put any of you on a guilt trip. You see, I know what it is like to be haunted by the call to pray, and because I know what it’s like to let interruptions, fatigue, pressures and just plain busyness and laziness drown out that call. You see, God has been haunting me for the last several years with the call to pray at least 1 hour a day. Just recently, I bowed before Him, repented of my excuses, my inability to avoid distractions, my failure to balance my time appropriately and asked Him to teach me how to pray. It has begun a revolution in my soul.
I want to make you a promise this morning: Something supernatural happens when you pray an hour a day. It does not happen over night, but slowly, almost imperceptibly, the desire to pray becomes firmly planted in the soil of your heart by the Spirit of the Living God. This desire then crowds out the weeds of apathy and neglect, and matures into us the discipline to pray. Then one day you discover that prayer is no longer just a duty or a drudgery; instead, the discipline of prayer becomes the delight of our lives. Then you will find yourself eagerly longing for your daily time with God. Someone once remarked: “Prayer is profoundly simple and simply profound.” When you get right down to it, prayer is simply talking with the God who loves you and longs for you to know Him. He wants us to spend time with Him. In fact, it is urgent that we do so for our own and others’ spiritual well being.