The thermometer of our spiritual life
By Roger Carswell - Praying abounds in the Bible. Throughout the Scriptures we find that God’s people are in constant conversation with Him. Sometimes they are simply praising, thanking and worshipping Him; other times they are asking, calling out, crying out, beseeching and seeking the Lord. Sometimes there is quiet communion, other times wrestling with the Almighty One. But whenever they pray they are doing so with a humble yet expectant heart. They are in face to face communication with the God of the universe. Prayer is the mark of the people of God, and finds its foundation in both human need and God’s love and grace.
From the beginning of God’s word, where we read that men began to call on the name of the Lord (Genesis 4:26) to the climax in Revelation, God’s people pray. As they do so there is devotion and trust, submission and worship. Their prayers cover issues such as prayer for a wicked city, to prayer for a wife; prayer for a nation and prayers for the church; prayer in time of trouble and prayer from a discouraged life; prayer for an unborn child and prayer for spiritual prosperity; prayer for confusion for God’s enemies and divine vengeance, and prayer for the salvation of men and women. It is not possible to pray whilst murmuring against God. Prayer is under-girded by repentance and faith.
Prayer is an intimate meeting with God. Think about this – we, infinitesimally minute creatures are able to commune with the Maker of all things. How amazing is that! We are encouraged to access the throne of grace.
I have read prayer defined as ‘an exchange of confidence between God and His people’. Casting our abilities and cares upon God, we accept that without Him we can do nothing, and so we pray. Elijah said as he prayed, ‘I am your servant.’ We have been commanded to pray, but it is the mark of the believer that we want to pray, and if we are not praying we have forgotten why we were converted. Jesus prayed often and instructed His followers to make prayer a part of their lifestyle (Luke 5:16 and 18:1). Jesus prayed in times of trouble, but those prayers were an outworking of what was His normal practise of life. God honours those who come to Him. He puts Himself in the position where He answers the prayers of those whose petitioning is in keeping with His character and will. We can never presume on God’s character when we pray, but we can depend on it and appeal to it. Such is God’s commitment to answer prayer that we even read of occasions where ‘the Lord relented’ (Exodus 32:14).
Privilege of prayer
A substantial part of the most remarkable work on earth in which we can be involved, is to be praying. It is key to the divine-human relationship which, in mercy, God initiates. We are privileged to pray for those who do not pray for themselves. Martin Luther wrote, ‘You would be doing real Christian works if you interested yourself in sinners and went into your private room and earnestly implored God saying, “O my God, this is what I hear of so-and-so; that man is lying in sin, and the other one has fallen; O Lord, help him rise again.” In this way you would assist him and serve him.’
Jesus prayed and so should we. Jesus prayed privately and so should we. Jesus. Jesus went to the place of prayer and so should we. Jesus said that we should pray and so we should.
Thomas Cooper said, ‘Constant prayer, mental prayer, prayer of the heart, prayer everywhere, in the street and in the market, in the shop and in the warehouse, behind the counter and over the ledger, in the omnibus and in the railway carriage, in the mine and at the loom, at the plough and in the harvest field, in harbour and at sea, in the calm as well as in the storm, prayer at all times and in all places.’
Examples of great praying are scattered throughout the Bible. I love Daniel’s prayer in chapter 9, but think also of Elijah and Elisha praying whilst confronting the prophets of Baal, or Hezekiah spreading a letter before the Lord. I am stirred by Abraham’s prayer for Sodom and Joshua’s prayer after the defeat at Ai and later praying for the sun to stand still … and it did! What a blessing is Solomon’s prayer for wisdom to rule his people well, and Jehoshaphat’s prayer before battle, and Paul’s prayer from ministry and fellow believers. Think of the whole Book of Psalms which contains rich prayers used by us in expression of our hearts’ desires. Then read again John 17 and eavesdrop on Jesus in communion with His Father, but think too that He constantly intercedes for the saints.
People of prayer
We must be people of prayer. It is not sufficient to glibly say, as I have often heard, that we fail too often in our praying. Unless we actually fix a certain time in the day for prayer, the day slips away without prayer. One of the most helpful antidotes to poor praying is to pray with others. There are special encouragements to pray in prayer meetings – see Psalm 95:6 and Zechariah 8:21 and Matthew 18:19 – and God seems to delight in answering the prayers of collected people.
Each week, when home, I have the great privilege of attending a prayer meeting where there are no silences, but an earnest calling on the Lord for His blessing in a vital evangelistic ministry. It blesses my soul as I join with others to bring our requests to God. A few churches still have such prayer meetings, though sadly if they exist they are poorly attended. Yet prayer is the thermometer of our spiritual temperature.
May I beg you to become a person of prayer, who attends and prays at a weekly prayer meeting? Start attending this week. If your church does not have one, then find a missionary prayer meeting, or start one in your home. How we need the Lord in this day … and God has promised that He will answer prayer. Maybe our prayers will ‘fill the golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints.’
‘Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud. And He shall hear my voice.’ Psalm 55:17