Friday, March 25, 2016

Praying Is Gaining Access to the Power of God

Lake Michigan Sunset

(For my new friends in the Illini Chinese Christian Fellowship.)

I meet many people, including pastors and Christian leaders, who struggle to find time to pray. My seminary teaching tells me that 80% of North American and European pastors don't have much of a prayer life.[1] Why not? I think the reasons for this are:

  • They don't know what prayer is. Or...
  • They know what prayer is but do not really believe it. Or…
  • Their material prosperity allows “no time to pray” and creates the illusion of not needing to pray. Or…
  • Their lives have become so cluttered with many things to “do” that they have little time for just “being” with God.

If prayer is what it claims to be, then someone who truly believed in prayer would pray. Why? Because praying is talking with God. God and I are to be doing things together.

God and I, dialoguing!!![2] Are you kidding me?! If this is real, only a fool would not pray. If this is not real, then you won’t see me praying, even in a foxhole.

Dallas Willard writes: "Prayer is God's arrangement for a safe power sharing with us in his intention to bless the world through us”[3] In praying, I interact with God. God shares power with me. Pause at the enormity of this. Who in their right mind would not have time for this?

As I respond to prayer, God empowers me with his power to bless the world. That would be cool and helpful, if only it was true.

Sometimes I read things like this and feel guilty. OK. But guilt feelings mean nothing if action does not follow. Where there is unbelief, there is no action. Guilt without action is equivalent to confession without repentance.

The sign that I believe in prayer is that I pray, a lot. What I need is belief. Belief must be cultivated in me. God will not simply download belief into me. The way to increase in belief is to choose a life of praying.

I learn prayer by praying. I keep praying, and discover unbelief morphing into belief. Then, I find time for praying.

[1] By “much of a prayer life” I mean the kind of praying life Jesus had, who, as was his custom, went out in the morning to lonely places and prayed.
[2] I’ll give this three exclamation points, one for each member of the Trinity.
[3] Dallas Willard, Knowing Christ Today. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.