Summary: A look at how we too often only pray in emergencies and some steps toward a deeper prayer life.
[Skit: Say that you’re going to demonstrate the way that we often pray. Say, “Dear God. . .” and have someone respond over the sound system, “911. What’s your emergency?”]
EVERYONE BELIEVES IN PRAYER SOMETIMES: Everyone prays in an emergency.
- Jonah 1:5.
- I think it’s safe to presume that his ship of sailors was not normally having any chapel services. You’ve got to figure that this ship, like most, was full of cussing and rum and gambling. Yet when the storm rose and their lives were threatened, the Bible says that they all cried out to their gods. That phrase doesn’t mean that they were all seriously religious people – there’s almost no chance of that. It means that each had some mental formation of who they believed god was – even if they weren’t actively following Him – and they cried out to him/her/they/it in desperation.
- Everyone prays in an emergency.
- It doesn’t matter how hardened or how far from God someone is – if you’re in the ER and their loved one is hanging by a thread, they all welcome the preacher saying a prayer.
- That’s a good thing, right? It’s good that they’re calling out to God, right?
- Well, many of us do that as the way that we pray in our lives – we only call out to Him in emergencies.
- What’s wrong with that?
WHAT'S WRONG WITH THAT? God wants to be loved, not used.
- Imagine two phone calls.
- One phone call is to 911. You’re only calling to report an emergency and get help.
- The second phone call is to your best friend. You find out what’s been going on, talk about each other’s lives, and enjoy just being with that person over the phone.
- Many of us pray like the first of those two. We only pray when there’s an emergency and we only pray to get help.
- We’re using God to fix our problems.
- That kind of 911 praying is essentially using God. We just want Him for what He can do for us.
- God doesn’t want to be used, He wants to be loved.
- Imagine a college boyfriend and girlfriend. The girl only calls the boy when she needs something – dead battery, a ride home, someone to eat dinner with, someone to talk to when she’s lonely. The boy would justifiably be bothered by that relationship. The girl doesn’t love him – she’s merely using Him.
- You could do the same example with a father and son. The father doesn’t want to just hear from his son whenever he needs money or a ride. He’d like the son to want to talk to him sometimes.
- Too often we don’t want God – we just want what He can do.
- That’s why we wait until an emergency to pray. We only want to talk to Him if we’ve reached a point where there’s no one else who can fix our problem.
- Am I doing this in my prayer life?
- It’s easy to think about non-Christians and how they’re inclined to call out to God only in a moment of crisis, but there are way too many Christians who do the same thing. We say that prayer changes things but then we just don’t pray except for Sunday services and 911 situations.
- It’s much worse for a Christian to do this than for a non-Christian. It’s not entirely surprising that a non-Christian would do this – after all, their lack of commitment to God is evidence that they don’t want too much of God in their lives. The Christian, though, has said they do want God in their lives, that they do believe that God is loving and gracious, that they believe in the power of prayer. To essentially claim all that by your belief in Jesus and then not pray is worse.
DOING BETTER AT THIS:
1. Start a daily prayer time.
- Emergency prayer involves forgetting about God for extended periods of time and then just calling out to Him in the moment of crisis.
- A key step beyond that 911 prayer is to have a daily prayer time. Of course, it’s even better than we move to “praying without ceasing” where we’re constantly thinking and speaking to God throughout the day, but this is a place to start.
- You can pick whenever you want, but I would recommend having a consistent time each day. If you don’t, it’s too easy to get to the end of your day and realize that you’ve forgotten to do it.
- My preference is for first thing in the morning, but you can find a time that works for you: first thing, lunch, after dinner, before bed, whenever.