Pray without ceasing. Could there be a harder command to follow? I don’t know about you, but prayer is by far the hardest of the spiritual disciplines for me. Church attendance is pretty easy. It is ingrained in my very DNA. My dad is a pastor. I have spent more time in church than some pulpits. ; ) We just do it weekly as a family whether we feel like if or not.
Giving, again, is something that we just do. Fellowshipping with other believers is not all that hard to do either.
Bible reading can require a bit more effort. The more kids we have, the less time there seems to be in the day. Yet even that has become a daily discipline, though it does require some effort and planning to set aside that time for reading and journalling through the Bible.
But prayer…prayer is a very different creature. My time in prayer seems elusive sometimes. I begin to pray, and boom. I see a basket of unfolded laundry across the room. I try to focus again and pray, but I can’t stop thinking about how wrinkled those clothes are going to be the longer I wait. I fold them. I come back to pray. I begin to pray and the phone rings, or I get a text. I answer it. My focus is gone. I try again and this time, the girls wake up from naps and are desperate for snacks. And so goes the story. I have come to realize that prayer is the hardest thing to do because prayer is spiritual warfare.
There is an unseen battle raging over a believer when he or she commits to truly be in God’s presence in prayer. I am not talking about the “buzz through your list of requests” kind of prayer. I am talking about the kind of prayer where you sit before God and quiet your heart and are alone with the God who spoke the universe into being. I am taking about the kind of prayer where you begin to pray and then He steps in and takes you places that you would not have thought up on your own, and you intercede…or you repent…or you rise up and act on what you hear Him say in the depths of your soul. I am talking about the kind of prayer that leaves you utterly surrendered, and completely filled up with joy or peace in His presence.
Prayer is hard because you can’t fake it when you are alone. If your heart is hard…if you have sin that you cherish and hide, you won’t pray. You can’t. Your words bounce off the ceiling and fall flat to the ground. And when it is just you and God, and you know that your heart and soul are laid bare before Him, you can’t sit there pretending to pray. You can go to church with a hard heart. You can give and even fellowship with a hard heard. But prayer requires removing all masks. It is exposure of the deepest kind…your heart before the “eyes that burn like flames of fire,” and He sees everything.
The last thing the Enemy wants is for a believer to have a deep and growing prayer life. You become a threat to Him and everything he stands for. You begin to repent of your sin. You are sensitive to it. You see yourself in light of God’s holiness and you are humbled. You are at peace. You are bold. You can discern his lies and shoot them down. He loses ground in your life and in the lives you touch. You get power over temptation. Jesus said, “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Mt. 26:41 The Enemy is going to fight you on this tooth and nail. He is going to distract you however he can. He is going to dull your desire for prayer and use whatever means he can, from Facebook to your TV to your cell phone…he will use whatever works- whatever will steal your heart away from time in prayer before God. He wants you as spiritually weak and ineffective as possible.
In Ephesians 6, to finish off his thoughts on spiritual warfare, after acknowledging that we are in a spiritual battle, Paul writes, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind (warfare) be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
This is my deepest desire. I want to be awake in my spirit. I want my spiritual eyes to be open to reality around me. I have no doubt that prayer is the core of my life in God. Your spiritual life is as strong as your prayer life. It grieves me that I have been so anemic as to spend minutes daily…if that…in prayer through seasons of my life. But it is a new day.
And so the battle continues. I will pick up my weapons and fight. I will fight by first praying for a hunger for prayer. Even the desire to be in His presence in prayer has to come from Him. I will pray against distractions before I even begin. I will pray for alertness and energy as I pray. I will ask the Holy Spirit to lead me as I pray and take my heart where it needs to go. I will pray that even when I can’t find the words, His Spirit would take it from there and intercede for me before the Father. This is abiding in Him. This is walking by the Spirit. This is our strength. This is His presence. This is joy. This is hearing His voice…and to hear Him is life!
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fulness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” -Ps. 16:11