JENNIFER FLANDERS, Family Matters:
In the back of my Bible is a handwritten list of great quotes, a collection I started nearly forty years ago when I was in high school. One of my favorites, although unattributed, has stuck with me for years: “We should pray hardest when it’s hardest to pray.”
I like that quote and have thought about it a lot. I don’t think it means we should pray hardest when we’re in the most trouble. Most of us find it pretty easy to pray when we need God to get us out of a tight spot.
For me, this quote means I need to pray hardest when I’m . . .
When I feel like there are a million things on my plate and not nearly enough time to attend to them all – that is when I most need to slow down, quiet my racing thoughts and pray for God to infuse me with His wisdom, strength, peace, and grace.
A page or two after that first quote is this jewel, also without attribution: “Prayer works. Prayer is work. Prayer leads to work.”
I know that the operative word here is prayer, but I sometimes act as if the most important word were work. Have you ever been guilty of that?
When your list of pressing chores is especially long, are you inclined to spend more time on your knees - or less? Do you view prayer as leisurely pastime or a life-preserving necessity?
James 5:16 tells us, “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”
Prayer should be so much more than a brief benediction we utter before setting our shoulder to the wheel. Prayer works. Prayer itself is work. And prayer has the power to make all the work that follows more focused and productive.
Martin Luther, the 16th century reformer, understood this fact, which is why he once wrote, “I have so much to do today, I must spend the first three hours in prayer.” Whether intuitively or experientially, Luther knew that the longer his “to do” list, the more desperately he needed the guidance, blessing, and empowering of God.
George Muller, the 19th century evangelist who took in over 10,000 orphans during his lifetime, understood this concept, as well. Muller insisted, “Four hours of work after an hour of prayer will accomplish more than five hours without prayer.” It was a belief he faithfully put into practice, looking only to God to sustain his work at the orphanage and seeing Him provide, time and again, precisely what they needed when they needed it.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the 19th century “Prince of Preachers,” also had a lot to say about prayer. “A prayerless soul is a Christless soul,” he observed. “Prayer is the lisping of the believing infant, the shout of the fighting believer, the requiem of the dying saint falling asleep in Jesus.”
A large portion of Scripture, Spurgeon noted, “is occupied with the subject of prayer, either in furnishing examples, enforcing precepts, or pronouncing promises…. What does this teach us, but the sacred importance and necessity of prayer? We may be certain that whatever God has made prominent in His Word, He intended to be conspicuous in our lives. If He has said much about prayer, it is because He knows we have much need of it.”
Spurgeon is spot on. My need for prayer is never-ending and far deeper than I can fathom. Like Luther and Muller, I accomplish far more with prayer than without. And I’ve learned from experience that the harder I find it to pray, the more desperately I need to do so.
Jennifer Flanders recently released a beautiful new book containing over sixty pages of printable prayer-themed resources. For a limited time, you can download it for free when you subscribe to http://lovinglifeathome.com .