In Prayer, We Rust?
One of my favourite expressions has recently returned to haunt me: “What is easy to do is also easy NOT to do!”
Take exercise, for example – something as simple as going out for a brisk walk: No court to book, no partner to schedule with, no equipment to buy or upkeep, no fee to pay. Just put your shoes on and hit the road! No wonder the paunch is here to stay!
Still, it doesn’t disturb me that much until applied to … Prayer!
It’s much easier to talk about prayer than to just get down on our knees and talk to God in prayer! How true is that with you?
Some of the best catchphrases about Prayer are so easy to spout and so difficult to buckle down to. Consider these: “Why worry when you can pray?”; “The Christian stands tallest when on his knees”; and “God is just a prayer away”.
Maybe, it’s a woman-thing. The men don’t get it! Do men find it harder to engage some serious and serial praying?
Then, what about that legendary “Praying Hyde”? In Sunday School, I grew up admiring this 19th century model-hero of prayer, John Nelson Hyde. His prayer intensity grew out of his missionary endeavours in the Punjab area of then-India. His initial efforts met with few converts, only plenty of persecution. In 1908, he told the Sialkot conference that he was pleading with God for one conversion per day. After a year, he counted more than 400 souls saved. Often he spent 30 days and nights in prayer. He was known to be on his knees in deep intercession for 36 hours at a time. His last words were, “Shout the victory of Jesus!” Just before he died, he shared this vision:
“On the day of prayer, God gave me a new experience. I seemed to be away above our conflict here in the Punjab and I saw God’s great battle in all India, and then away out beyond China, Japan, and Africa. I saw how we had been thinking in narrow circles of our own countries and in our own denominations, and how God was now rapidly joining force to force and line to line, and all was beginning to be one great struggle. That, to me, means the great triumph of Christ. We must exercise the greatest care to be utterly obedient to Him who sees all the battlefield all the time. It is only He who can put each man in the place where his life can count for the most.”
In contrast, we have it too easy or too good. God’s supplies are presumed upon. Life is fairly predictable. Our own capabilities see us through our day, our work and our activities. We don’t even realise an entire day has passed without prayer! Oops, make that an entire week!
E. Stanley Jones explained in his book “Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome”: “Prayer is surrender – surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boathook from the boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God.”
It’s that simple. It’s that difficult. But it’s always worth it!
Dr Andrew Goh is the honorary editor of Impact magazine.