Purpose in Prayer :: Chapters 5-6
In chapters 3 and 4, Bounds took quick action against our attitudes towards prayer, bringing to light the fact that we don’t pray as much as we should– not that we should out of religious duty but out of blessed opportunity. Now, in chapters 5 and 6, he moves to discuss Jesus’ teachings on prayer. I believe it’s important to keep in mind that Jesus never taught to bring a burdening sense of duty on His followers. In fact, the opposite is true. He taught prayer as a wonderful opportunity, a freedom to express our desires passionately and wholeheartedly before our Father. Let’s turn to Bound’s words:
This is not a praying age; it is an age of great activity, of great movements, but one in which the tendency is very strong to stress the seen and the material and to neglect and discount the unseen and the spiritual. Prayer is the gretest of all forces, because it honours God and brings Him into active aid.
Prayer is not the foe to work… prayer itself is the greatest work.
How well do these words, written over 100 years ago, apply to the present attitude of God’s people! We are surrounded by a culture of work and overacheivement that places pressure and demands on activity and business rather than the spiritual work of prayer. In reading this chapter I was all too aware of my own tendency to look first to what I must do instead of looking to God to supply the needs of ministry. I tend to study before asking God to bless a sermon, plan before seeking His will for an event, practice before seeking His heart for a set. When we don’t take time to pray, we run the danger of ministering in our own power–a power that will fail in time.
The church today seems plagued with burnout–ministers who are unable to carry the burden of their ministries. Families are destroyed, ministries are derailed, and lives are left scarred. Perhaps we would not see so many cases of burnout and mis-prioritized lives if we spent more time committing our work first to God and second to the duties of ministry.
Pray and never faint, is the motto Christ gives us for praying.
Jesus taught prayer extensively with His life and with His words. In His life we see the example of prayer at work. That the very Son of God would be required to make His requests known to the Father highlights that fact that we too must seek Him. In His words, we learn that prayer is too be bold, passionate, and expectant. There is no room for half-hearted, selfish wishes or empty words of flattery, only cries of dependency and need grasp the will of God.
How often for we pray from a point of desperation? How often to we care passionately enough about something to bring it repeatedly before our Father in search of an answer? How often do we expect an answer?
After reading these chapters I was encouraged to bring boldness to my praying. Not that I would order God around and make demands of Him, but that I would simply be free with my requests, asking for Him to act on behalf of His people. I set aside some time to pray for some of the needs facing our youth ministry and guess what… He’s already answered some of those needs. I’m humbled to realize how often I underestimate our God and His love towards us.
May you be blessed this week and strengthened in your relationship with the Father!