Summary: Christians need to understand the importance of a consistent, daily routine of personal prayer.
Consider the following words: dedication, commitment, devotion. What do they mean to you – not to you as a member of your family, as a part of a local community or as a citizen of a nation, but rather to you as a believer, as a Christian, as a follower of Christ. Do words such as these have a deep heartfelt meaning or do you simply have a passing, surface understanding of their definition.
Dedication – self-sacrificing devotion.1
Commitment – an agreement or pledge to do something in the future, the state or an instance of being obligated or emotionally impelled (to urge or drive forward as if by exertion of strong moral pressure).1
Devotion – religious fervor.
As we continue this journey today of searching out what it means to long for relationship with God and how the status of your prayer life impacts the health of that relationship, I want you to consider for a moment that a deeper understanding of the meaning of words like dedication, commitment and devotion are vital to that quest. I fear that as Western Christians, influenced by generations by Western Culture, we have lost that understanding and that this loss is more tragic than we have realized.
Ask yourself, “What is the fastest growing religion in America today?” If we are willing to stop viewing our world from the eyes of the self-centered, egotistical Christians we have become, then we might be surprised to learn that it is not Christianity.
In 1990 86.2% of Americans identified themselves as Christians. In 2001 that number had fallen to 76.5%, a loss of 9.7% in 11 years. As of May 2007 it was estimated that this number had dipped to 71% and that it will fall below 70% before the end of 2008.
Islam, on the other hand, is on the move. It is rising in the face of the moral decay that years of non-confrontational, socially acceptable and politically correct Christianity has left us with.
As early as April 1997, CNN reported, “The second-largest religion in the world after Christianity, Islam is also the fastest-growing religion. In the United States, for example, nearly 80% of more than 1,200 mosques have been built in the past 12 years.”
Faced with such a rapidly growing giant, there must be something that we can learn from this spiritual adversary. Today, I want to suggest to you that indeed there is something that we can learn – something that the average Muslim has that the average Christian has lost. It is an understanding of those words like dedication, commitment and devotion.
Even with our surface understanding of these definitions, I dare say that most of us would agree that a person of Muslim faith is deeply devoted to their faith. Though misguided, they remain sincerely committed. This dedication is clearly reflected in one of their most recognizable acts – their daily ritual of prayers. We don’t often hear the Muslim call to prayer here in America. It seldom wakes us from our sleep in the morning or echoes in our ear as the last sound before we close our eyes in sleep – yet that call to prayer goes forth here as it does around the world and when it does the Muslim stops what he is doing and turns his attention toward a faceless god called Allah, whose supposed heavenly abode is empty because of the spiritual reality that he does not exist. There still remains such a devotion to a false faith that these empty prayers continue to go forth like clockwork and drive millions forward in pursuit of a dead faith.
You may respond to this reality with a comment such as, “what a tragedy”, however I want to suggest a different response – “what power!” If the pointless prayers of an empty religion can produce such tremendous growth and advancement, then how much more powerful are our spirit-filled petitions to the One, True, Living God.
What can a Christian learn, or should I say, what must a Christian learn, from the Muslim faith? We must learn dedication, commitment and devotion to a life of prayer.
Dedication to a lifestyle of prayer did not originate among the men and women of Islamic faith, it can, however, be traced back to those whom Muslim’s hold in high regard – men from whose life they learned the value of prayer, men like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It was learned from the fathers of the faith – the Judeo-Christian faith. If we are to see a turn in the tide of the spiritual war that is raging in America, if we are to see a reversal of the moral decay that has plagued us, if we are to see the power of the Creator of the Universe once again displayed in our midst, then we must return to a devoted life of daily prayer.