Don Whitney in his book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, reminds us that prayer is both a summons and a royal invitation. It's a divine summons because we are commanded to pray (Col 4:2; 1Th 5:17). God does not give us a choice whether to pray or not. Not to pray is to disobey God. It's also a royal invitation because God entices us to pray. He indeed summons us, but He does it with arms open to us in love (Heb 4:16). He commands us to appear before His throne, but it is not a power-play. God is not flaunting His power and authority. Rather, His exercise of authority is responsible and loving, because He wants us to come to be blessed.
Prayer, therefore, is one of the most important responsibilities of the Christian, and one of the most precious privileges of the Christian. But if that is true, then why is our prayer so often deficient? Don Whitney lists several reasons.
Lack of Discipline
We don't plan to pray, nor set aside a regular time of the day for prayer. According to John Piper,
“One of the main reasons so many of God's children don't have a significant prayer life is not so much that we don't want to, but that we don't plan to.... There is a race to be run and a fight to be fought. If you want renewal in your life of prayer you must plan to see it.”
We don't really believe that God will answer our prayers. Joel Beeke says that unbelief is one of the characteristics of “prayerless praying.” He defines it as coming to God with listless hands. On the other hand, “prayerful praying” takes hold of the cross of Christ with one hand, and takes hold of the throne of grace with the other hand. Beeke says that prayerless praying lets go before the prayer reaches heaven. In contrast, prayerful praying is not satisfied until the prayer has ascended to God.
Not Seeing God's Greatness
Isn't it the case that prayer becomes tedious when it is reduced to mechanically moving through a list of prayer concerns? When this is so, then our prayers are lacking two essential aspects of prayer: praise and thanksgiving. When we go through an extended period of time without these things, then our souls dry up and prayer becomes laborious. However, when we focus on the character of God and the great works of God, then prayer will flow.
Throwing off these hindrances to prayer is not enough to ensure a strong prayer life, but it is an important step in the right direction.
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