Summary: Part 5 in series, "Learning to Pray," this message examines prayer not as a discrete moment of communication with God, but as stemming from a lifestyle of awareness of His presence and access to His power.
Getting a (Prayer) Life
Learning to Pray, prt. 5
Feb. 17, 2005
Ever tried to start a new habit? What kinds of habits do we often begin and then find we can’t keep at it? (solicit responses)
Let me give you my top seven habits I begin again and again and again but never seem to stick with, but keep beginning them because I believe they are valuable and I can’t make peace with a permanent decision NOT to do these things. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Practicing the guitar.
2. Going to bed early.
3. Writing in my journal.
5. Taking a daily vitamin
6. Keeping my office clean
7. A consistent, regular time of prayer
The fact that I refuse to give up trying to establish these seven healthy habits means one thing – I do them in stops and starts, which in most cases means that whatever time I’m spending doing them ultimately isn’t coming to very much, because these are all things that need to be kept up with in order to see the most benefit.
What’s on your list? Take a minute and think about it. What are those things you know you should do, that you believe deeply are important, but for some reason cannot seem to really get any consistency with?
Do these things frustrate you? Do you find yourself taking precious minutes of your life to establish certain good habits, but deriving little benefit from it because you just don’t do it consistently? Today I want to talk to you about how this tendency many of us have affects our prayer life. Now if you’re here today and say, “What prayer life?” I hope you will not tune me out, because actually what I have to say today might apply more to those who pray infrequently than to those who pray all the time. You’ll see why as we go.
Before we really get into today’s content I want to remind you again of two things. First is that none of these lessons we learn on prayer will make any difference if we are not applying them through the experience of real prayer – so if you have not been praying consistently these past four weeks, it’s not too late to start. Make a commitment to pray so that you are hearing these messages in context and not in a vacuum. How do you know if you’re hearing these messages in a vacuum? The biggest sign is that you are probably getting sick of this series and wishing I’d talk about something else. If you’re not praying, this could be pretty dull stuff to you – like my trying to stand up here and talk about learning guitar to a bunch of people who don’t have any real intention of picking one up. That would get boring pretty quickly. But the difference between praying and playing guitar, of course, is that as fun as guitar playing is, and as meaningful as it is to me personally, Jesus didn’t tell us to do it, and certainly never took time to teach us how. However, he DID tell us to pray, and spent a great deal of time telling us, and showing us, what real prayer looks like. You can neglect playing guitar and be okay with God, but you can’t neglect prayer and be okay. So if you’re getting bored with these messages on prayer, I would simply ask you the question if you are hearing these messages in a vacuum – in other words, are you not praying?
Because it works the opposite way too. I would venture to say that if you have been willing to make prayer a priority, you have probably found these messages to be extremely interesting and challenging and substantive – perhaps on a level few series have ever reached for you. So first I want to remind you to actually be praying.
Second is I want to again remind you of an excellent book called With Christ in the School of Prayer, by Andrew Murray. Don’t put if off and say you’re already reading too many books right now. If you’re committing to a time of prayer anyway, and committed to learning how to do it, then you are already setting time aside – why not make the most of it? You can read one lesson a day for 30 days – it will add maybe 15-20 minutes a day to your prayer time (at the most), but will teach you what you need to know in order to begin praying with power - and that’s what you’re praying for in the first place, isn’t it? And don’t say you’ll get to it later. I’ll only be preaching on this for a few more weeks. Once the sermon series is done it’ll be easy to neglect it. As hard as it may seem to some of you right now, it will only be harder two months from now. Don’t fool yourself – if you think you need to learn to pray – and most of us do – you need to join us right now.