It is the golden rule of blogging that Spurgeon has been there before and said it better than you. So as I start a blog on prayer let me quote him: "Prayer girds human weakness with divine strength, turns human folly into heavenly wisdom, and gives to troubled mortals the peace of God. We know not what prayer can do."
In a recent editorial for the Reformed Presbyterian newsletter then Mr Quigley discusses bloggers who are adapt at pointing out flaws in the church but don't give the advice they should: "but there seems to be a glaring oversight when it comes to exhorting God’s people to cry out to the Lord for the salvation of the lost." (Source) All I can do is hold up my hands and admit that I am such a blogger.
This then, is an effort to correct that glaring oversight with an encouragement and an extortion to pray more. It ties in well with the series of sermons my minster is going through on the work of the Holy Spirit, as for the last few weeks he has dealt with the Holy Spirit helping us to pray - his extraordinary way when we have no words but groan in agony of soul and in his ordinary way, when he helps us struggle and wrestle with God in prayer.
Pray is hard and prayerlessness is easy so it of no surprise that the terrible sin of prayerlessness can easily overcome any of us. Such a sin is always an expression of unbelief in God and his promises, it is always one of the first signs of spiritual decline and it has never preceded anything good.
As Jesus says: "Ask, and it shall be given to you." (Matthew 7v7) But we don't ask, or ask wrongly, and then get annoyed when we do not receive. We all know we should pray and we all know what we should believe about prayer but if we're not praying regularly (or praying merely by habit and not with any meaning) then it can only be an expression of functional unbelief. James, in his usual blunt manner, writes: "You do not have because you do not ask God." (James 4v2)
Prayer is a bedrock of Christian life, the engine room of faith, the beating heart of holiness, the duracell batteries of our walk with God; whilst I have regretted many things in my life and many ways I've spent my time then I have yet to regret a single minute spent in prayer or a single prayer offered sincerely to God.
When it comes then to the day we live in: the troubles facing the church, the lack of people coming to Christ, the millions of lost souls walking their hell-bound way, the errors that abound in pulpits across the land, the increasing secularization of society, the coming reality of likely persecution, the false gospels that are proclaimed as truth, the denominations plagued with an abundance of godless ministers, the deedlessness which acts as an expression of a lack of faith in many churches, the lack of faith in the power of the Holy Spirit to convert sinners, the worldliness of the church and the lack of seriousness in obedience then the answer is to turn our despair, anger, sorrow, frustration or even mild concern into fervent prayer!
My friends, look up from the petty troubles of your life, see the Lord Jesus Christ as Head of his Church, read the letters to his churches in Revelation and feel the weight of his disgust at lukewarm Christianity. Consider his Bride, the church, your church, know that he loves his church deeply, shall we ourselves then not be moved by its plight?
Consider as well, the eternal destiny of the many who are on the road to destruction, rebels against God. Did Jesus not weep over Jerusalem? Did he not lament their unrepentant stubbornness? If he was so moved by the hard hearts of sinners shall we too not be moved?
There is a modern worship song that goes: "Break my heart for what breaks yours," I can't say I recommend the song or commend it for theological soundness but if our hearts were truly broken over what 'breaks' God's heart then would we not usher up a thousand more prayers for the church and for lost souls?
Seek out the help of the Holy Spirit, all prayer comes from him, seek his enabling to pray, seek as well not to be so self obsessed in prayer, there is the world and the church out there, both so needy, both in desperate straits, will you not pray for them? Multiply your prayers to God, confess your utter dependence on him, cry out, for will he not hear the pleas of his children?
Fight against unbelief, prayer has preceded wonders beyond counting, it is the forerunner of mercy, a direct line to our ever loving, ever powerful Heavenly Father and it has brought unnumbered blessings about. As the hymn line goes: "Satan trembles when he sees, the weakest sinner upon his knees." Bear in mind the testament of Scripture to the fact that God answers prayer:
"I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill."
"I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears."
"I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me."
"In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears."
"In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free."
Put your back to the grindstone of prayer, it will not be easy, distractions may abound, perseverance in prayer is difficult, but there is so much to be gained and so much need to be prayed over, may we all become known as men and women of prayer! If you don't already go to your church's prayer meeting then stop dragging your church down and get along!
Let me end with another Spurgeon quote: "Shall I give you yet another reason why you should pray? I have preached my very heart out. I could not say any more than I have said. Will not your prayers accomplish that which my preaching fails to do? Is it not likely that the Church has been putting forth its preaching hand but not its praying hand? Oh dear friends! Let us agonize in prayer.