Some time back I wrote about my hesitancy with public prayer. It is not fear of man that makes public prayers awkward for me. It is that my private praying is so intensely personal, so broken and humbling, so undignified and desperate that, when I am called upon to pray with other ears listening, I fear that I might take something which is so holy in private and make it into something other than that in public. It is during private prayer that I have hope of recalling clearly who God is and it is the most likely place where I find myself remembering exactly who I am.
Effective prayer is messy. Effective prayer is less like Shakespeare and more like Jacob wrestling with the Angel of the Lord and coming away limping for the rest of his life. Holy prayer is both crucifixion and resurrection – sometimes it is the three days between those sacred events where nobody really understands the specifics of what happened with Jesus in the darkness. You should consider why it is that Satan and his host combat your prayer life more than anything else you might give yourself to. Why does your flesh never want to pray? Why does sleep seem more inviting in the early morning than talking with God? When the evening comes, all your body wants to do is to repose itself in comfort and you find that prayer is easily excused until the time when you have more energy and better clarity of mind. For the Christian, there is the true awareness that effective prayer means ongoing discipline and spiritual war. Committed prayer involves the mind, the mouth, the emotions, the will and the spirit. Triumphant prayer requires the entirety of each man or woman and we do not often feel up to the task. People who play at prayer will find my words here a little extreme. But some of you reading know exactly what I am saying. Some of you understand because you reached a point a while back where you became convinced that, apart from prayer, you cannot live well. Prayer is both rest and war and the enemy will give you the greatest temporary treasures you could desire so long as you never give yourself to the treasure of the faith which is a lifestyle of praying. Prayer, when adopted and embraced as the most essential activity of the believer, will achieve nothing less than a revolution of the believer’s life. Prayer is the glorious doorway to ongoing victory that too many of us fail to enter. The threshold of that door seems too high and wide so we learn to live with all the others on the easy side where we teach ourselves to adapt and…to merely survive. I am calling you today to abandon that nonsense and to once again do the first works which God entrusted to you.
This morning in my prayer hour with God you would have heard nothing impressive. Had you eavesdropped you would have left quickly and felt that Jeff was a pitiful man. There were certainly no proofs in those prayers of capable leadership in my home or my ministry, nor blazing insight into the Kingdom and its many pathways. Mine were morning-cries from a hungry man who desires more of the Bread of Life. They were desperate pleas from a thirsty man who has tasted of the Water of Life and wants those streams to flow in him and through him with greater fullness. I found myself seeing that I am happy when I am bent and I am useful when I am broken. Like you, my flesh resists with vigor both the bend and the break so I asked God to fight my flesh with His Spirit and not to allow these blows to come up short of His intention. My public prayers tend to end up pretty. My private prayers never do. Cross the threshold with Him. The squeeze is very tight and you won’t be able to bring much through with you. Yet you will find all that you are seeking awaits you just through the entryway.
“Blows that wound cleanse away evil; strokes make clean the innermost parts.” – Proverbs 20:30
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