Summary: Part 4 of series Learning to Pray. Examines the difference between praying for something and just wishing for it.
The Prayer of Faith
Learning to Pray, prt. 4
Wildwind Community Church
February 13, 2005
You know the messages in this series are based on things I’m learning and experiences I am having as I read through Andrew Murray’s excellent book, With Christ in the School of Prayer and do the exercises there. This week I had the strange realization that I had actually read that book once before. As I began thinking about it, I remembered when. It was about five years ago. I had found it available on the Internet, and managed to get it loaded onto my Palm Pilot. When I’d find myself sitting in line somewhere I’d pull out my Palm Pilot and read a few pages.
I had forgotten all about that until this week. And the memory, frankly, was a little bit embarrassing. See I don’t recall actually STUDYING the book – I just read it – like a novel. I must have really thought I was learning about prayer, because I know I read the whole thing – it’s just that until this week I couldn’t remember having read it at all, which shows how valuable it was for me that first time. I guess I must have believed a book on prayer could be read, ingested, and just stored away in the old memory bank. I must have thought that just getting it into my head would make a difference. So I approached this book the way Linus in the Peanuts comic strip approached studying for an exam – placing the book under his pillow and hoping the information would seep up into his head during the night without actually studying. On the other hand, I suppose at least I was curious enough about prayer to actually try to read a book about it, and perhaps that’s at least a start.
I was foolish if I believed I could really learn about prayer just by reading about it. If you will learn to pray, you will only learn it by praying. And that fact led me to realize something singularly fascinating today. See, when I ask you the question: Did you spend regular time in prayer this week, if your answer to that question is No, then I can say with confidence that you didn’t learn anything about prayer. But if your answer is yes, that is the most important thing you will be able to say all week long. If you can say “yes, I spent a few moments in serious prayer every day or nearly every day last week,” then you managed to accomplish what many people in this room, and what most people in this world, did not accomplish, and it was one of the most important ways you could have spent your time. And all you have to be able to do is say yes, because it doesn’t matter if you prayed with proper motives; or if you prayed long enough prayers; or if you felt any emotion; or who you prayed for; or what position you were in when you prayed; or whether you prayed silently or out loud, or if you claimed God’s promises with great boldness or with great timidity and lack of confidence.
It just doesn’t matter. Don’t wait to pray until your motives are right, only God knows your heart. Don’t wait to pray until your feelings get on board because even once they’re on board they’ll almost certainly jump ship within a couple of days. Don’t wait to pray until you can pray for a long time, because a bunch of short prayers actually prayed are way better than the long ones you could never motivate yourself into praying. And besides, who says the length of the prayer has anything to do with its effectiveness? Don’t wait to pray until you can get down on your knees, God is calling when he’s calling. Don’t wait to pray until you can pray out loud, because God knows what’s in your mind anyway and you might as well think about Him because only God knows some of the other nasty things bouncing around in there. At least if your head is anything like mine. Don’t wait to pray until you can pray with great boldness because you will never learn to do boldly what you could never begin to do timidly.
Don’t wait for the right time, the right place, the right attitude, the right motives, the right position, the right spirit, the right mood, the right understanding of prayer, the right surroundings, the right circumstances – don’t wait for those things to begin praying. Instead, begin to orient yourself to prayer and you’ll see that prayer makes the time right, prayer makes the place right, prayer straightens your motives out and positions you properly. Prayer is what teaches you the right spirit and puts you into the right mood. It is through praying that you gain the right understanding of prayer, and in prayer you find the strength to say, no matter what your surroundings, the same words the Apostle Paul said in Philippians: