If you’re Christian, the idea of prayer is almost second nature. It almost needs no explanation. You feel the weight and the need to come before God in prayer. At least, that should be the case. And yet all of us know our prayer life is probably not what it should be. One of the deficiencies of the American churches is that we are a prayerless church. Yep, I said; I didn’t want to, but it’s largely true. In private and in public, we simply don’t take prayer seriously.
Yet, that is the very opposite of what Jesus expects of us. In his ministry, Jesus invited his disciples to into a life of constant prayer. This includes us today. In Luke 18, specifically, Luke says he told a parable that we ought always to pray and not lose heart (18:1). Think about the first part of that statement: “we ought always to pray.”
Why is prayer so important that we ought to be always doing it? I think Calvin is right when he says that “prayer is the chief exercise of faith.” In other words, one of the main ways that you express your faith in God is through prayer. You demonstrate your trust and confidence in him by calling out to him with all of your problems, all of your troubles, and all of your needs. We give him praise and thanksgiving in prayer because we believe—we have faith—that all things have come from his hand. So, the main way that you demonstrate or even display your faith in God as by praying to him. At the same time then, as Michael Reeves says, “prayerlessness is practical atheism, demonstrating a lack of belief in God.”
This is why prayer is so important. This is what constant prayer is so important. Jesus taught that we ought always to pray and some believers have grasped this and it’s been seen in their lives. Many, many years ago, on the other side of the Atlantic, the Puritans would gather together for an all day celebration of prayer and the Word. They would hear a man preach for an hour, then they would pray an hour. Then, another pastor would preach for hour and they would pray for an hour. And they would do this for 6 or 7 hours. Now, you might say, ‘They had nothing better to do back in the 1600s!’
But we see similar things going on today. For example, it’s not uncommon for believers in Korea (or Korean believers in this country as was my experience) to have all day or all night prayer watch services. What are they praying for? They are pleading the promises of God that he might bring the blessing of his Kingdom into their midst, making them more fruitful effective in ministry, bringing the gospel to those who are lost, and giving them and ever deepening godliness. By and large, that kind of commitment to seeking God in prayer is missing from our lives in this country.
But Jesus wants us to live that way. He taught that we ought always to pray. Now, what does that mean? What does it mean to always pray? I think it means something very similar to what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5, where we exhorts believers to “pray without ceasing.” But what does that look like practically?
I think it means that we have attitude and willingness to pray such that we will, at a moment’s notice, take our cares to God. In a sermon on Luke 18, Spurgeon uses the example of knights in Europe and how they would, in the midst of war, sometimes sleep with their basic armor on and keep a sword by their side. He said they were “grim warriors,” ready for battle at any moment. And he says, this what we should look like in our prayer lives.
Moreover, think about what that might mean for your life with the local church. Think about what it might mean for you to look across the aisle and see someone responding to the service in tears, and rather than be embarrassed, to go over and offer to pray with them. Think about what it would be like to ask someone how they’re doing and afterward pause wherever you’re at—in the pew or a hallway—to pray with thanksgiving at what God is doing or in supplication for what they need. Think about what it would be like to not only stop and pray when someone sends you a request, but to take the next step and call someone to offer comfort and prayer with them over the phone; or even to joyfully spend the time to meet with someone and pray in person during the week. Rarely do churches have regular prayer gatherings these days. But think about what it might be like to fill the church auditorium every month or even every week just to come before our Father in prayer with one voice as a church.
Jesus taught that we ought always to pray and not lose heart. But I think we are failing to pray as we should because we do, in fact, lose heart. Next time, I want to think about what causes us to lose heart and become prayerless and offer some encouragement to pray. In the mean time, I would ask you to reflect on your own heart. If you are not praying as you should, what keeps you from prayerfulness?