To neglect to pray is to neglect to breathe. To neglect to pray for His glory is to extinguish the fire in my soul. To neglect to pray for God’s favor and grace upon the day is to rely on my own wisdom and strength apart from Him. To neglect to pray for His people in my church is to ignore the saints He has given me to love. To neglect to pray that He would send His people into the plentiful harvest is to scorn His glorious name. To neglect to pray for God to save sinners is to surrender my yet-to-be-saved brothers and sisters to hell. To neglect to pray is to sin.
I know that. But, every year, it seems as if my life becomes busier and busier. My to-do list is bursting with things to remember, chores to complete, projects to brainstorm. My inbox is ever churning, my phone ever buzzing, my gas tank ever empty. My calendar is full of church events, game nights, dinner parties, family gatherings, sports, and meetings. In the mornings I don’t wake up early enough to read and pray as I want, and at night my mind quits before my tasks are complete. There is always something to do, make, see, experience, fix. Life moves at a thousand miles a minute, but I'm not even sure where I was a second ago.
In such a whirlwind, I find that the very first thing I neglect to do is to pray for the highest things. To be clear, I’m not referring to praying at church, praying before, while, and after reading the Bible, praying before meals, or praying at church functions. I do pray then. And in my better moments, by the grace of God, I pray for small things during the day. But what I struggle with the most is personal, private prayer for the highest things, for God and others, as the Scripture commands. I am commanded to pray unceasingly (1 Thessalonians 5:17), to pray for God's name to be honored and for Christ's kingdom to come (Matthew 6), to pray for the harvest (Luke 10:2), to pray for all men, even those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-2), to pray for the needs of the church (James 5:16), etc. Yet, I often fail. God have mercy on me, the sinner.
For years, I’ve tried to discern the reason why I fail to pray in this way. Sometimes, I think the reason is simply because I don’t plan to. But that’s not correct; even when, in a spurt of zeal, I do schedule prayer on my calendar, I almost never succeed. I wake up too late, or I forget, or something else ‘more urgent’ comes up.
Other times, I imagine that the reason I don’t pray is that I’m too busy, and I simply need to do less. But that’s shallow. After all, I make ample time to eat. I make ample time to sleep. I have time to check Facebook and Instagram, watch YouTube videos, and shop on Amazon. I spend time eating dinner with friends, playing sports, and pursuing hobbies. If I’m thinking objectively, my calendar shows that I have time for lots of things; but apparently I don’t have time to pray.
So, what’s the real reason for such prayerlessness? I surmise the real problem is that I care too much about Me, with a capital 'M’. Selfishness is my modus operandi. Self-absorption with my life, my schedule, my to-dos, my money, my time, my desires, my wants, my needs is only natural for a sinner like me. And I surmise that the real problem behind my selfishness is lovelessness; is not prayer one of the best ways to love?
Such selfishness and lovelessness is foolish. The Scriptures — and the daily news — remind me that the needs of the world are great. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. The suffering is real but the solutions scarce. Sinners are without the gospel. Churches are faltering. Heresy is rampant. Saints are languishing. The gospel is neglected. The sick and needy are dying. The refugees are hopeless. The weak are helpless. My fellow man is suffering.
I am not the Savior of the world. But, I can call upon His name. Through Christ, I have the greatest access to Almighty God. Is that not reason enough to pray? My God delights to hear the prayers of His people (Proverbs 15:8). He hears my cries, no matter how feeble, and answers according to His will. Whatever I ask in the name of Christ, He will do (John 15:7). He has power to save sinners, and He has great mercy on the weak and helpless.
As a Christian, I have the great privilege and duty of addressing the ills of the world — by prayer first, and then by wise obedience according to God's priorities. Yet I feel impotent. I am like the disciples who couldn't keep watch and fell asleep in the garden (Matthew 26:40). I am like the virgins who were drowsy and began to sleep (Matthew 25:5). The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41).
O soul, there remains much work to be done for the kingdom of God! Therefore, by the strength of God, pray that His will be done. Ask that He would accomplish His sovereign plan. Call upon the power of God to do what is impossible for men. Be full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. O soul, get your eyes up! Forget yourself, and be poured out upon the altar as a sacrifice of love for the souls of men. Seek His kingdom, not your own. Do the will of the Father, not of the flesh. Pray that His kingdom would come, that His will would be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Pray, for you are weak, but He is strong.
Father, hear the prayer of Your child. Help me to pray — for Your glory and the good of others. Amen.