The power and necessity of regular prayer
Regular columnist James Knight reminds us why prayer is such an important component in our daily lives.
It's a new year, and our church is beginning a 21 day period of prayer and fasting. With that in mind, I thought I'd offer some encouragement about the power and necessity of daily prayer in our lives.
The more I’ve matured as a Christian, the more I’ve tried to prioritise prayer time in my very busy daily schedule. There are different types of prayer, of course; vocal prayer is great for praising, worshipping, supplication, and encouraging and helping others; and silent prayer is great for being still and listening and receiving what God wants to impart to us as we "Seek first the Kingdom of God". And all are valuable at different times, with different spiritual needs, alongside trying to retain a healthy body and a healthy mind.
From my experience, the more time we spend in prayer, the more we know we need even more time praying. It's like that maxim "If you want something done, ask a busy person". It's not that the busy person has more time to get that additional thing done, it's that the qualities that usually make a person successfully busy are the same qualities that increase the chances that they're the best person to get things done. Similarly, it's not that praying lots means you have loads more free time for additional prayer - it's that those who pray lots get even more of a sense of how precious and valuable prayer time is, and are the ones most likely to know the value of praying even more.
Conversely, a lack of prayer is like keeping the curtains closed and trying to scrabble around the house with a candle. Daily prayer is like opening the curtains and allowing a prodigious burst of sunlight to illuminate our whole home. With the illuminations of daily prayer, we’ll keep discovering things and seeing them from an enlightened perspective, with a sense of clarity not possible through the dim flickering of candlelight.
Jesus promises us something amazing when it comes to prayers offered to God: ““Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” That is, as long as the prayer asked is of God’s will (and only good prayers are, anyway) and beneficial to us spiritually, then by God’s grace, the prayer will be answered. What a promise. After 20+ years of praying several times every day, I’ve learned that the prayer is always answered, but the prayer is not usually answered immediately, and not always in quite the way we expected. Sometimes, by God’s grace, it is answered immediately, like with a miraculous healing. But mostly we get the answer to prayer gradually, through faith, where God is preparing us, teaching us, and transforming us along the way.
I love the part in Ephesians 3:20 where St. Paul reminds us that God is "able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us." This is a call to draw upon the strength of the Holy Spirit's power within us, and not to try to rely on just the strength our own human efforts. In other words, this " immeasurably more" that God can do is far less about what He does in our life around us, but much more about what He does inside us if we will only commit enough time to praying and listening.
One final point - from experience, I sense that God doesn't just want us to sit back and wait for His next revelation, even if we do it honestly and fervently. I think that many of our next revelations occur when we are brave enough to put ourselves outside of our comfort zone, and submit ourselves to the next encounter. Comfort zones can feel like safe places, but I think there are many instances in life where God can't speak to us in the way that we need until we step out into something less comfortable and more challenging.
James Knight is a local government officer based in Norwich, and is a regular columnist for Christian community websites Network Norfolk and Network Ipswich. He also blogs regularly as ‘The Philosophical Muser’, and contributes articles to UK think tanks The Adam Smith Institute and The Institute of Economic Affairs, as well as the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC).
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